Three artists are featured in Northeastern State University’s downtown gallery as part of a senior exhibit, highlighting their talent as they prepare for the next chapter of their lives.
The exhibition is a chance for students to gain hands-on experience in setting up and organizing a gallery exhibition. Although it is not the first time that they have taken part in an exhibition, it is the first time that they have seen works hung in a gallery.
NSU Art Gallery director Clayton Keyes said students are focused on professional development and have a better understanding of what they can do after graduation.
“We go through everything from getting an artist’s statement, to writing a biography, to writing an artist’s CV, and then figuring out how to photograph their work in a way that’s appropriate for apply it to exhibitions, shows, graduate schools and things like that. And they just snagged their first show,” he said.
Each of the students plans to find work as a visual artist, but some would also like to help future artists find their own niche. Renee Martin said she would like to teach in public schools for a few years before getting her master’s degree to teach at the college level.
Martin was thrilled to have the opportunity to show her work at the gallery.
“It’s really cool to see my art on the walls in a professional setting,” she said. “I’m a student, so I don’t really have a lot of gallery experience, but it’s a great opportunity to really start something, and it’s cool to start something in my college town where I can get the support from the folks at NSU and Tahlequah.
Some of the artists’ work was done as part of a course at NSU, while others were done during their personal time. Customers will find the displays in a variety of mediums including oil paints, acrylic, pastels and charcoal, watercolor, and more.
Leslie Hall included a wire sculpture, the initial framing of which took him about a month. The exhibition of his work at the gallery created mixed emotions.
“It’s a mix of excitement and nervousness,” she said. “That’s the dilemma of most artists, I think. You don’t necessarily do things for other people, unless you’re working on commission. The work that you personally do – even just for a course – wondering if they’re going to like what I’m doing? Is it to everyone’s taste?
Inspiration can come from anywhere. Some artists find it in nature, in society or in themselves. For Bailey Epps, it’s family.
“My grandma was actually an artist, and I always loved drawing growing up. She kind of inspired me to pursue that. So I did art all through high school, and it is where I started exploring my options at NSU,” she said.
It can be hard to make a living from art, but Keyes said it’s exciting that students in rural communities are willing to give it a try.
“It brings a certain culture, and in this pandemic – whether we’re at the end of it or not – a lot of people have resorted to art or listening to music,” he said. “Even if it’s just watching Netflix, there are always creative people behind it. Those students are potentially those people at a younger stage.
The Senior Art Show will be held at the NSU Art Gallery through March 11. A reception will be held on March 4, from 6 to 8 p.m. The gallery is also open from Tuesday to Friday, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.