It seems like it was over a year ago, but in fact, The Arsenal Metals & Enamels Exhibition debuted this past spring at the Cultural Arts Center in Columbus, Ohio. Running from March 28 through April 25, the exhibition was a first-time curatorial success for co-director Koranna Spurgeon and myself.
When presented with the possibility of writing a review of the show, I had no idea where to begin or what to write, since I was steeped in it from it’s inception; sometimes it’s hard to see the forest when you’re one of the trees. It was then suggested that I write it from an inside perspective, a curatorial editorial of sorts.
As with most creative endeavors, The Arsenal Metals & Enamels Exhibition began as an idea. Working at the Cultural Arts Center together, Koranna teaching enameling and myself being the jewelry instructor, we spent time outside class talking shop and chatting about other professionalisms.
During a 2003 staff meeting where we were to help jury slides for future exhibition proposals, we noticed there were voids in the 2004 exhibition schedule. Koranna, having been at CAC much longer than I, said that she had never seen a small metals/enamels show installed on the premises, save Bill Helwig’s June 2003 show, which got rave reviews. So, not knowing what we were about to undertake, we pitched the idea to the rest of the staff. After our formal proposal was approved, our idea was in full motion.
Since this show was a first on many levels, we agreed to the notion of making it regional. Wanting to showcase the fine work being produced in the midwest, we also included some states on the east coast with metalsmithing programs to encourage student applications. Residents of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania were able to enter.
With the dates already set, our next challenges were to secure a third juror and assemble and distribute a call for entries. We chose Donna D’Aquino as our guest juror because of her metalsmithing and enameling knowledge, her recent ‘Best of Show’ recognition at the Baltimore American Craft Show, and her Ohio residence provided a homey, bicentennial solidarity.
When it came time to jury the entries, her prior experience was invaluable. We were able to complete the process, which is often lengthy and grueling, one January afternoon. Our final selection tally yielded 64 pieces by 33 artists. Pleased with our choices and confident that the work as a whole would make for an excellent exhibition, we headed off to Chipotle for a late lunch.
The chosen pieces encompassed a wide range of metalsmithing and enameling techniques, not to mention the aesthetic spectrum, and represented the melee of creativity, from pretty and practical to conceptually cool but non-functional. While we were a bit disappointed that no large-scale sculptural works were accepted, we were happy to see that a number of students made the grade.
The list of exhibitors included Ian Bally, Heather Bayless, Katy Bergman Cassell*, Angela Bubash, Katherine Cathey*, Cynthia Cetlin, Karen L. Cohen*, Linda Darty*, Melinda Douglass, Nathan Dube, Teresa Faris*, Catherine Gilbertson, Caroline Gore*, Annie Grimes*, Michael B. Hays, Mindy Herrin, Juanita HiIl*, David Huang, Melissa Huff*, Mi-Soon Hur*, Lauralee Hutson, Janly Jaggard*, Robin Kraft*, Kathryn Osgood*, Natalya Pinchuk*, Michael Romanik*, Leslie A. Schug*, Sherry Simms, Susan Skoczen, Hye-Young Suh*, Rachell Sullivan, and Billie Jean Theide (* denotes an enamelist).
As anyone who has assembled the minutest display can tell you, it is the hardest part of installing an exhibition. While Koranna had prior experience setting up her craft show booth and I my undergraduate and graduate exhibitions, we were both dealing with our own work and intimate spaces. Arranging such a wonderful array of work in a vast space with limited vitrines seemed daunting.
Utilizing movable hanging partitions, we made some smaller niches along one side of the gallery to create viewing spaces that seemed more personal. With the smaller items, we clustered complementary pieces under certain vitrines, while larger works were placed on pedestals. To make efficient use of the wall, I made anti-theft brackets to which neckpieces were sewn with monofilament. To enliven the often-sterile white-wall gallery effect, we added a splash of spring pastels by painting two faces of certain pedestals. For Sherry Simms’ larger-than-life necklaces, we stretched and painted canvases to which we mounted the antitheft brackets. To complete the overall effect, we festooned the hanging exhibition title with more painted canvases to make an eye-catching design as one entered the gallery.
While the droves of metal and enamel enthusiasts we were hoping for didn’t crowd the reception, the opening was very well attended and we were both delighted that a few of the artists managed to make it. Throughout the exhibition, Koranna and I received many compliments on what many said was one of the best shows at the Cultural Arts Center. The Director of Recreation and Parks even took us to lunch to recognize our achievement. Of course, we can’t take all the credit. We had a superb collection of objects with which to work.
During the reception, we announced the award winners. Third Place went to Teresa Faris’ explorative doorknob series Oscillation. Mindy Herrin received Second Place for her incredibly detailed Lingerie Series brooches. Hye-Young Suh’s fanciful Coral Ring Series earned Best in Show. With part of her honorarium, Donna D’Aquino created a Guest Juror’s Award, which was bestowed upon Natalya Pinchuk’s Doodles neckpiece.
To view images of the installation, visit www.monkeyview. Net/id/147/metalsenamels/index.vhtml. Local artist Michael B. Hays created this page from images taken during the reception. While he couldn’t document every piece, the overall flavor of the exhibition is adequately portrayed. During one of two gallery talks held in conjunction with the exhibition, Michael spoke about his experience taking jewelry classes at CAC and performed a short vessel raising demonstration. Koranna and I spoke about the exhibition in general and pointed out the award-winning works during the other talk.
Despite the fabulous outcome of our first curatorial attempt, we experienced several trials and tribulations along the way. Because of some staffing cutbacks, we did not have the expertise of the exhibition coordinator and had to learn many things the hard way. Additional cutbacks made budgeting a nightmare, and we both incurred many expenses, for which we were later reimbursed.
A few weeks before the work was due at the Arts Center, we were informed by two of the accepted artists that they had work accepted in a simultaneous show and that they wouldn’t be able to include those objects. Although they both had other pieces still available, we disqualified them on account of their unprofessionalism. Yet another artist did not get shown when one of this artist’s pieces arrived damaged, and the other differed from the slide representation. Finally, I returned home from the SNAG conference wretchedly ill the weekend before the opening, which prolonged installation until (gasp) the night before. All in all, it was a great experience and we’re daft enough to try it again in 2006.
In closing, I would like to give a few tips on entering shows:
- Read the call for entries (more than once in case you miss something.) It is a contract between you and the gallery. Your submission is your signature. Pay attention to the specific instructions and follow them. If you plan to vary from what is written, contact the gallery first to save everyone the possible headache.
- Fill out the entry form in its entirety, even if your contact info is elsewhere in the entry packet. Put your name on everything.
- Slides (your foot in the door, so put your best foot forward). Project your slides before you enter them in a show. If the image is over/underexposed, or if it has scratches, do not submit it. Label your slides and protect them in a plastic slide sleeve. Enclose a SASE if you want them returned (unless it’s not an option).
- When shipping work, create a user-friendly (stupid- proof) re-usable carton and supply a packing list/installation instructions.
I hope this information is beneficial and we look forward to possibly seeing your work in the next Arsenal Metals & Enamels Exhibition.