Putting on an exhibit of WNMU student work in New York City was just fabulous, and our experience was undoubtedly a total success. We were two students (Anna Davis and moi) and a faculty adviser (Peter Bill) in New York for a week, during Spring Break 2012. The exhibit was the heart of the trip, though we also had a serious agenda of attending museums and galleries.
I’d been to Manhattan before, and to some of its museums, but having my own work shown during our stay there changed the tenor of our visit. We weren’t just observing and taking notes as diligent art students. We were participating in the very pulse of the art scene, adding our own lifeblood, changing the color and sounds of the city for anyone who saw our work. And when I walked in to galleries, festivals, and museums as the trip progressed, I held my head a bit higher, and I felt like I could meet this city and any artist in it eye to eye. That was an amazing feeling.
Our preparation for the trip was crucial, and everything we did paid off. Midterms very not conveniently were right before our trip, and as we neared our final day of class, I was practically living in the lab and felt like I was close to losing my grip. So, Lesson 1: set deadlines, in stone, far away from exams. Still, we were pretty organized. I had set up a spreadsheet on Google Docs, and we had a schedule for each day of the trip, including setup and breakdown of the exhibit. We tested all our equipment beforehand. The rear-projection screen (Anna’s wax paper innovation) worked. The DVD player worked. The projector worked. The RCA cables worked. Our DVD looped properly. Remotes and extension cords were packed. We were ready.
However, as much as we tested everything beforehand, there were still aspects of the exhibit left, somewhat, to chance. We could only bring what we could fit in a large suitcase ($25 charge, thank you very much US Airways), and there were items that we would need to get on location. This worried me. I lost sleep thinking about what could go wrong. What if our bag was held up at the airport? What if we couldn’t hang our 9’ x 7’ screen from the ceiling or walls of the gallery? And on and on. We had pored over specs at length of our space, but… it was hard to believe it would all work out.
As it turned out, everything was fine. We arrived early to the Phoenix airport, giving security plenty of time to ponder our plethora of electronics. Once in New York, we bought a dowel for the screen at a hardware store near the exhibit space, and with a little duct tape, wire, and troubleshooting the sound system, we were set up in about two hours. When I stood outside our finished window display, watching the passersby slow down and taking in our student work, I felt like I had a burst of energy that went right to my ambition and my pride. Which, as an artist, can be a hard feeling to come by.
We pulled off the first WNMU exhibit in New York, and that is no small thing. Anna and I sat talking in the dark gallery space after we broke it down, and we both realized, we could do this again. We could do it in New York or anywhere, we could do solo exhibits, we could do group exhibits, installations, interactive media. What can I say? We did it, we did it, we did it! Of all the experiences I have had as an art student, this really has had the most impact on what I know I can accomplish.
Elizabeth (BJ) Allen