By Meredith Wagner | Arts & Life Editor
Baylor’s art department is somewhat of a mystery to a large portion of the student body, mostly because those unaffiliated with the fine arts may never find themselves walking through Hooper Schafer’s doors.
The Martin Museum of Art works to mitigate this dilemma by compiling the works of multiple art students each year, hanging them proudly on museum walls and inviting the public to view them at their leisure. The museum’s Annual Juried Student Exhibition officially opens to the public Friday, March 22, and features a collection of some of the best pieces the art department students have produced in the past year. A reception for the featured student artists, hosted Thursday evening, kicked off the exhibit and revealed for the first time which students were selected for display.
Allison Syltie, Director of the Martin Museum of Art, said the Martin Museum of Art only has room for 60 to 70 pieces.
“We received about 160 entries for this exhibition,” Syltie said. “More work doesn’t make it than does.”
However, Syltie said this doesn’t necessarily mean the rejected pieces are “less-than” or invaluable.
“It depends on the juror. It depends on the space that they’re in,” Syltie said. “I wish we had a bigger space so that we could showcase more work.”
The 60 to 70 featured pieces were selected by guest juror Cohn Drennan, who began his artistic career as a museum specialist at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and managed the conservation of a permanent collection of over 10,000 objects. Drennan has since served as deputy director for the United States Department of State’s Arts in Embassies Program, and he currently works as an art dealer who represents contemporary Texas artists.
Syltie said much of the decision-making process that determines students’ fate falls into the hands of the selected juror, who is chosen each year based upon expertise and merit.
“We want to represent all the media in our department — graphic design, fabric design, drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture,” Syltie said. “We want to make sure we have representation, but other than that, we try not to interfere too much with the juror’s thought process.”
At the reception Thursday evening, Drennan said that he selected the winning pieces based upon overall presentation and technicality. Based upon the running color theme of the exhibit, which included many pastels, blues and grays, it seemed that Drennan selected works that complimented one another while maintaining variety.
“I judged, not only on the art, but on presentation, and what would be appropriate for a museum setting,” Drennan said. “I picked up everything. I looked on the front, looked on the back, looked underneath.”
During the reception, Jennifer Conrad’s name was called for “Best of Show,” followed by a celebratory shriek from an excited friend, which echoed through the empty room. Her piece titled “Monolithic Ovaloid,” which was composed of plaster and automotive paint, was evidently well-liked by Drennan. Conrad left the reception with cash in hand, along with students in various categories: Kristin Boyer for Drawing, Huan Er Fan for Painting, Caitlin Meuth for Graphic Design, Josh Martin for Fabric Design, Qinyi Lin for Sculpture, Shelby Fairfax for Ceramics, Erica Thorpe for Photography and Victoria Gonzalez for Printmaking.
Having worked as the director of the Martin Museum of Art for three years now, Syltie said this exhibit stands out amongst others throughout the year, especially given the time frame museum employees must work within to see the event to fruition.
“We normally take two weeks to change an exhibition, and we did this one in four days,” Syltie said. “We give the students two days to bring in their artwork and register it, and then we have our juror come in, and in one day, they jury the exhibition. The following days, we arrange it, hang it, light it, label it.”
In just four days, the team has to sort through upwards of 200 works of art, select only 60 to 70, hang each of them on the walls with adjacent, descriptive placards and host a reception, where they present awards and monetary prizes to winning students.
Syltie emphasized the speed with which museum employees have to work, putting into perspective the magnitude of the task at hand each year.
“Dealing with that many artists and that many works of art in such a short time is very difficult,” Syltie said. “Normally, we’re working with one or two artists, and they’re bringing in 20 to 30 works, and we’ve been working with them for a year to finalize an exhibition. This happens in one week.”
However challenging of a task, Museum Collections Manager Chani Jones said the museum staff anticipates giving students a chance to show off their talent, an essential opportunity in building their resumes.
“It’s important to be entering exhibits,” Jones said. “For a lot of students, this is one of the first exhibits they enter and their first experience being juried. It’s something to get their feet wet, really. To learn how the process works.”
Syltie agreed, emphasizing the importance of having a quality resume and portfolio in the art world.
“Especially in your early career, things like this are important. It just helps [students] out, gives them some significance,” she said.
Describing the Martin Museum of Art as “one leg on a stool,” Syltie said the museum and the art department work together to shine a light on the fine art community.
“This exhibition is a great example of what the department has been working on,” Syltie said. “I work with the faculty very closely to facilitate exhibitions. We’re really celebrating our connection to the department.”
Syltie said her ultimate hope for the exhibit involves the community becoming familiarized with the talent among students in the department.
“I just want the Baylor and local community to come see what our students have been doing because they’ve been working really hard. It’s evident in the work.”
In the future, the Museum plans to continue its growth as an entity in the art department, furthering the department’s mission to challenge students to think creatively and prepare them for a smooth transition into the professional visual world.
“Most people don’t know yet, but we will be undergoing a complete renovation of our exhibition space this summer. We’ll have a totally new look when the fall rolls around,” Syltie said.
Additionally, senior fine art students display a compilation of work they completed for the duration of their time at Baylor each spring in “The Bachelor of Fine Arts Exhibition.” This exhibit will run after the Annual Juried Student Exhibition from April 19 through April 25.
The juried student exhibit will be on display in the Martin Museum of Art in the Hooper Schafer Fine Art Center until April 15, 2018. The museum’s hours are Tuesday – Friday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Sunday from 1 – 4 p.m., but the museum is closed on Mondays and during Baylor University holidays.