Art in dialogue: OU art history students invite student orgs to consider artworks

A crucial educational element in the life of Oakland University students, as well as an important center for visual arts in the Detroit metropolitan area is the Oakland University Art Gallery (OUAG). OUAG emphasizes both contemporary art and art historical exhibitions, which offer direct engagement with coursework in both studio art and art history.

On Saturday, March 3, OU brought together what could be considered its most precious resource: students.  For the exhibit titled, “Art in Dialogue,” students in the art history course AH 3900 took part in selecting images and inviting student organizations to consider various artworks in the collection.

Bennett Tomandl, a junior studying studio art and art history, described the students involvement with being in charge of selecting the images.

“There was a creative process for us finding the works to show, we wanted a general theme that collectively we and others could easily relate to, so we decided to only include modern works,” Tomandl said.  “We each selected images we enjoyed and Professor John Corso then finalized these selections. We then each chose a few OU student organizations to show these pieces to and get their opinions.”

The students’ involvement in this exhibit allowed them to expand their creative capacities as artists as well as grow closer as colleagues.

“Seeing the gallery come to life was a really rewarding feeling for all of us,” Tomandl said.  “We created a 3D model of the gallery space to make sure all of the pieces were placed in a certain way to make the show really flow. Our class also created an interactive space for visitors to leave their thoughts and ideas about the art.”

The AH 3900 students specifically crafted this exhibition for OU, and wanted to express OUAG’s open atmosphere to the student body and surrounding community.

“This exhibition gives people the opportunity to see a part of the university that they aren’t normally able to see,” Tomandl said.  “We wanted people to feel comfortable forming their own critiques about art, which is why we actually used selections from our conversations with student organizations as labels for the works of art.”

Students like Tomandl who were involved in this exhibition wanted it to feel accessible for viewers.

“Often times, art can seem intimidating,” Tomandl said.  “We wanted to dispel this belief and show that art is for everyone to enjoy.”

As for which pieces were selected, Corso, associate professor of art history and curator of the “Art in Dialogue” exhibit, describes them as modern and contemporary art.

“We will have several works of modern and contemporary art from the OU Art Gallery’s permanent collection, including work by Edvard Munch, Fernando Botero and Käthe Kollwitz,” Corso said.

As students were the curators, they used inspiration from their own lives to choosing pieces to display.

“The students identified works in the collection that they were drawn to,” Corso said. “I took a look and offered advice and suggestions. They really did a great job of learning about their works and thinking about these artworks with fresh eyes.”

When putting together an exhibition like this, Corso and his students hope the OU community will be empowered to look at art and describe what they see with deeper precision and interest.

The exhibition will be on display until April 1, 2018.