Grizz Art brings life to OC

There are two women in the room.

One, a brunette wearing just a ratty pink shirt over red underwear, sits on the floor in front of a window with a view of a drab building. Loosely holding onto a gray canvas bag beside her, she stares off to the side with a forlorn expression.

 The other is a blonde in a black jacket with a fur collar, black leggings and a hat. Standing in the glow of a desk light, she looks straight ahead with a sly grin, but the mirror behind her reveals her shadowy backside. 

This is the scene depicted in “Magazine Narrative,” an oil painting by Stephanie Szmiot. It’s part of the Grizz Art Showcase, a program created by the student services department of Oakland University Student Congress. 

Creating The Program

 “The goal is to eventually beautify the campus with student art,” said Jarret Schlaff, OUSC student services director.

 Grizz Art was the brainchild of Andrew Bashi, former student services director. He said the idea was part of his platform when he ran for OUSC president in 2008.

 “The original idea was to replace all the artwork in the school with student artwork,” Bashi said. “Any gaps in the walls, we wanted students to fill.”

 Bashi, who became student services director midway through this school year, coordinated with Richard Fekel, director of the Oakland Center. Fekel said it was a great idea but needed to start on a smaller scale. 

 When Schlaff took over the position, he continued working on the project with Fekel. They agreed upon a location to display the artwork, complete with a hanging system paid for by OUSC. The inaugural winter showcase is currently up in the hallway in the north end of the Oakland Center’s main floor.

 “We took a very boring corridor space that didn’t have anything on the wall … and created this great space,” said Fekel.

 One of the pieces might make you do a double take.

 Lucia Tourianski intended “Fahrräder” — German for “bicycles” — to make people go, “Something is not right in this picture.”

 It’s a photo of a German bicycle station, but it was digitally altered to make it appear as though there are dozens of bikes in front of it.

 “I thought it would be funny to take a bunch of pictures of bikes and pile them up to make it look like a junkyard,” said Tourianski, a senior German major with a minor in graphic design.

Seeking Permanence

 The display is currently confined to the one hallway, but Schlaff is working to make a piece or two from each showcase permanent fixtures on campus.

 Fekel supports the initiative but said a lot of considerations go into hanging art, such as finding the right location and providing proper lighting. Plus, he said, ideal conditions vary for each piece.

 The Grizz Art selection committee decides which pieces of art go in the showcase and would determine which pieces are picked to become permanent. The committee is comprised of the student services committee, Fekel, art faculty, OU’s student chapter of the National Art Education Association and La Pittura, OU’s art and art history society.

 “We have artists on our committee, so they know what’s appropriate and what’s not,” Schlaff said.

 Bashi said he remembers seeing the commercial posters in Fireside Lounge and Pioneer Food Court and wondering to himself, “Why isn’t there student artwork here?”

 Acknowledging that OU is a commuter campus, he hopes the Grizz Art program makes students feel more involved with and tied to the school.

 Fekel said OU students produce a lot of “good, worthy” art that should be displayed.

 “I think there are a lot of talented artists on campus and this is a great way to get their work out in the public space,” Fekel said.

 Szmiot, a senior art major, said Oakland needs more contemporary art and would like her work to be part of that collection — just not her “Magazine Narrative” painting, which she said her dad had hanging at home until she decided to submit it to Grizz Art.

 She made it for a beginning painting class she took two semesters ago. At the time, her goal was simply to develop her technique and practice color theory, but she said she ended up really liking the piece and that it ended up inspiring her to keep up with working on art.

 “I’d love to have a piece hanging in OU, but that was one of my firsts so I might not be OK with that one,” Szmiot said.

 A Revolving Gallery

 The smallest piece in the gallery was submitted by freshman Ashlee Peterson. It’s a caricature of her sister-in-law, “Emily.” The pencil drawing portrays Emily with mouth agape and eyes wild.

 “Just that expression — it’s so goofy. It pinpoints her personality,” Peterson said.

 The studio art major said it was something she drew in her free time before coming to Oakland. She said she plans to submit artwork in future showcases.

 “I just picked up an application for the spring,” Peterson said.

 The deadline for the spring showcase, which Schlaff said would be put up in mid-April, is March 28. Applications can be picked up from and dropped off in Wilson Hall and the OUSC office, as well as the showcase hallway.