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Archives: June, 2013

Student showcase at heart of final Arts Dawg event

Pioneer Square

Minutes before I shut my computer down and headed over to the Henry Art Gallery for the season’s final Arts Dawg event, my phone vibrated with bad news: My date for the evening was stuck at work and would be unable to join me to check out the Henry’s annual MFA + MDes 2013 Thesis Exhibition.

In an ironic twist, Jen – the same coworker who spearheaded this date series in the first place – volunteered to be my date for the evening. The only catch? We made a pact to leave work talk back at the office.

It proved to be an easy bargain to keep. We walked into the café for the pre-show reception, where a trio of students provided live music while the rest of the Arts Dawg patrons mingled and enjoyed appetizers. Jen and I each grabbed an amber ale from Ballard-based Hilliard’s Beer and stepped outside, where we talked about career aspirations, hobbies, and upcoming weekend plans.

In between the chatter, we found a few minutes to explore the exhibit. With such an incredible array of works on display, the exhibit itself demanded more time than we had. But one video piece in particular caught our eye; a short film about Pioneer Square played in one corner, examining the past, present and future of Seattle’s historic neighborhood. Architects and restaurateurs alike talked about the challenges facing Pioneer Square, its value to the city, and what the future might hold.

Throughout the evening, we talked to other patrons about the series. I asked other attendees about their favorite events over the previous six months, and remarkably, no consensus emerged. Some raved about the “Plastics Unwrapped” exhibit at the Burke Museum; others commented about the action-packed “Once Upon a Time 6x in the West;” and yet others praised Ana Moura’s achingly beautiful voice and stage presence.

A few singled out this evening’s MFA + MDes 2013 Thesis Exhibition. Some patrons enjoyed the wide variety of work on display, and others appreciated being able to talk with the student artists on hand for the event.

It underscored for me the true value of the series. Nearly everyone I chatted with said they wouldn’t have attended such a variety of events on their own. But, whether they fully understood – or even enjoyed – everything, they appreciated the exposure and diversity of events.  From the energetic performance of “The Rite of Spring” to the eclectic display of student work at the Henry, the Arts Dawg series truly showcased something for everyone. There was something for arts aficionados and curious newbies alike, and I’m excited to see what kind of arts buffet gets served next year.

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Arts Dawg Preview: MFA + MDes 2013 Thesis Exhibition

A Henry patron takes in MFA candidate Carla Cummings' portraiture.

A patron takes in MFA candidate Carly Cummings’ portraiture.

“This is the fruitful season,” declares the catalog for the MFA + MDes 2013 Thesis Exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery. For the past two years, 12 artists and five designers—UW Master of Fine Arts and Master of Design candidates—have been honing their craft and deepening their understanding of the theory, methodology and practice that undergirds their work. The fruits of their labor are now on display, representing an exciting cross-section of the diversity of art being made through the UW.

On June 20, Arts Dawgs will get a taste of the best of the UW arts scene as they enjoy a special reception at the Henry, featuring wine and remarks from Chris Ozubko, Director of the School of Art, and Paul Rucker, ’95, ’02, UWAA Executive Director. The artists and designers will also be in attendance to talk about their work. Dana Van Nest, ’93, Henry Associate Director of Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations, graciously agreed to show us around the exhibition and walk us through the production and setup.

The MFA candidates’ artistic works represent an exciting mix of styles and media. Outsized, boldly colored portraiture lines many of the walls, while intricate ceramics hold the floor. One installation features hand tools arranged like Egyptian hieroglyphics to celebrate (and possibly eulogize) manual labor. Another incorporates found objects and what looks like construction debris to build a whimsical, sand-castle-like edifice. The sheer variety of talent on display is here is breathtaking.

MDes Candidate Mike Fretto (in blue shirt) shares Design for Us, his project for developing a community advocacy design workshop.

MDes Candidate Mike Fretto shares Design for Us, his project for developing a community advocacy design workshop.

The MDes presentations incorporate a broad spectrum of concepts from all over the world of design. One project traced the development of a map of the rhythms and patterns of language. Another followed one candidate’s campaign to introduce young people to the power of design. Drawing from the toolbox of industrial design and his own experience as a shipbuilder, one candidate produced a wall-mounted folding desk that marvelously marries the useful and the beautiful. Van Nest warns me about touching the desk. “You’re going to want to,” she says. She’s right.

According to Van Nest, preparing for the show started several months ago, when the students were first introduced to the space they would be using; many of the pieces were custom-built to take advantage of the unique features of the gallery. Works climb the walls and snake through a previously-unnoticed interior window. In several instances, a piece will take up an entire small room, drawing viewers inside and surrounding them.

Much of the art is intended to challenge and provoke. We pass a family in one of the galleries, and Van Nest asks what they think of the exhibition. “I’m still making up my mind,” says the dad. Van Nest is fine with that. She feels the exhibition will be successful if patrons are still making up their minds about it the next day. Says Van Nest, “We want you to decide what a work is about.”

If You Go—Walk-ups welcome!

What: Arts Dawg event in conjunction with the MFA + MDes 2013 Thesis Exhibition. The event includes remarks from Paul Rucker, UWAA Executive Director, and Chris Ozubko, Director of the School of Art , a tour of the exhibition with the MFA and MDes candidates, wine, light appetizers and live music.

Where: Henry Art Gallery, 15th Avenue NE and 41st Street, Seattle (view map)

When: Thursday, June 20, 6 p.m.–8 p.m.

Cost: $8 at the door (Free for Henry members)

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