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April 05, 2016

Hartnett Gallery a learning tool for students, campus community

Tucked into a unique triangular space on the second floor of Wilson Commons is a showcase of undergraduate artwork.

The Juried Undergrad Exhibition is the latest show featured in the Hartnett Gallery, a fully funded student-supported professional art gallery.

“The Hartnett is not only a place for students who are interested in art to look at objects, but also a community center that initiates cultural dialogues through artworks and provides a space for conversations and engagements,” says Claire Tian Chen ’16, adding that many professors have brought their classes into the gallery space to discuss, to dance, and to learn.

Chen is president of the Hartnett Gallery Committee, a group of undergraduate student volunteers with a variety of academic interests who have one trait in common—the desire to bring art and dialogue to the campus community.

The gallery, which covers about 1,200 square feet, features five to seven exhibitions each academic year, varying from solo shows to group exhibitions—including local, state, national, and international artists. Occasionally, Hartnett also plans exhibitions in conjunction with local institutions such as the Memorial Art Gallery and the Visual Studies Workshop. Each spring, the gallery showcases work by Rochester undergraduates in a juried show.

The committee is involved in every aspect of the gallery—from planning exhibition schedules one year in advance, to meeting with artists and installing shows.

Students on the committee get practical experience in curating, exhibition design, administrative work, and public relations.

The Students’ Association, the College, and the Venture Fund from the Office of the President fund the gallery.

“Hartnett is an invaluable tool for students studying any aspect of art,” says Allen Topolski, associate professor of art and art history and the gallery’s faculty advisor. “It simultaneously forms a crucial bridge to the broader University as a site that employs contemporary art as a voice to a myriad of disciplines —including science and politics.”

Chen—who is studying mathematics, financial economics, and art history—says the exhibitions often reflect voices for awareness from the student body. Other exhibits this year have explored topics such as political tension and cultural diversity (From #Ferguson) and mental health (Refuge).

“In the 2015–16 academic year, the Hartnett is very lucky to have a great diversity in its shows which encourage multidisciplinary discussions,” she says.

“I say the Hartnett Gallery contributes cultural vitality and alternative learning opportunities to the campus community.”

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