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WSU class teaches survival skills for artists

Photo: WSU fine arts major Nick Inman measures as fellow students to Matt Hamlin (left) and Rina Gang (right) look on.

PULLMAN, Wash. – Students in Stephen Chalmers’ upper-level fine arts seminar at Washington State University are getting a lesson in survival.

To teach his students survival skills to employ once they are professional artists, Chalmers asked the class to plan and execute an exhibition of their artworks as a final project. In doing so, the 12 young artists created an exhibit they call Border Crossings.

Students were asked to check out available businesses in the region and find a suitable alternative gallery space. After an unsuccessful search for space in Pullman, the students branched out and met Darlene Schneider, marketing director at the Eastside Marketplace in Moscow, Idaho.

“Schneider and the Eastside Marketplace essentially donated the space to my students for the month,” Chalmers said. “We’re only being charged for heat and power. The students in turn donated their time to patch the walls and paint the space.”

After striking a deal on the space, the students cleaned and prepared it, designed and distributed materials to promote the event and arranged for the delivery and setup of the artworks for the exhibit.

“All of the experiences that the students encountered, from locating the space, to preparing it, to exhibiting their work, creating press materials, interacting with the media, and hopefully selling their work, have helped prepare them for the real-life challenges of being a professional artist,” said Chalmers, assistant professor of photography and digital media at WSU.

Border Crossings will include recent artworks in the areas of painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture by Alric Balka, Juli Bertucci, Matt Boland, Alex Gibson, Rina Gang, John Mason, Shelly Stewart, Nick Inman, Elizabeth Hawbaker, Matt Hamlin, Amanda Lyon and Sara Shinkle.

In the process of executing the assignment, Chalmers’ students say they have learned many things, including the necessity of effective marketing and sales.

Boland, a fine arts major from Spokane, Wash., says teamwork stands out as a lesson learned. “I have learned that a dozen-plus people working together to accomplish a goal can be a work of art in itself.”

Lyon, a fine arts major from Pasco, Wash., said, “This experience has taught me a lot about the business aspect of art, not just the production of it.”

Gibson, a senior from Anchorage, Alaska, will graduate next spring with a B.F.A. degree with an emphasis on printmaking and painting. “The most rewarding thing I’ve drawn from this whole experience was moving between the academic world of art on campus to the world of art in the community,” Gibson said.

“Those individuals that engage the arts, whether in attendance, cooperation or participation, are greatly appreciated and continue to make positive the future of many artists,” said Inman, a senior fine arts major from Enumclaw, Wash. “Our exhibit reflects that movement of energy, and I am grateful to be a part of it.”

“We have learned how to deal with business life and how to associate with media,” said Shinkle, a naturalized American from Thailand whose focus is the expressionist and realist spheres of the art world focusing on different aspects of Thai culture through her reflections and memories.

“We’ve learned that teamwork is the most important factor and that good communication—keeping good records of our contact’s name, address, telephone and an e-mail—is important for future use.”

The exhibit can be seen until Dec. 5 at Eastside Marketplace, 1420 S. Blaine St., in Moscow. There will be an opening reception Friday, Dec. 1, 5 – 8 p.m. Students will attend the reception to interact with guests and answer questions about their individual artworks. The gallery hours are noon to 8 p.m. weekdays, 2 – 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Many pieces in the Border Crossings exhibition are available for sale.

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