Kendall College of Art and Design unveils the Historic Federal Building and reveals its pathway to excellence for art students.
Story: Liam in the Historical Federal Building
Photography: Terry Johnston
Kendall College of Art and Design celebrated Tuesday night, May 1st, 2012 with an evening of new beginnings and valedictions. Open for public tours for a single evening before a fall grand opening, the Historic Federal Building shined after thirty one million dollars in renovations and thronged with visitors as two exhibitions honored Kendall students beginning their careers, the Excellence Awards and the MFA Thesis Exhibitions. Although the tours were described as self-guided, visitors were hosted and assisted by a charming team of students and staff, men wearing natty red bow ties and women accessorized with red scarves. By one count, thirty one exhibitions opened Tuesday night on the downtown campus, demonstrating how much the college supports and nurtures artists from a wide spectrum of disciplines. The opening of the Federal Building sounds a resonant note of the career of retiring Dr. Oliver H. Evans, leader of the institution for eighteen years. An evening recognizing his legacy is scheduled for Saturday, May 5th, proceeds of which will establish the Oliver H. Evans Honorific Scholarship, one more way to support excellence in art education.
The spacious first floor galleries of the Federal Building, with high, exposed ceilings and ample lighting, gave the nineteen artists plentiful room to mount a collection of works and visit with friends and well wishers. Heather Duffy, MFA in Painting, made herself at home in a gallery room she activated with her life sized paintings of relaxed art students dressed for Saturday fun, watercolors on unframed, unmounted sheets of delicate paper. She shared her plans for her solo show at the CODA Teaching Gallery this August. Lance Moon, MFA in Drawing, shared the evening with his child beside him, a child one must guess Moon depicted in his series of intimate drawings of a newborn in swaddling clothes and a crib. Emily Gerlach, MFA in Photography, presented on the two walls of a long hallway, her series of images documenting a neighborhood, friends and family shown at home and outdoors, creating a backstory as complex as a soap opera.
The major gallery was dedicated to honorees of the Studio Excellence Award Winners, a distinction selected by Kendall faculty, one honoree for each of thirteen Kendall disciplines. Emily V. Knight, award winner in Industrial Design, presented a collection of leather footwear she executed for Wolverine World Wide, powerful boots intended for the riders of Harley Davidson motorcycles. Marvin A. Luna, award winner in Illustration, granted an on-camera interview, standing before framed pages of his black and white graphic novel, written on a metaphysical theme that could capture Nietzsche’s or Dostoevsky’s attention. Amrine L. Tomlinson, award winner in Photography, received her guests, from near and afar, among her photographs displayed in a southeastern corner, a show she promoted widely with a Facebook event. Claudia E. Bruce, award winner in Art History, presented a multimedia exhibition she researched overseas while investigating the fashion house of Balenciaga, rooted in the Basque Country of Spain.
If the Federal Building galleries heralded the beginnings of prestigious careers in the arts, the seven floors of the Kendall tower, plus the underground commons, revealed the intensive art programs that produce excellence. Classrooms dedicated to exhibitions and hallways hung with process drawings from anatomy studies, theory classes and drawings from life, Exhibition Week 2012 could serve as a survey class of art technique and a review of emergent talent. During Exhibition Week, the artists on display are scheduled to discuss their work with two critics. Certain to hear praise, among many top talents, are these discoveries. Miranda Sharp, creator of the Glucose Girls, has earned her tuition by preparing advertising for clients, including the local chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, preparing audacious, highly-collectible posters for the Grand Rapids monthly event. Horacio Lizardo offered a set of framed black and white portraits of striving Latin young adults, ornamented with personal effects in a shadow box, a series that included a self-portrait. Elizabeth L. Caley displayed floor to ceiling prints of Canadian Geese, printed on rice paper in imitation of Japanese wood block masters, augmented with her personal effects, including a tersely worded letter from a college dean, sent certified mail. Andrew McCoy, BFA honoree in Painting, was granted a room for his review, featuring vitally charged portraits, painted on vinyl, mirror and canvas. The animation presentations in the seventh floor Digital Laboratory came catered with ramekins of Jelly Belly beans and little boxes of Nerds, standard brain food for animators, allowing visitors to recharge their glucose levels after six floors of visual stimulation.
Kendall marked the event with hospitality in the commons produced by Adeline Leigh Catering, who set up interactive banquet stations with fun themes: A Little Tradition, Life in a Fish Bowl, Rolling Hill of Vegetables, Mouse and Cheese, Dunkin Donuts, Rocking on a Roll and more. The student body mixed and mingled, enjoying the celebration after a year of growth and effort. Although the Federal Building effectively doubles space, the next class of Freshmen will be as carefully selected as ever, targeting an increased student population of thirty additional enrollments. One first floor gallery shared the message of a vibrant student life with photojournalism, including scenes from the Bodies of Art Fashion show, “Forest Floor”, the Stache Bash at the Pyramid Scheme, and the fantastic observance of the annual Halloween party. The college has scheduled accessible hours for the Exhibition Week 2012 galleries: 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM Wednesday, May 2 through Friday, May 4, 2012 and Saturday from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM.