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How is the ART 302 student exhibition adapting to a pandemic world?

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ART 302 student exhibit

This month, students in ART 302: Research and Exhibition Practice will reveal an installation in collaboration with Hybrid Space, an architecture firm and public venue in Capitol Hill. A series of photos from each student will adorn and be projected from the second-story walls of the office space for the consideration of passersby.

Public exhibition has always been a facet of ART 302. Each quarter, students in the class design installations to develop experience in displaying their art. Under normal conditions, these students would use art galleries and spaces at the UW to display their work — this year, things have changed.

Leading the vision to adapt student photomedia exhibitions to pandemic restrictions is Rafael Soldi, a visiting lecturer in visual arts. This is Soldi’s first time teaching ART 302, taking the place of photo/media professor Ellen Garvens, who is currently on leave.

Soldi wanted to create an opportunity for students to show the public they were still creating, in spite of the challenges that arts programs are facing right now. Soldi thought Hybrid Space, located on the corner of 12th Avenue and East Pike Street, would provide the perfect location for high-visibility student projects.

Hybrid Space is a gallery and extension of Hybrid Architecture, with the mission of creating a venue where artists and creators can form a dialogue on how the city of Seattle is changing. The opportunity to exhibit their work publicly at Hybrid Space provides more accessibility and generates a higher volume of responses to student art, according to Soldi.

“People are not going into the student galleries, people are not seeing their work, and I think this is a great way for UW students to interact with the public in a very large way,” Soldi said. “The projection is in one of the most public and most transited corners of Capitol Hill … there’s a lot of eyes falling on this.”

While some students are creating their photo series from outside Seattle due to remote learning, photo/media student Sebastian Martinez spent time engaging with tribal leaders of the Duwamish Tribe to explore some of the ways the tribe has recorded changes in the Seattle area over time. On a guided tour with Jolene Haas, the Duwamish Longhouse director, Martinez listened to how the Duwamish River itself has been transformed, straightened, and dredged to support ship navigation in the port of Seattle.

In documenting the changing profile of the Duwamish River, along with photographing native plants on the riverfront, Martinez hopes to share an Indigenous perspective on the city that amplifies the voices of Indigenous leaders like Haas.

“The work is tied to [the Duwamish Tribe] in that it is the Duwamish River, emphasizing that this is their stolen land,” Martinez said.

ART 302 student exhibit (two)

Soldi believes that exhibiting work in the public sphere has changed student attitudes toward the project. Although the idea to collaborate with Hybrid Space was born from adapting to the pandemic, Soldi feels that the class should continue to participate in more high-profile exhibitions in the future.

“The moment your work has to be not just out of the school hallways or galleries, but displayed on a large screen in the middle of a busy intersection, you carry a certain level of responsibility,” Soldi said. “You better think carefully about what you want to show and what you want to say, and I think they all feel that.”

For Martinez, this project holds a special weight. It represents a step into the wider world of art. 

“This is our first exhibition, and mine as an artist as well,” Martinez said. “I think beyond just the student body, I’m reaching out to a larger community.”

The ART 302 installations are scheduled to open for viewing later this month, according to Soldi.

Reach writer Andy Samms at Twitter: andy_samms

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