Bruce Gallery looks to innovate in face of COVID-19

Category:  The Arts
Monday, October 19th, 2020 at 2:13 PM

The team behind Bruce Gallery, including leader Dr. Lisa Austin, has been hard at work enhancing the physical gallery’s online presence. COVID-19 has certainly made these changes necessary, but Austin believes these moves will generally benefit Bruce Gallery going forward.

“We’re a physically isolated studio, but we have a lot to show off, and we can’t expect the whole world to come here. We have to make it easier for the world to see what amazing stuff is happening here,” she explained.

Austin was appointed the director of Bruce Gallery after the previous director was promoted at the beginning of the semester, and the staff have been working on unique ways to continue exhibiting work despite not being able to open physically. 

In addition to Austin, the current gallery team consists of Erikka Spaid as the assistant director, Anthony Ferris as the administrative assistant, Madison Egleston as the programming manager, Talon Smith working on the collections, and Rachel Maly working on the virtual gallery. 

In regard to any big digital moves, the gallery team remains in the planning stages right now, but they do know they’ll be utilizing a new website that will allow for two things: virtual display of galleries when it can’t be done physically, and separate all-virtual galleries. 

Maly has begun working in the platform Kunstmatrix, which is basically a virtual gallery that users can peruse through at their own leisure. 

The online gallery is presented as a series of rooms where the dimensions and layout of the show are up to the organizer. From there, the creator then places the artwork on the various virtual walls. Once the gallery is done, visitors are free to click around and explore; each piece of art will have a description that pops up when your cursor scrolls over it.

“It’s very spacious. [Maly] isn’t trying to copy Bruce Gallery, she’s making her own gallery,” Austin said. 

One of the downsides is that the online platform detracts from three-dimensional projects that could be added to an exhibit. “Unfortunately, the sculptures are just shown as a flat image because we don’t have all the other photos that are necessary to make it take up space,” she added.

This online gallery will also be an opportunity for those who have more delicate artwork that’s difficult to ship, as only pictures will be required to display a piece of work instead of the full piece. “I feel like there is a lot of opportunity to have virtual shows because I think people will be more inclined to apply to shows where they don’t have to physically send the work — just images — because sometimes a lot of that work is very cumbersome,” said Smith.

The virtual galleries planned to go up at some point during this semester include the latest exhibition in an ongoing series titled “Art & Agency.” This will feature a collection of works by Edinboro faculty. This exhibition was originally supposed to go up around Homecoming weekend, Oct. 2-3, but has since been extended, and will likely remain posted for at least a year once they’re finished with setup. 

Other virtual shows that will be going up include the Graduate Art Association (GAA) exhibition, which will most likely be up starting in early February (2021), and a show by photographer Steve Plattner, which will most likely be live on the first day of January. Plattner is not willing to do a physical show, but “he’s happy to have an online show,” said Austin.

Austin added that the gallery had also planned on an exhibition called “Let’s Pretend,” organized by Dr. Leslie Sotomayor and about a book by artist Aruna D’Souza on racial inequality. This has since been postponed. 

“When they found out that we were going to be physically closed, they said they did not want to bother putting a show up. Three of them had planned on doing an installation, or making a specific work only for [Bruce Gallery] ... but they decided they didn’t want to spend all that time and money if no one was actually going to see it,” said Austin. However, the artists showed interest in being invited back at a later date after COVID-19 has blown over, hopefully at some point in 2021.

In addition to the online galleries, Austin and the staff are considering a number of other digital efforts. Ideas include selecting and featuring one piece of artwork a week on social media platforms, creation of themed galleries, a sneak peek at the behind-the-scenes work that the gallery staff does, and the establishment of an ongoing collaborative artwork that would be held in the physical location of Bruce.

The ongoing collaborative artwork was actually inspired by a New York City radio station. Lot Radio is an independent online radio station that streams 24/7 from a shipping container in Brooklyn. The station is dedicated to playing only music created by residents of NYC and allows its visitors to choose various selections it offers throughout the day.

Austin thought she could apply this to Bruce Gallery to do something unique with the space now that it is not allowing visitors. “[Anthony Ferris] could be in [the gallery] for one hour a week and take [artistic] directions from anybody,” said Austin. “We’d be doing a collaborative artwork under direction.” 

She even talked allowing various Edinboro folks to “mail in or drop off random stuff — a broken fan, an old chair — that you have to fit into this installation.” She said that “the idea is that people can tune in to see something happening in this space, and maybe by the time COVID-19 is over, there’s this weird, crazy installation that is the result of all these directions that people have given you.”

According to a recent Instagram post from Bruce Gallery, they will also: "delve into the Edinboro University Art archive, introduce the fantastic Bruce Gallery staff, and maybe even [do] a virtual show."

Bates Gallery remains open despite Bruce’s temporary closure. Austin explained the reasoning behind this. “Bates Gallery is considered part of the classroom ... it’s not controlled in the same way Bruce is. The individual students who are having the show get to choose whether to lock or unlock their show, so it’s usually left open. Usually only one or two people are in there at a time.”

Hazel Modlin is the Arts Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: edinboro art

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