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WSC Artists Take New York City by Storm

Published: 6-7-2012 9:40 am

Wayne State professors of art Pearl Hansen and Steve Elliott led a group of 10 art students on a trip to New York for an exhibit titled “Wayne State College Art Forum in New York City”. The exhibit, which was held April 14, came about through collaboration with Omaha and New York City artist Terry Rosenberg.

Student exhibitors Danielle Bice, Kathryn Bergmeier, Chloe Bloomfield, Crystal Bredehoft, Bailey Dahlkoetter, Heidi Hamilton, Demi Harlan, Travis Hoffart, Tyson Koehn and Rebecca Lewis traveled to New York City to present their work and participate in an open forum, exhibition and exchange of ideas at Rosenberg's Soho studio and exhibition space. The event also included critiques of the students' art by invited professional artists living in New York.

“While I was surprised to hear that nearly half of the students we traveled to NYC with had never flown on a plane before, I was not surprised to see how well their artwork was received when we installed their exhibit in Soho,” Elliott said. “Through this opportunity, they were able to present their work to a group of highly successful NYC-based artists, writers, and critics. The result was an excellent exchange of ideas and thoughtful commentary. Above all, I believe these students now fully understand how important it is to have their own direction in their work, rather than trying to emulate what is popular in the art world today.”

Rosenberg has explored the human form in motion for more than 20 years with a unique emphasis on dance. His paintings and drawings have been exhibited in the U.S. and abroad. His work can be found in numerous distinguished museum collections. Working directly from figures in rehearsal or in improvised movement, he integrates the explosive energy of dance with the emotional intensity of action painting, creating a synthesis of light, color and dynamic structure. His focus has included many leading dance groups such as: American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Mark Morris Dance Group, and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. One of Rosenberg's pieces is part of the One Percent for Art Collection at the College Center in South Sioux City. He will exhibit his works at Wayne State in November.

Claudia DeMonte, another of the artists to provide a critique of the student exhibit, has more than 60 one-person shows and 300 group exhibitions nationally and internationally. DeMonte is also the curator of "Women of the World: A Global Collection of Art." This traveling exhibition, with accompanying books, includes works of women from 177 countries dealing with the images of women. For 33 years, DeMonte has served on the faculty of the University of Maryland, where she was named Distinguished Scholar Teacher and Professor Emerita. 

DeMonte, who had a solo exhibit open at the June Kelly Gallery in Soho that same weekend, attended the student reception with her husband, sculptor Ed McGowin.  DeMonte and Rosenberg noted that they were highly impressed with the quality of the Wayne State College student artwork that was on exhibit. 

Jan Castro, arts consultant at Sculpture Magazine, commented that it was refreshing to see the Wayne State College art and design students had their own personal direction with their work, rather than trying to produce works that mirror contemporary art. Sculpture is an international, monthly magazine dedicated to all forms of contemporary sculpture. It contains provocative criticisms, knowledgeable technical discussions and timely exploration of new materials and techniques.

Painter and sculptor Claudia Alvarez, another of the critics invited to the event, focuses much of her work on investigating themes of childhood. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, she immigrated with her family to the United States at the age of three. She spent most of her life in California until 2005, when she was awarded a residency at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha. Her time is now divided between Omaha and New York City. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of California, Davis and her MFA from California College of Arts in San Francisco. Her work has been exhibited in the U.S., Europe and Mexico.

Heidi Hamilton, one of the graduating seniors in the group who went to New York City, recently had her sculptures accepted into national juried sculpture competitions at Washburn University and the Downtown Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit in Olathe, Kansas. Hamilton received multiple master of fine arts teaching assistantship offers to study sculpture at several major universities in the Midwest.  She has decided on Kansas State University for her MFA, where she will continue to be a Wildcat.

As president of the Wayne State Visual Arts Club, Hamilton was part of a collaborative group of WSC students who were recently awarded a commission for a sculpture installation project titled "Art in the Woods", which  will be exhibited at the arbor day farm in Nebraska City this summer. Submissions were received from 35 artists spanning eight U.S. states and Canada, with media that ranged from stained glass and steel to willow branches and ceramics. The exhibit opens Saturday, June 9 and will remain open through 2012.

“When the Art Club was awarded the 'Art in the Woods' sculpture commission late this past spring, the students involved with the project all looked at each other and said, 'So when are we going to get this done?'” Elliott said. “With final exams rapidly approaching, they decided the only way to complete the project on a professional level was to come back after graduation to finish it. So, that's exactly what they did, alumni and all. They finished it, and it turned out to be a successful project. Seeing the camaraderie that has developed between these students (some now alumni) has been a very rewarding experience for me.”

Wayne State's group exhibit is modeled on “helicopter” maple seeds that spin and dance as they float to the ground. The Arbor Day Farm's Web site notes that “Seeds in the Round: Intersection of Nature and Viability”, provides a larger-than-life perspective on these familiar and elegant forms. This piece is the only Art in the Woods installation that was created by a team of collaborating artists.

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