On the first floor of the Museum, if you look to your left while waiting for the double elevators, you will notice two wide green double doors.
If they doors are open, you might see some works of art on the far wall. If you step through the doors you will notice many more artworks filling the gallery. There are sculptures and paintings, artist books, prints, digital photographs, videos, models, and sometimes (for example this January) even interactive works that ask for visitor participation. This is the Student Exhibition of Gallery/Studio, the Brooklyn Museum’s in-house studio art program.
The youngest artists of the group are 6 years old, but the program also offers courses for adult students, as well as for every age in between. Some of our artists paint, some print, some try their hand at wire sculpture, stone carving or life drawing. All learn how to use the Brooklyn Museum’s collections as inspiration for their own artwork, discussing artist’s choices and processes in the galleries and bringing that knowledge to the studio to merge with their own life experience and creative expression. A Teaching Artist guides each group of students through a theme or medium over ten weeks, working with them through blocks and breakthroughs, and finally celebrating their journey at the opening of the Student Exhibition.
Have you ever installed a gallery show? The last show I installed in a non-museum gallery showcased 15 artworks. The average GSP Student Exhibition has between 150-200 pieces. Our challenge is to make sure each artwork shines, while also telling the story of process by showing how different artists within a class interpreted the same Museum piece, or what each artist took from a class-wide project. This involves discussion, more discussion, arranging artwork, changing our minds, more discussion and, well, I think you get the picture. It’s a process.
For two weeks before each Student Exhibition the green doors are closed, though visitors are still welcome to peek in and see what we’re up to. Our team can often be found holding a piece up on the wall and trading places so each person can contribute their opinion. We measure things often. Think artists don’t have to do math? Think again. Then comes writing. Each Teaching Artist comes up with an explanation of what students did for the project on display. What artwork did they visit in the galleries? What did they talk about when they were there? What did they do in the studio? How did their studio work incorporate the discussion from upstairs? The info is written up on a label that accompanies each group of artworks. It’s hard to say everything about the process in only two paragraphs, and even our best try sometimes leaves some fun details out.
Come see for yourself. You can find the show behind the green doors starting January 14th!
Maya Valladares, Gallery/Studio Coordinator, joined the Museum in 2008. She has worked as a studio teacher, a museum educator, a community organizer, and a freelance artist. She holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MA from Hunter College. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and she is thankful that she works in a museum where new ideas and inspiration never run dry.