The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts November 16, 2007

FAVA Gallery Hosts 28th Holiday Show

On Sunday, the Firelands Association for the Visual Arts will be holding its 28th annual Members’ Holiday Show with an opening reception in the afternoon abundant with eclectic art pieces, locals, students and munchies. What is greatest about the gallery is not simply the quality of art on display, but the function it serves as an open artistic community base. To become a member requires only a yearly donation to support its intention of providing a place for egalitarian artistic exploration, exposure and gathering.

“We are fortunate. We have really strong community support,” said FAVA Executive Director Betsy Manderen. This support allows the association to permit exceptions: “We had someone call who had lost her job, and she said she couldn’t take a class. We said we could make it possible.”

This year’s show is a conglomeration of largely 2-D perspectives. The artists studying and showing at FAVA are both young and old. Some are practicing artists, subsisting off their work, while others enthusiastically pursue art outside their day jobs. Many are currently or formerly studio art professors at Oberlin.

The subjects represented in the works denote varied levels of sophistication and experience. All works, no matter the objective quality, are given the same care in placement and display against the gallery’s white walls.

“Art feeds the soul. It’s the kind of thing that is so intrinsic to us, but I’m not sure that our culture always supports that,” said Manderen.

Though there is no application process to enter a work in the show, the pieces are nonetheless individually captivating, reflecting intimately on the nature of the artists’ processes, passions, imaginations. A few of the highlights include a charcoal drawing by Maya Swanson entitled Influenza that merges playful abstraction of shape with microscopic realism.

Linda Durvan’s Take Me to the Opera is a faux-fur purse big enough to disguise a chainsaw, according to Gallery Director Kyle Michalak, yet sassy and impractical enough for a hipster.

Former Professor Paul B. Arnold’s Fransconi’s Fable is a simple, well-crafted woodcut of a man in flannel, musing over the curious scene of a crow perched on a branch, spitting a dark lump from his mouth onto a fox below him.

Nancy Garver’s piece is a magnificent spiraling quilt, built from vibrant earth-colored fragments of  a whimsical nature. Look closely and you’ll see a spider web, a flying squirrel and budding flowers.

Andrew Ringler’s oil painting Factory at Night captures the surreal glow of light emanating from a blackened factory. The sky above the billowing smokestacks is red; the body of water reflecting the factory is eerily placid and green.

Membership in FAVA runs at a reasonable price. The rate for students is fifteen dollars a year. That fee permits up to two pieces on display in the annual holiday show, reduced rates for periodic weekend workshops in mediums such as silk painting and copper enameling, a free weekly life drawing class (open to public), reduced class tuition, excursions to nearby museums and a discount on the work of artists sold in the gift shop, as well as access to the studio darkroom. Soon, if all goes according to plan, membership will also include access to a new pottery studio.
The motto of the FAVA is “changing lives through the visual arts,” according Michalak. Indeed, the organization aims to expose all people to artistic venues, regardless of talent or privilege, two variables that often exclude individuals from the pursuit of art. For many youths, school is often the first and last chance for artistic exploration. But it is usually the case that when under-funded public schools redirect their limited resources, art programs are the first to shrink or evaporate because those classes are deemed less essential to the core curriculum — there are rarely any art-related mandatory standardized achievement exams.

“[Art is] a way of grounding yourself. Studies have shown that children who are involved in the arts at an early age do better in school,” said Manderen.

FAVA’s private endowment comes from organizations such as the Community Foundation of Greater Lorain County and the Nord Family Foundation begins to respond to the county’s need for supplementary art practices through after school programs, outreach programs and classes designed for home-schooled students. No one person is denied a place in a class because of financial standing.

“We also feel a strong obligation to make our classes available to children from low-income families,” said Manderen.

Some of the adult classes that are currently in session include Advanced Jewelry Design and Construction in Silver Wire, Individual Metal Sculpture and Printmaking, as well as many more classical classes in various mediums of drawing and painting. Oberlin students can even arrange for work-study opportunities at the gallery.

FAVA’s presence has not only attracted individuals and families in Lorain County, but has also drawn a significant far-reaching membership, with its 330 members spread out all over the Midwest, even dotting both coasts. Every other year the gallery hosts a popular national quilt exposition. The gallery is also home to a six-state photography show.

“We look at ourselves as a cog in the economic development wheel of Lorain County&hellip;.We feel a responsibility to be part of the destination&hellip;to make people want to come to Oberlin,” said Manderen.

Sunday’s opening will be the physical culmination of FAVA’s unique, embracing, egalitarian take on art, showcasing work and inviting people of all ages, mediums and talent together to share in the pivotal joy of art-making and community.


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