The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Features December 15, 2006

Artists Unite in New Creative Venue

On Friday, Dec. 15, the unexpected will happen. Black River Café will be open after sunset.

However, they will not be serving pancakes. Instead, the new Oberlin Art Collective will be dishing up a wide variety of artwork in a silent auction. Paintings, photographs and CDs from artist dealers all over the country will be for sale, all to the tune of a jazz trio and a variety of snacks. The Café will be open from 7 to 9:30 p.m., allowing customers to browse before they empty their wallets. In addition, the collective is accepting donations of art in preparation for the event, which will be taken until 8 p.m Friday night.

What has prompted this extravaganza? There have been rumblings all around campus, thoughts stirring in several minds, dreams waiting to be realized. And recently, these ideas seem to have concentrated themselves on one thing: art.

Senior Darcey Hull and sophomore Hannah Vaughan each came up with the idea to start a collective individually, but their stories are similar. Upon entering Oberlin, both hoped to pursue art in some way. However, participation in the art program is limited due to the size of the department. Studio art classes are hard to get into and studios go only to seniors in the Art honors program.

“Everyone knows we need more art space on campus and more art space for people who don’t necessarily want to be art majors but who want to do art and have a space to do it — a communal, inspiring environment,” said Vaughn.

Choosing Oberlin despite the offer of a full ride to another school, Hull had hoped to major in art. She changed her mind after she could not get into an art class until her sophomore year.

“It seemed really ironic that at a liberal arts college there was no real space to be doing art, especially not a centralized space. I had imagined my liberal arts experience being more passionate and full of creativity and discussion,” said Hull.

She is not the only one who feels this way.

Both Hull and Vaughan run into other students and, at times, Oberlin community members who share their sentiments. They encourage everyone to get involved, unhindered by some of the divisions across departments that pop up in the College.

“We want it to be a really open space for everyone,” emphasized Vaughan.

For now, the collective will rent a building located near Tank co-op that was originally built as a business college. If the endeavor proves successful, it is possible that the collective will purchase the building.

“All of the building’s neighbors are very supportive of the art collective moving in,” said Hull.

Inside, the building has one large, central room with eight smaller rooms surrounding it. These small rooms will be used for studios, while the larger room will be shared as a gathering place and gallery.

 “One of the main ideas for the space is to not only have shared art spaces, but also to have a big communal room. This is really important to both Darcey and I,” said Vaughan.

 “We’ll have couches and maybe coffee; we’re thinking about having a coffee collective inside,” added Hull.

This room will be central to the idea that the whole College, and broader Oberlin community, are invited to participate in the collective. Any member can make use of the larger room for a broad variety of activities, including performances, readings, un-amplified music and conversation.

“I don’t want it to stop at art. I want it to be a political discussion, a philosophical discussion, basically whatever is going to foster creativity and excitement in the student body and the community. That’s what I hope for it to be,” said Hull.

In addition, the building will house larger art equipment such as light tables and materials for silk screening. Smaller supplies will be bought wholesale from the Art Gallery and other art supply stores. Members will pay a small fee to use these items.

More importantly, the collective exists so that everyone can have more freedom in doing art. Participants can set up their studios however they wish and can leave supplies there. This will be particularly helpful for those artists who now have no permanent home for their canvasses.

“People can see what it’s like to have the life of an artist more than they ever could before at Oberlin,” said Hull.

While the collective may give suggestions or have weekly projects for those experiencing artist’s block, there will be no set program or classes.

“There’s no due date, deadline. That’s why you do art. It’s for yourself,” said Hull.

Although there will be no instructors at the collective, Oberlin community member John Seyfried will act as the artist-in-residence. A photographer, Seyfried will bring experience to the fledgling group.

The collective has been met with tremendous support. They visited a recent trustees meeting and received unanimous approval. One trustee even spoke with Vaughn following the meeting to express interest in participating in the collective himself once he moved to Kendal at Oberlin.

At this point, the collective’s main focus is fundraising. Unable to garner enough funds from student organizations, Hull and Vaughan have been negotiating with the College. They have also tried appealing to dorms and co-ops to allocate some of their budget to help start the collective. Several obliged; Dascomb is even commissioning them to paint a mural.

Regardless, the art collective will open officially at the beginning of spring semester. So dig out your paint brushes and canvasses that you had to put in storage; there’s a new place in town to create art.


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