FGCU Art Galleries plan full season of shows, with some twists By Drew Sterwald

The FGCU Art Galleries have reframed some exhibitions planned for the 2020-21 school year and postponed others in light of COVID-19-related complications and safety precautions — which currently include limiting gallery visitors to students, faculty and staff until further notice. Nevertheless, the art will go on.

“We’re essentially maintaining the number of exhibits planned, but the content will change,” explained Gallery Director John Loscuito.

Spring graduate Meg Brunner discusses her senior project in The Wasmer Gallery. Photo: James Greco/FGCU

As the galleries move forward with installed as well as virtual projects, they usher in the new season with a look back showcasing last spring’s graduating seniors, who had to forego their traditional moment in the spotlight earlier this year. Art majors’ senior projects are being displayed through Sept. 3 in the Wasmer Art Gallery and the ArtLab; digital design majors will have their projects exhibited Sept. 18-Oct. 1 in Wasmer.

Private receptions were being held for parents, administration and faculty to recognize graduates’ college-career crowning achievements. At the end of their studies, art majors are required to develop and present a coherent body of self-generated work. The senior project combines their knowledge of techniques and concepts while drawing on research of historical and contemporary artists.

You can read more about each artist’s projects on the galleries’ website. One of those featured, Meg Brunner, said she found it “rewarding and exciting” to finally see the exhibit come together after a challenging final semester. “With the COVID delays we weren’t even sure if we were going to have an exhibition at all,” said Brunner, who has been getting her career off the ground as a freelance photographer and graphic designer since graduating.

Tanner Yorchuck in front of his work “Storm Squad.” Photo: James Greco/FGCU

“Senior project is such a defining moment for students in the art program because it’s a way for us to showcase who we are as artists and put all of our skills that we’ve been taught to the test. Being able to share this moment with everyone has been amazing. All of the stress and long studio nights feels so worth it when I look around the galleries and see all of the incredibly meaningful work my classmates and I were able to create.” Plans are already in place to showcase December’s graduating seniors with an online catalog and videos of the artists.

In the meantime, the annual alumni exhibition will feature Eagle grads collaborating virtually with current students to create a printed project. “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To An Exhibition…” will begin with 2018 grad Chloe Lewis teaming up with 2009 alum Steven “Rusty” Coe — online, because she’s a freelance illustrator living in New York City and he’s an independent woodworker and installation artist in Sebring. Florida.

“They will be creating a physical and online ‘zine of their work against a backdrop of adaptability and how to deal with change,” Loscuito said. “They’ll be creating that in September and then we’ll invite the student body to contribute images to that ‘zine and layer them into the artists’ images in October. We’ll print that in November and give it to contributors and our donors. That’s a really responsive way to change from a physical exhibition. How can we create something that’s still engaging to students and alumni but do it virtually and still have a physical object at the end?”

Heather Couch’s “Untitled” installation incorporates ceramics and wool. Photo submitted.

In the midst of the pandemic’s unpredictable impact on operations, no one can see what lies months ahead, but “When We See Further” is still scheduled as an installation to run Oct. 16-Nov. 19 in the Wasmer Gallery. The group exhibition of sculpture, ceramics, photography, drawing and painting features four south Florida artists collaborating for the first time: Heather Couch of West Palm Beach, Marina Font of Miami, Renee Rey of Naples and Terre Rybovich of Homestead. The exhibit explores themes of self-image, physical and psychological connection, impermanence and spirituality.

Artists referencing the body is a topic Loscuito and Assistant Curator Anica Sturdivant had been discussing for a few years. They already had connections with a couple of the artists, and a series of studio visits convinced them the foursome would complement each other in a group show.

“None of the artists had worked together before,” Loscuito said. “Some knew of each other, but they did not know each other personally. After the studio visits, Anica and I discussed inviting all four artists to talk about the possibility of an exhibition. These discussions led to the exhibition we have planned.

“We intend to install it — we can’t capture it with just (one-dimensional, digital) images. We will have an opening virtually with a small group in one of the studios asking questions to the artists. People will be able to join online and ask questions. These are timely narratives.”

“The Eternal Spring,” a triptych in acrylic on canvas with gold leaf, by Francheska Castano of. Photo by James Greco/FGCU

Another topical, multifaceted collaboration involving California artist Travis Somerville, the Black History Museum of Fort Myers and FGCU had been planned for the spring semester. It has been postponed until the 2021-22 school year, when it is hoped that such cooperative projects can happen more effectively without coronavirus-related constrictions. “He really likes to involve the local community,” Loscuito said.

Somerville’s work delves into social injustice and the economic and political structures that perpetuate oppression, racism in America, the refugee crisis and the current global political environment, according to his website.

A rotating exhibit of pieces from the galleries’ permanent collection will take the place of that show, incorporating hands-on workshops for students on matting, framing and hanging artworks. Meanwhile, Loscuito holds out hope that conditions will allow for fully public shows and receptions for the galleries’ much-anticipated annual rites of spring: the juried student show and the senior projects exhibit.

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