SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — While the past year put a strain on all artists and their ability to publicly display their work, it also robbed many art students of their ability to work alongside each other, and the University of Rhode Island 2021 Senior Seminar students have been no exception.
Working independently and remotely in their homes and studios, from South County to Connecticut to as far away as China, 16 seniors from the URI Department of Art and Art History were tasked with creating that sense of communal artistry while attending virtual classes. Now, they can see their hard work pay off at the Hera Gallery in “Stellar Nursery,” which debuted Saturday and runs through May 8, both in gallery and online.
“The show title ‘Stellar Nursery’ means an area of dust and gas in space where stars are formed,” Hera Gallery Director Sonja Czekalski said. “Perfectly fitting for a show that is a splash of light and color, from landscape paintings to a digital projection installation. It is evident that these young artists have used this historic socially-distanced semester to continue to explore art-making, create joy, and find meaning in the beauty of being human.”
The artists included in the show are Ana Alvarez, Annie Chien, Cece De Carvalho Ramos, Chyna Dougherty, Bailey Foster, Vanessa Gagnon, Alex Grey, Brandon Hebert, Michelle Henning, Jenna Leone, Cam Montalbano, Julia Nelson, Ekareth Seneth, Holly Swanson, Katie Trahan and Sarah Tyson, many of whom are exhibiting their work publicly in a professional gallery for the first time, something Czekalski said Hera was proud to do.
“These students have been working from their home studios and in a virtual classroom all semester,” Czekalski said. “I had the pleasure of watching students meet their peers and professor face-to-face for the first time. For many students, this is also the first time they have seen this body of work outside of their home studios. Art always attains a new life when it has left the artist’s studio and, as many art exhibits were presented online in 2020, it was a critical opportunity for these students to finally get a chance to physically install their work in a public space. Hera Gallery is always excited to help artists explore the unlimited possibilities of installing works. It was really amazing to see the pride in each student’s eyes as their installations came to life in the gallery.”
In particular, Czekalski said she was impressed by how cohesive and connected of a show the students were able to put together despite the physical distance between them.
“Students independently created a body of work for their Senior Seminar course, then worked together to curate ‘Stellar Nursery,’” Czekalski said. “Having never seen one another’s work in person, I was impressed at how harmonious all of the pieces looked together.”
The students were also proud of the work they and their classmates put in and what they put together.
“As a non-traditional student, most of my classmates are closer in age to that of my own children,” Henning said. “So I can say that I am really proud of them and not feel awkward having the sentiment. It has been really exciting watching these students find their voice, especially during the past year. Not only have they risen to this unique situation — I mean, no one wants to close out college this way — but they have further challenged themselves and come up with a fine body of work. The subjects range from deep personal pain to finding joy in creating, from social injustice to sustainability. We have laughed, created, supported, collaborated, and now we get to see the results of that in this exciting group exhibition. There is a bright future awaiting each student and I am sure this is one show they will never forget.”
A live artist talk was held Wednesday afternoon via Zoom, where the artists talked about their work and the exhibit as a whole with patrons who signed up to participate.
‘Stellar Nursery’ is open for viewing on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. through May 8, with Hera asking guests to register their party for a 30 minute tour on their website, heragallery.org.
Hera Gallery is located at 10 High Street in Wakefield and is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Their next exhibit, a national juried exhibit titled “Turmoil and Transformation,” will debut May 15 and run through June 19.