“Images of Community” was created through the joint efforts of Rose State and Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center. Rose State Art Professor Suzanne Thomas came up with the idea to curate an art exhibit with Jennifer Scanlan, Curational and Exhibitions Director at Oklahoma Contemporary. The theme of community was an easy choice.
“The theme, ‘Images of Community,’ corresponded with Oklahoma Contemporary’s exhibition programming for the year 2018,” Scanlan says. “We have been producing a series of exhibitions that connected with different communities, so it was perfect timing for a partnership with Rose State.”
Thomas’ Art History II class managed the exhibit, from curating and selecting the art to setting up the exhibit.
“The whole class was involved in curating and jurying,” Thomas says. Below is a list of everyone involved in make the exhibit come to life:
Emily Stover was chosen as the Project Manager, a position dedicated to leading classmates through the curation process. Not only did she manage the schedule, but she worked directly with the photography students.
“As Project Manager, I basically oversaw all aspects of the show,” Stover says. “I helped coordinate finding the photos from the photography students and put them in order to be juried by our class—and then I helped coordinate the hanging, layout, framing, and matting.”
Photographs were selected from Photography I and Photography II courses, taught by Cherry Aguilar, as well as several selections from professional photographers in the Oklahoma community.
“The Art History II students came and talked to my classes about what types of photographs they were looking for,” Aguilar says. “Some photos were submitted by my students, and some were chosen by the curators to be submitted. The curators would even look around the dark room during class time to find pieces to submit for jurying.”
Photographs were collected from Rose State students, professional artists in the community, and out-of-state photographers. Once the pieces were collected, the Art History II students put the photos in a randomized order and conducted a blind jury. The chosen pieces were featured in the exhibit.
“In the exhibit, you see anything from parenting to gardening to teachers at the Capitol, hard-working people, and people at the fair having fun,” Aguilar adds. “You see people who have businesses—anything from cold drink stands at the fair to the hot dog stand.”
Rose State gives students the unique opportunity to develop their photographs in a fully functional, wet-working dark room and showcase their work in an annual student art show. Adding the opportunity to curate and photograph pieces for a professional exhibit provided the students with valuable experience outside of the classroom.
The students were able to learn a variety of professional lessons throughout the process. “The [Photography I and II] classes didn’t run with the project at first,” Aguilar says. “They had to learn that we had a goal to reach and that we had to shoot toward that goal. The students learned that when you have a job, you are shooting for whoever runs the magazine or newspaper—instead of for yourself—and sometimes that’s hard.”
Each student involved was working to achieve success both in the community and in the classroom. “This was a very good learning experience for both myself and my students to be able to get their talent out into the community,” Aguilar adds. “It’s hands-on. You aren’t just working for a grade. It’s the real world.”
Each photographer had a unique approach to capturing communities in their photographs. Emily Siddiqui, a Rose State student, chose to showcase community through a moment shared with her family and friends. “I titled my piece ‘Wonder Shared’ because they’re facing the sunset,” Siddiqui says. “I didn’t tell them to do that, but that’s just how they expressed themselves and I thought they’re sharing the wonder of God and His creation.”
Janae Williams, another Rose State student, had two projects featured in the exhibition—the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial and a local Hispanic festival.
“Growing up, I heard my parents’ stories of losing their friends in the Oklahoma City bombing,” Williams says. “It’s a part of who I am, although I didn’t live here when it happened. I didn’t realize how emotional I’d get going to the memorial, but I got there and I was in tears watching the sun rise over the memorial. I hear people say, ‘I still can’t go to the memorial all these years later.’ It was important for me to capture that for my parents. They’ve lost friends, but they’ve healed from that. I thought this could be a way for other people to heal too.”
Williams chose to embed the community in all aspects of her pieces, including the titles. “When I named these pictures, I made sure that I did all of the names in both English and Spanish because I feel like you can’t really represent the Hispanic community unless you take the time to learn more about them and their culture,” she says.
Not only were communities photographed for the exhibition, but they were also formed in the process.
“I don’t think my class (Art History II) realized that from January 22 to May 3, all of a sudden, all these people who didn’t know each other that well were now building friendships,” Thomas says. “That’s what a community does: they work together and solve a problem.”
Art and photography are two of the many programs offered at Rose State. Our degrees are tailored to accommodate students from all backgrounds and experiences. If you’re considering continuing your education, contact us today.