Evan Kasle is a Visual Arts Management alumnus and the curator of 6 ARTISTS / 6 SPACES, the Hokin gallery’s current exhibition. Each of the six featured artists is also a Columbia College Chicago alumni or current student. Slated to open in Spring of 2020, the exhibition was re-envisioned this semester due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and recently celebrated a virtual preview and the launch of the exhibition website. We talked to Evan about the show, its challenges, and what he is looking forward to next.
Congratulations on the virtual launch of 6 ARTISTS / 6 SPACES! Tell us about the exhibit and the idea behind it.
The concept of this exhibition was to invite six artists to re-imagine their selected two-dimensional artworks as immersive spaces within the Hokin Gallery.
These six artists – Isabella Aimone, Zach Barnard, JJ McLuckie, Megan Troglio, Moe C. Hibbard, and Erik Salgado – embraced the challenge of exploring the core concepts of their artistry in a new medium for the first time, in a public setting. The artists’, along with the Hokin gallery assistants’, dedication to this project and ability to collaborate to overcome obstacles made this exhibition a success.
6 ARTISTS / 6 SPACES explores the relationship between artists and their varied mediums, probes the nature of collaborative installations, and once we can have a physical opening, it will allow visitors to physically immerse themselves within the artists’ work.
The show was less than a week away from opening when the pandemic shut down campus last Spring. In what ways did you have to reimagine the exhibit during this Fall semester?
The original concept was partially inspired by the success of many immersive experiences across the world. With that being said, the artists were asked to reimagine their work to be as immersive as possible. Many of these installations had various interactive elements that were going to allow guests to physically touch or position themselves within them. Most of the installations were not drastically effected by the pandemic, the interactive elements were just either removed or transformed into stationary parts of the design. Some minor examples include Megan Troglio’s slider windows which were modified to stay open, Erik Salgado’s buildable blocks which were turned into a stable sculpture, and the baskets of Moe C. Hibbard’s “Juul Osco” supermarket which now remain in a fixed location under the shelves instead of being able to be held by guests walking through the checkout lane.
The one example of a drastic modification was Zach Barnard’s installation. The Hokin team and Zach had imagined a layout in which guests would enter the installation from under a raised platform with a hole cut in the center, allowing visitors to emerge into an up-close experience with a miniature village inspired by his painting. We had fully completed this design before having to entirely rethink it. The layout was shifted to a much more traditional table display, but still functions nearly the same way without having to enter the installation as intimately.
What did you learn during your time at Columbia that helped you face these challenges?
The Visual Arts Management courses taught by Professor Blandford such as Exhibition Management, Curatorial Practicum (where this exhibition was conceived), and Gallery Management Practicum provided knowledge on the ins and outs of everything that goes into an exhibition. This includes concept development, budgeting, scheduling, and how to maintain a gallery. Many of the Business and Entrepreneurship classes were also extremely helpful in how to be successful in a leadership role through unexpected obstacles, such as this pandemic. Outside of the classroom, I learned additional skills for exhibition installations in my internships at the on-campus Museum of Contemporary Photography, Highland Park Art Center, and back home at my local Danvers Art Association.
What can people expect from 6 ARTISTS / 6 SPACES in the future?
While we remain optimistic about a Spring 2021 in-person opening, we will have to see what the future holds! If we are unable to open during the Spring, the Hokin plans on keeping the exhibition installed until we can do so.
Other than the in-person opening, we plan on creating more insightful videos with the artists about their work, as well as a virtual interactive walk through (similar to Google Street View) for the digital version of this exhibition on thehokin.com. We may have additional programming online such as an artist talk in the future, but given the uncertainty of world affairs, we are holding off on setting anything in stone. Updates will be posted on the website as soon as possible, as well as shared on the Hokin’s Instagram @thehokin!
In the meantime, where can people dive into 6 ARTISTS / 6 SPACES and stay up-to-date on your other projects?
For 6 ARTISTS / 6 SPACES, we launched a digital exhibition preview at thehokin.com/6-artists-6-spaces. There you can find out more about the exhibition concept, a video walkthrough of the completed installations, interviews with the artists, documentation of the installations, and the process of creating these captivating spaces.
To stay updated on my artistic and arts management career, visit entertheframe.com!
My Instagram is @evanjkasle, where I try to give near-daily updates.