Bob Blandford is an Associate Professor in the Business and Entrepreneurship department. One of his classes, Gallery Management, is a practicum course that gives students hands-on experience running the Hokin, a professional gallery. We talked to Bob about the unique challenges that practicum courses have faced this school year, and what exciting projects are happening at the Hokin gallery.
How has the pandemic shifted your pedagogical approach to your Gallery Management Practicum course?
Rather surprisingly, the pandemic hasn’t shifted my approach to Gallery Management Practicum nearly as much as for other courses. Because the practicum is designed to be student driven and student managed, the gallery team faces real-life challenges every semester. While the pandemic disrupted our ability to meet in person, we remained focused on creating a robust exhibition season, both on site in the Hokin Gallery and at the Student Center, and online on the new gallery website, thehokin.com.
We continued to work in project-based teams for each exhibition and also collectively as the gallery management group. Working primarily remotely, with small in-person crews to produce and install the physical exhibitions, we embraced the virtual workspace. Professional work platforms such as Zoom and Office 365 enabled us to seamlessly manage both the creative and practical aspects of the gallery.
Tell me about the current and upcoming exhibitions at the Hokin.
Since the start of the pandemic, the gallery has produced four exhibitions – two physical and two virtual – and launched thehokin.com, our online platform.
6 ARTISTS / 6 SPACES is a collaborative, experimental exhibition curated by Evan Kasle, 2020 alum of BUSE Visual Arts Management. We collaborated with six artists, all Columbia alumni, to reimagine their two-dimensional works as three-dimensional gallery installations: Isabella Aimone evokes sensations of America’s urban decay. Zach Barnard captures a unique vantage point of a picturesque village. JJ McLuckie lures us into the depths of a cave where locals have reported many strange sightings. Megan Troglio abstracts human consciousness in an exploding energetic euphoria. Moe C. Hibbard critiques contemporary consumerism through a grocery aisle stocked with parody products. Erik Salgado pays homage to his heritage in a Mesoamerican waking dream.
Does the Art Excuse the Accused? Consuming Culture in the #MeToo Era challenges us to reassess our praise for so-called genius or celebrity artists in a time when creatives are held more accountable for their actions. In the #MeToo era, social media platforms provide first-hand accounts of sexual assault and misconduct, forcing consumers to reconsider the musicians, directors, artists, and other creatives they admire. The exhibition further explores issues surrounding women’s mistreatment and lack of representation in the creative industries. Curated by Madison Pope, 2020 alum with BUSE Visual Arts Management minor.
2020 Albert P. Weisman Awards Exhibition: For Columbia College Chicago students, the completion of a significant body of work marks the passage from experimentation and exploration, to making a singular artistic statement. The Weisman Award is intended to help advanced undergraduate and graduate students complete a substantial media-based project that is already underway. The Albert P. Weisman Award was established in 1974 to encourage Columbia College Chicago students to complete a significant body of work. The Award is named after the late Al Weisman, a trustee of the College and one of Chicago’s best known and respected communicators.
Hokin Honors 2021 is now in its 28th year! This annual exhibition showcases outstanding projects by Columbia College Chicago’s graduating seniors. Each student in the exhibition has been nominated by a faculty member in their department for outstanding achievements in their field. What results is a collection of the class of 2021’s most exciting work. This year’s online exhibition features 34 seniors from 14 disciplines including Audio and Acoustic Arts, Fashion, and Business and Entrepreneurship.
How have you seen students successfully respond to the challenges of managing the Hokin this year?
6 ARTISTS / 6 SPACES: Just a week away from opening when the college shut down in March 2020, the Spring 2020 team successfully completed the physical installation in the gallery while following safety protocols. The Fall 2020 team created a robust virtual exhibition, taking advantage of video and other media to explore the creative process of the artists. They hosted an online forum with the artists to launch the site. In Spring 2021, the team produced a printed catalogue to create a tangible, permanent record of the installation.
Does the Art Excuse the Accused? Consuming Culture in the #MeToo Era: They took it to the streets! On display in the windows of the Student Center, the exhibition was completely redesigned to be experienced by the general public, outside of the traditional gallery setting. The exhibition is our first-ever install outside out the Hokin Gallery and features work by contemporary artists, including the renowned Guerilla Girls collective.
2020 Albert P. Weisman Awards Exhibition: Commissioned by the award committee to create the first-ever virtual Weisman exhibition, Alissa Klaus from the Hokin team worked with the artists to create individual sites that feature the award-winning work as well as process images, professional contact information, and artist statements. It provides a long-term digital record for the work.
Hokin Honors: The Spring 2020 team nimbly moved Hokin Honors to a pilot online platform, taking advantage of the ability to display the works from 16 diverse creatives in 7 departments. For Hokin Honors 2021, the Spring 2021 team expanded the reach of the exhibition to include work by 34 students from 14 departments. And for the first time, the exhibition will include quotes from the faculty nominators about each honoree and what makes them an exemplary student in their field.
What is the most valuable lesson you are taking away from this 2020-21 school year?
Most importantly, humans want to communicate and connect – in any way possible – and the arts have a big role to play. The eagerness and commitment of the gallery teams, as well as the public response to the current exhibitions attests, has shown the enduring value of creative enterprise in trying times.
Second, use extraordinary challenges to take risks and try new things that we otherwise might not have. For many years we have wanted to develop a gallery website, and the pandemic pause gave us the time to refocus our efforts on creating a digital platform to document and share the work of the gallery. And for the first time, we went beyond the gallery walls and took Does the Art Excuse the Accused? to the streets, challenging every passerby to examine their own values.
Finally, recognize that metrics of success may be different in these times. It’s not just how many people visit the exhibition, how meticulous the installation is, or what grade we get. The ability to work together, to support each other, to take risks together, and to continue to create community through a collective creative endeavor is perhaps more important than the product. That said, the work produced by the Hokin teams during the pandemic is at the highest professional level.
How can people see the current exhibitions and stay up to date on what’s going on at the Hokin?
Walk by the Student Center to see Does the Art Excuse the Accused?
Come into the Hokin Gallery (623 S. Wabash) to see 6 ARTISTS / 6 SPACES.
Visit Hokin Honors 2021 and all of our current and upcoming exhibitions on the gallery website: www.thehokin.com.