Having an Open Studios event seems like it ought to be relatively easy, right? Choose a date, invite some people, everyone tidies up their studio a little… and then wait for people to come.
Yeah… not so much.
First of all, choosing a date this year was very difficult, for all the right reasons – our department is really, really busy with scheduled lectures, exhibition receptions, salons, and other events. Fortunately, the department program directors insisted on keeping Thursday evenings free from classes and meetings this semester, so that helps a lot. But it STILL was hard to schedule! We worked with the gallery and lecture coordinators for about two months in advance trying to work it out.
Another dilemma was how to include the undergrads. This is our fist semester as a combined department with both undergrads and grads, so communicating with them was important. As it turned out, they had their Open Studios on the same day, but in the morning instead of the evening. They were looking for feedback on their portfolios for applications to grad programs, something the MFA students could definitely relate to, as it wasn’t that long ago we all were doing the same thing. Many of the MFAs went to check out their work, and it worked out so well, I can see scheduling Open Studios next year the same way.
As the Open Studios date approached, there was a furry of activity. We wanted to promote the event on social media, as well as putting up posters, which took considerable group time and effort. Columbia’s campus is large, with several tall buildings right next to each other. We divided up the floors and about ten of us did three floors each of postering. Then in the day or two before, we all set to cleaning up the common space and getting food and beverages. I decided to make some chili in my slow cooker, which turned out really well for a December evening in Chicago!
Last but not least, getting my own space ready for visitors was no small task. Now that I’m in my thesis year, my studio is pretty packed with artwork, materials, tools, notes, sketches, books… it took a while to make it orderly enough to allow a lot of people to walk through. I share a pretty large studio space with my very esteemed colleague Hannah Batsel, the Interdisciplinary Book & Paper MFA ambassador, so once we got the place spiffed up, it was fun to put out our artwork.
In the end, the Open Studios was a blast. I wound up talking to an alumna, Michelle Graves, and we decided to start an alumni group on Facebook for Interdisciplinary Arts MFA and MA graduates right then and there, and we took this photo (with Hannah in the background):
All the students got a shot in the arm of energy from getting so much feedback about our work as well as from all the attention we gave to making the studios welcome for visitors. It was wonderful to see alumni, friends, family, and everyone else who came to the studios. I’ll be happy to come back next year to see what everyone is doing!