A Revelation at UNCG’s Open Studio

This past weekend’s visit to the UNCG MFA open studio has really had me thinking about how things would be different if I were a part of a larger art department instead of here in Hege Cox. As soon as I pulled up to UNCG’s art facilities I was dumbfounded. Exploring their welding pad (which dwarves ours out back), I became envious at the near limitless access to materials. Peeking through the window of a large garage door I saw several students throwing ceramic vessels. Something seemed odd, but I couldn’t place what exactly was so peculiar. Instead of trying to, I entered the building and made my way up to the MFA studios. Between trips to the room with the cheesecake and punch, I would enter various studios and chat up the artists. All were very approachable and grateful for such a crowd of friends, family, professors, and young student artists thirsty for a taste of what it’s like in the art world post undergrad. I entered the studio of painter Harry Swartz-Turfle and immediately felt captivated. This may have been due to the bright, layered acrylic paintings on the wall, but I think it was his radiant personality. We started talking about his work, but that conversation quickly transformed into a talk about having a personal studio with access to millions of dollars worth of equipment. Then Harry said something that really hit home with me: “But you all have to have an amazing community over there at Guilford.”

Suddenly I realized how lucky I was to be where I spend more time than anywhere else on campus. It’s true we do not have the largest facility; that we do not have more wall space to hang work then we know what to do with; that we don’t have the machinery to laser cut our materials into whatever computer programmed shape we want. What we have that is more valuable than any of those things is each other. A relatively small population within the greater Guilford community that is there for each other when we need an extra hand lifting heavy creations on the welding pad. Those bigger art schools aren’t blasting WQFS in the wee hours of the night as pots receive the surface treatments that make them beautiful and functional. As our discussion continued, Harry pointed out other differences one might find at a larger art school. He and I agree that drawbacks include not getting enough one on one feedback from professors. Larger schools art departments also seem to have more cut throat competition that can be a turn off for a lot of people. I explained to him that the Guilford art scene is much more fun. Still serious students, but a laid back atmosphere gives room for one’s big ideas and creativity to shine. We concluded our talk with mutual agreement that each has its advantages, and that there should be more inter-school events and shows. The chat I had with Harry made me realize that there is a ton to learn from the other institutions around Greensboro. Next year I am hoping to piece together a show that will break the boundaries and bring together all the art programs in the triad and create a community of college art students. Stay tuned for details and feel free to offer suggestions!

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