There’s just something about a gallery hop that feels right. Maybe it’s meandering around galleries at your own pace and seeing all the hard work artists have poured into their creations.
Even in an arts-conscious town like Savannah, gallery hops like Art Rise’s First Friday Art March have been proven to make art more accessible and engage people in the arts community.
Throw in a goodie bag and people are guaranteed to show up.
Three SCAD students seeking their Masters in Arts Administration have put together a mini gallery hop on August 14, exhibiting curated works that represent their chosen theme.
Attendees will receive a passport showing that they’ve been to each exhibition and a goodie bag filled with small gifts from the artists, like stickers and postcards.
Rhiannon Estwick’s show, Illuminated: Arts and Beautiful Writing, will be at Oglethorpe Gallery. Shan Xuemei’s show, Fragments, will hang at Non-Fiction Gallery. Hillary Eustis’ show, Functional Creations, will appear at Sulfur Studios.
To earn their MA in Arts Administration, students have to write an extensive plan detailing their project — which, professor Patrick Kelsey notes, can be anything from a dance recital to a gallery show — and meet several checkpoints along the way.
“After their exhibition they just package everything up and submit it, see if they met their goals. It’s all student-defined,” Kelsey explains.
“They have set their own schedule this quarter. They have set their goals, their objectives and their evaluation criteria. All I have to do is say, ‘Did you do what you said you were gonna do when you were gonna do it?’ And they’re good to go, I’m good to go, they graduate.”
When announcing their final projects in class, the three noticed that they’d all chosen August 14 as their exhibition date, a move that could have led to competing attention for the gallery shows and relatively low attendance numbers.
Instead, they took a cue from the Art March.
“We said, ‘Well, that could go really badly for us, but how about we work together and kind of make that work in our favor instead of against it?’” remembers Estwick.
“As students, we are all striving towards a common goal to finish our degree successfully,” adds Eustis. “We are all here to support each other’s efforts to do that, so we didn’t want to compete for participation in our shows on the same night.”
Since each show was curated individually, the artists didn’t work together to create a theme, but Estwick sees a common thread in the pieces.
“[It’s] not intentional, but I’d say, at least from my perspective, they’re all about looking at something in a different way,” she says. “For all three, I think it’s about looking at something that you already know or have seen, seeing it in a new light. It wasn’t intentional, but it ended up being that way.”
That theme certainly seems to hold true — Estwick’s calligraphy presses people to recognize hand-lettering as a beautiful work of art. Eustis’s pieces ask viewers to realize that art is not mutually exclusive from functionality. Shan’s collection asks the viewer to look at their past and their memories.
Estwick’s show reflects her love of calligraphy and handwriting, a lifelong passion that started with just one book of calligraphy.
“I grew up in Barbados and the art supply stores there aren’t so great, so I had one calligraphy set. It wasn’t a good one either, but I tried anyway,” she recalls. “It was something I enjoyed doing.”
The first part of her project included calligraphy workshops, borne out of her own desire to see the art represented in Savannah’s artistic community.
“I was looking for calligraphy workshops and couldn’t find any,” Estwick says. “So I came up with the idea, if I have this gallery show and show that people are interested in this beautiful writing and calligraphy, handwriting, typography, maybe people in Savannah would be more interested in it and that could open up the gates.”
Eustis’s work proves that art is beautiful in its function, echoing the old design statement “Form follows function.”
“All the works in the show are functional in their own way — we have dinnerware, furniture, clothing and more,” notes Eustis.
“I’m just really excited about the eclectic nature of the show. There are so many different pieces, but all come back to the one element of functionality, which is what I wanted this exhibit to really focus on; how functional items can simultaneously be works of art.”
The artists featured in Eustis’ exhibit are all local artists and SCAD students, and their submissions range from crocheted baskets to clothing. That diversity is precisely why Eustis chose the medium for her show.
“I think what mainly draws me to fibers is the natural aspect of the work. That and the fact that fiber arts is such a diverse field,” she says. “The many things you can do with fiber arts really intrigues me.”
Shan’s show focuses on the fragmentation of memories and what we remember as we age.
“Many of the works are inspired pieces from artists’ fragmented memories, such as from family members and between humanity and nature, that explore different or unconventional painting techniques,” she says.
The show features works by three artists, including SCAD professor Deborah Oden.
“She was very excited to join me, and that’s what I wanted — an artist suited for my exhibition,” Shan explains. “She wanted to show art she’d never shown before.”
One of Shan’s major goals is supporting local artists, so providing Deborah with an outlet to show her work is a point of pride for her.
“I’m very excited to show these three excellent artists’ artworks,” says Shan.
The gallery hop takes place from 6 – 9pm on Friday, August 14 at Oglethorpe Gallery, Non-Fiction Gallery, and Sulfur Studios.