Center Art Gallery connects community with art during pandemic


From Calvin.Edu

The Center Art Gallery is working to connect art to the Calvin community.

Calvin’s Center Art Gallery has adapted to a pandemic that has affected the art sector on a national scale by discovering inventive ways to keep in-person art exhibitions alive. To do this, the gallery team has worked to evaluate how the gallery can better connect with the community in accordance with COVID-19 regulations on campus. “While the gallery is open to the public this academic year, we’ve focused our marketing efforts on our campus community,” Arts Programming Assistant Paula Manni-Pohler told Chimes in an email.

“We’ve worked to emphasize that the gallery continues to be a free and open space for classes, scholarship and art appreciation as we celebrate our students and exhibiting artists,” said Manni-Pohler. 

We see the gallery as a laboratory of sorts – our artists have invited students and guests in to experiment and create in the exhibition space

— Paula Manni-Pohler

Exhibition schedules for each academic year are prepared one to two years in advance, according to Manni-Pohler, with flexibility available as needed. The recruitment process, however, varies depending on the type of exhibition the gallery wishes to present.

“We work very hard in the art gallery to present a wide variety of artistic mediums, approaches, and conceptual ideas.The recruiting process for the gallery can vary by the exhibition,” said Brent Williams, director of exhibitions. “In some instances artists submit proposals for an exhibition they think could be a good fit for the gallery. Other times, we reach out to individual artists that we are familiar with and offer them exhibition opportunities.” 

Partnerships between the gallery and various university departments help to propel engagement with exhibitions: “we’ve partnered with the chemistry and engineering departments for chemistry and engineering seminar sessions, where our exhibiting artists share about their work and process and how their work and approach includes chemistry or engineering principles – it’s a meaningful way to connect with a seemingly different subject area – through the process, we come to better understand our subject area through a different lens,” said Manni-Pohler. 

Along with serving as the location for various on-campus events, such as the Dialogue release party and student art sales, the gallery also displayed artwork by visual art professors Anna Greidanus and Elaine Tolsma from Nov. 15 to Feb. 3. Being able to exhibit her artwork under her “Matters Of The Heart” was a significant moment for Greidanus, not just as an individual artist, but also as a member of the Calvin community, she told Chimes.

I am deeply appreciative of those who wish to honor my work whether present or at a distance. We exist in a strange and awkward time to be involved with ‘events’ surrounding art exhibitions and other public cultural expressions. Fortunately I have had the opportunity to meet in the gallery with individuals and small groups – a pleasant preference during a COVID surge,” said Greidanus in an email to Chimes. “This is as vital a time for my art practice as any. The opportunity to exhibit in the Calvin University space is significant to me, as an individual artist, as well as to the broader Calvin community in engaging the visual and fine arts.”

Manni-Pohler told Chimes that the gallery is open to experimenting with new ways to bring art to the community while the pandemic continues. “We see the gallery as a laboratory of sorts – our artists have invited students and guests in to experiment and create in the exhibition space.”

Despite the obstacles of the pandemic, both Manni-Pohler and Williams are hopeful that people will take opportunities to appreciate art by experiencing art in a personal setting. “I hope that people have the opportunity to spend some time in the gallery with the work. To sit with the art and look for the similarities and differences that can be discovered in the time spent looking,” said Williams.