Introductory Essay – 2023

Children's book; I can fly by artist Yang Gao. Digital illustration, 2022. 12x9 inches

“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
John SteinbeckEast of Eden, 1952

The Department of Art and Design is pleased to present the annual juried student exhibition; our face to the college, emerging from the studio all freshly scrubbed. Working with young artists is special in its ability to check, keep us current and renew relevance. Recently I sat a practice session and critique of 6 or 7 young musicians. The audience was a small number of students and 3 professors. At finish, comments were invited and the band’s lead, (a saxophonist) said he knew where he’d made his mistake; he’d dropped a note and missed an intro but – he knew, and he felt he’d found his way back. There was agreement among the attending profs and yes, yes it only takes two beats to get back in, good on you, and then a round of what the two, two drummers were doing right and wow a bass player with their amp set at four, curious and courteous, general kudos, and individual egos attended to. And then, a student spoke up and said he had sympathy for the band. “That sounds bad,” said the sax player, with a twinkle accompanied by eased chuckles and someone asked, did you mean empathy – sympatico? – but the student furthered; their mistakes reminded him of his mistakes and he knew how that felt so he felt bad. Maybe empathy was more accurate, but what opened was the viability of a mistake. It communicated in a way perfection could not, it made the artist human and allowed the audience in. You see a pristine work or show and you marvel and then you leave filled up. The youthful artist has a natural rawness and vulnerability inviting engagement and re-positioning and dialogue. The works here are not incomplete nor are they untended, but they represent direction and prowess in fresh responses, avenues and storehouses. Our students bring immediacy to the finessed skill and experience of the mature artists. That’s the magic that unfolds in our classrooms.

“And now,” said Max, “let the wild rumpus start!”
Maurice SendakWhere the Wild Things Are, 1963

A. Coffey, 2023