Student-Run Vessel Gallery Opens Re: Exhibit
It is easy to overlook an inconspicuous door to the smallest part of the Visual and Environmental Studies department tucked away on a quiet corner of Linden Street. Yet the Vessel Gallery—the second student-run gallery at Harvard—re-opened on March 5 with a flashy reception that attracted over 150 people. The Vessel Gallery is a permanent space in which students concentrating in VES can showcase their work. The gallery itself represents more than just a space to display artwork; it shows off the other talents of the students that organized it.
“There was a serious gap in the VES structure, as there was no place students could submit and showcase their artwork. There were events like Arts First and end-of-the-semester shows...but the VES concentrators wanted something more,” said E. Lucienne ’19, the chief curator of the Vessel Gallery. Seniors on the studio track in the VES department are expected to display some of their artwork as part of their thesis. “Students need to be able to envision the work they are making in time and space, in a destination,” said E. Li ’19, artist and contributor to the gallery. However, they often have little hands-on experience in creating a show. “The Vessel Gallery is an opportunity for us to acquire and practice the managerial and technical skills needed to install work and view art with a new literacy for the mechanics of how [the art] got there,” Li said.
The interior of the gallery is elegant in its whitewashed walls and clean-cut lines. Yet this simplicity hides the laborious efforts that went into the making of this gallery. “We painted all the walls white, replaced lightbulbs in the ceilings, got submissions, sorted through them, picked out what worked.... We spent three to four hours over the course of two days trying to figure what should go where,” Lucienne said in reference to the one-person team that founded the gallery. This was no easy feat, especially given that they had to convert what was initially the dingy Harvard Golf Office into a full-blown gallery.
The small gallery held its opening reception on March 5. The gallery also gave the VES students an opportunity to understand firsthand what it what it would be like to work on the other end of the spectrum as a curator instead of an artist. “It’s a lot of hard work. You have to figure out publicity, logos, installing the artwork.... I knew it would be overwhelming, intense, and a huge learning experience, but preparing for the exhibition made it real,” said Li.
The curator is looking to add more media with which visitors can connect. “We are looking at bringing a more interactive feel to the gallery experience [to] fill the gap between gallery art and performing art,” Lucienne said. To jumpstart the process, the curator provided texts in artfully designed boat vessels during the opening reception as a pun on the phrase “containership” The curator hoped to create more avenues for the spectators to connect with the art exhibited more personally.
The gallery, while originally a mere vessel to display various artists’ works, is itself an exercise in creativity. The opening of the gallery is akin to the unveiling of an artwork. Just as an artist conceptualizes an idea and seeks to express it through his art form, so did the five curators start with an idea and bring it to fruition through unwavering dedication. The student-run gallery maintains an air of professinalism which puts the gallery on par with the more established galleries on campus.