Access to the Art World

By Daniel George '14

The Art World has historically been most accessible to the moneyed, fortunate few. The college student today is stretched thin financially by daunting loans and rising tuition, stretched thinner psychologically by an uncertain market that is weary of the Liberal Arts degree, and the perennial “…and then what?” line of questioning over holiday meals. Rather than giving ourselves over to these generalizations, we’ve got to find our own way past the tithe-extracting gatekeepers of the Art World.

At the Crossett Library checkout counter, any Bennington student can ask to take out passes to the Guggenheim, the Clark, Mass MoCa, and the Hyde museums. This underused resource acts as a book – in the sense that you can take out your pass of choice, and return it to the library after the two-day loan period.

Photo Credit: Julia Barstow  

Photo Credit: Julia Barstow  

With the aid of these passes at the library, and student rates at many other museums, you can now get in the door of the best museums in the northeast states. It may still prove difficult to plan a trip to these museums, and one must find the Art World here, on-campus.

Nikki Derse has coaxed the Art World to come to her, in the comfort of her own bedroom. From time to time, Franklin 18 (an oasis of vibrancy in a desert of silence) is converted into Mainichi Studios – a chic, intimate, bedroom-sized art gallery, using the Japanese word for “everyday” as its namesake.

The artists are pinned to the walls in the few spaces their art doesn’t occupy, equally ready to discuss their work or ask about your day. Nikki, the Ace Face (curator), flits through her record collection, carefully timing the changeover between two portable record players, not missing a beat between putting on a Francoise Hardy 45 and welcoming new guests to her room/gallery. The stiff, solemn, and silent contemplation common to the Art World is far from the cocktail party atmosphere of Mainichi Studios.

“There are so many people who make great work that doesn’t get seen outside of a crit, and there’s not a fun, student run series of shows here” Nikki explained to me. The show this month, titled after a line from ‘Déjà Vu’ by Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, “If I had been here before, I would probably…” showed works on fitted sheet, canvas, paper, and wood board by Bennington artists Umi Tuesday, Talia Stocchetti, Sophie Hesselgrave, Nick DiLeonardi, Catherine Lentini, and Kate Powell. The theme of the show was work made over the summer, a way to reacquaint the artists and art to the campus as we return for the fall.

Though Nikki is considered ‘Top Mod’ in Mainichi Studios, she doesn’t work alone. After a disappointing opening last semester, Nikki decided she wanted to plan, curate, and promote Mainichi to the fullest this year. Somewhere between a frenzied Facebook message sent from Berlin, an afternoon of planning from the rooftop of “Printemps” in Paris, and gathering her collaborators via email while in London, Nikki assembled the Mainichi Mods and planned a show for each month of this semester.

 

Talia Stocchetti acts as, in Nikki’s words, the Voice of Reason for Mainichi, gathering work from classmates to show. Kate Powell handles guest relations, welcoming visitors and offering them her own sangria. Karen Trop, who Nikki refers to as the Internet Magic Girl, maintains Mainichi’s presence on the internet at mainichistudios.tumblr.com.

“Even though Talia and I are showing this month, we didn’t want it to come across as self-indulgent, like this small group of friends showing the same work” Nikki added, which, I will add, it doesn’t. She may show one more piece this term, to keep the walls full, but she is trying to cull together as many campus artists as possible. She urges any and everyone to submit work that needs to be shown and might fit the monthly theme.

Mainichi is also looking for submissions to start a series that will be featured each month, titled ‘Hit or Missives’. Submissions should be the size of a postcard and directed to Nikki Derse. She is also considering compiling all of the postcards into a zine at the end of either this term or academic year. Mainichi will also be doing showings of the monthly collection every other Monday, starting the 23rd. Nikki urges me to convey that there will be refreshments and fun music at all showings and openings.

Mainichi Studios coquettishly invites you to access the Art World right here, urges you not to wait for the Senior Show to display your work, or the Guggenheim to take in art, but to put on your dancing shoes and shimmy alongside the art and artists of our fair, far-from-the-“Art-World” college.

 

Cover Photo: To Touch, by Sophie Hesselgrave (Photo Credit: Julia Barstow)