by Nam Phuong Doan '18
Spring Series ’16 will be opening in VAPA from April 30th to May 7th, with the participation of 20 Visual Arts students. This is an attempt to provide visual artists at Bennington with a space to share and celebrate their works. This article includes a conversation with Eloise Schieferdecker ’16, a core member of Spring Series ’16 team.
This Saturday, April 30th, the Opening Reception of Spring Series for 2016 will take place in VAPA Galleria. The theme this year is Obsessions/ Collections, and the title is “Again and again and again and.” Obsession and collection, concepts that are considered vital to artistic practice, yet at times stigmatized by our culture, are used as a connecting thread among all submitted works this term.
Every year, a group of visual arts students organize and curate an exhibition of visual arts students’ work. Spring Series first came to life in 2014 as a collaborative effort of three Bennington Visual Arts alumni--Christina Cary, Ellen Hanson, and Whitney Davis. This year, upon learning it was not set to take place, Eloise Schieferdecker ’16, Doug Campos ’16, Drew Lucia ’18, Jenna Brewer ’18, Phoebe Grace ’19, and Julia Greenburger ’19 began working to re-start it.
The Spring Series provides a space on the Bennington College campus to exhibit and foster discussion of student work, outside of a classroom setting.
“The goal is to foster a lasting dialogue among peers that will sustain their work in the arts during and after their Bennington education,” says the description on Spring Series’ Facebook page, written by founding students.
However, this “lasting dialogue” did not persist, as it was not set to be carried out this year. Inspired to bring back this space for visual artists at Bennington to share works and exchange ideas, Eloise Schieferdecker ’16 gathered a team of six students to revive Spring Series. The BFP met with Eloise recently to discuss her motivation to bring it back, and why she believes it’s important for the campus.
Bennington Free Press: How did the “revival” process begin?
Eloise Schieferdecker: I’ve realized that at Bennington there were certain things that popped up and died. I remember when I was a freshman, there were all these cool things like the BFP (which is also having a revival), or the Bennington Radio Project. But they just disappeared. It feels like a crime that Spring Series disappeared.
The problem in the past was that it was too much of a commitment and people who were left did not have the time to be involved again. So I picked up the pieces, and gathered this team. It’s like following a trail—a lot of work, but a good thing to do. It’s truly a collaborative effort and we’re very excited to see how it comes out.
BFP: What makes Spring Series stand out from other student works’ showcases like Bennington Works or The Silo?
ES: I consider Spring Series something very different from Bennington Works. It’s an authentic attempt to honor Visual Arts students, whereas Bennington Works can feel forced. It’s an opportunity for them to share and celebrate their works. It’s about visibility, which is ironic -that a lot of visual art work isn’t often seen, outside of the classroom. Spring Series is one “real-world” application of visual work; Participants exhibit in a traditional white-walled gallery. I believe our aims match closely with those of the Silo’s; this is just another way to share and celebrate the amazing work of our peers.
I think giving more opportunities for visual artists to show their works in different contexts is really important and exciting. It seems like bands on campus are always performing which is so great, and I’ve always thought that opportunities to share work for visual arts students should be similarly ample. As a photo student, I feel like a lot of our work especially never really get finalized and sometimes you just want to see your photo series up on a wall, installed, or in a frame or whatever—it would be great if final projects for classes could be shared outside of the class. Sometimes it’s just anticlimactic when they’re not. It’s also just exciting to see what your peers are doing, We’re surrounded by so many talented artists, It’s kind of insane.
This show will stay up for a week in The Galleria in VAPA. There will be some live performance art during the opening. There will also be wine, and food. Who doesn’t love that.
BFP: How is the quality/quantity of student works’ submissions this year?
ES: We received a good amount of submissions after the open call, from a variety of disciplines. People are eager to submit their works, It’s very exciting to see. Students could sign up for “studio” visits if they wanted to discuss their work in person or share their work in progress. We then looked at all the submissions, found a common thread among them, and decided on a theme for this year. Then we went back and selected the work for the show based on that theme. It’s hard because the decision upon theme naturally excludes work that doesn’t work with the theme, so a lot of excellent work was not included because it was an ill fit.
This year, the theme is Obsessions/Collections. We tried to make a theme vague enough so that it could apply to most work, but specific enough to provide an interesting lens into each work and the show. Many artists are obsessive in their practices, so although some of the work may not be overtly obsessive, or a clear collection, the theme might speak to the creation process or the mind behind the work.
BFP: What are some challenges you guys have encountered during the process?
ES: The name, because originally they put on three shows per term (which is why I think the organizers found it exhausting), all happening in the spring; hence, “Spring Series.” We had to decide how true we wanted to stay to the original idea of Spring Series, considering what is practical and feasible for us.
Another challenge is thinking about how to ensure the show continues after we graduate. It would be a shame if it fell by the wayside again. That’s why we’re so glad to have some freshmen on board who are super passionate. We hope it will last!