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Graduating art students exhibit at McDonough

Art majors who graduated from Youngstown State University in May didn’t get their exhibition at the McDonough Museum of Art, one of the multitude of events canceled due to COVID-19.

The fall 2020 graduates will get their exhibition … with a few changes.

The Fall Graduating Bachelor of Fine Arts exhibit opens Friday at the Youngstown museum, but there won’t be an opening reception.

“We’re going to try having the artists bring in small groups of friends and family, but not all at the same time,” said Director Claudia Berlinski. “We can have up to seven at one time in the smaller galleries and up to 10 in the larger gallery. We’re trying to make it not so lonely.”

The process for hanging the show also was different. Instead of having all of the artists hang their work in one of the galleries at the same time so they can share equipment, the installation times were staggered so only one artist was hanging work at any time, particularly in the smaller galleries.

“Of course, they’re wearing masks, and we asked them to wear gloves when using tools, stuff like that,” Berlinski said.

Students featured in the show include Taylor Campy, Lexi Chismar, Elijah DuPonty, Ben Kerr, Brendon Lucas, Sulerach Rose Rivera, Hannah Roberts, Angela Rodino, Kim Schilling, Christian Steff, Taylor Valerio and Alaina Woofter. The work is a mix of photography, graphic + interactive design and interdisciplinary studio art.

All spring art graduates also were invited to participate, and two graduates, Michaela Best and Michelle Gabriel, will be showing their work.

Berlinski said the exhibition is an important part of the students’ educational experiences.

“The graphic design students, they typically wouldn’t put up an exhibition unless they had other drawing or painting,” she said. “This is their first experience having their work on the wall. Having their work up on the wall of the gallery is something to be proud of.

“The studio artists have hung work before but it’s an important culmination to see their work on display, to get it out of the studio and see it on the nice white gallery walls. It gives them a sense of pride. It’s what they strive for and hope they continue to do in the future. It’s an exciting moment. It may be more exciting than actual commencement.”

While most of the work was created during the COVID-19 pandemic, the pieces on display don’t show an overt influence of the past eight months.

“They’ve pretty much stayed with the ideas they had cooking at the end of last semester,” Berlinski said.

Also opening Friday is “Black Still,” the master’s thesis project by Venise Abell, a Youngstown native who now lives in Boardman. She uses her own family’s history in the Mahoning Valley to explore issues of racism.

In her artist statement, Abell said, “Racism and inequality are influential factors in my narratives. My work educates the viewer on the insidious ways the government has, over the last 400 years, passed laws that degraded, devalued and murdered black Americans. Many blacks fled the South to the North with expectations of a better life but soon painfully realized that there was no escape from racism. We are Black Still.”

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