A look into a “hidden gem” of Marist campus: Steel Plant Studios

Perhaps one of the most underrated buildings belonging to the Marist campus includes easles, sculptures and photography. Home to some of Marist’s most artistic and creative minds is the Steel Plant Studios. Although secluded from other on-campus buildings, the Steel Plant, as well as the Art Department itself, deserves much credit.

To many of us, the Steel Plant may seem like sacred ground to the creative minds special to Marist College. However, the building is open to visitors and all are welcome. Perhaps a “hidden treasure” of the campus itself are the gallery events held in the Steel Plant. As visitors you enjoy free wine, a variety of artwork and the opportunity to socialize. For the artist, the experience provides plenty of exposure and hands-on experience to prepare for the real world.

Student Will Matuszak has attended three different gallery events thus far. “It’s a really welcoming environment where you can eat, drink and socialize with friends. I like to browse the art, especially realist paintings and drawings on nature,” he said.

“Working in the Steel Plant and with the Art Department putting together showcases allows you to realize your strengths and weaknesses,” said Brieanne Sullivan, a Digital Media major with Studio Art and Fashion Merchandising minors. “You discover who you really are as an artist.”

So what actually takes place in the Steel Plant?

Recently, the Advanced Studio Seminar class taught by Ed Smith, Art Gallery Director and Professor of Art, put together a mini-gallery, Heads, Hands, and Feet, inspired by the unifying theme of shadow puppets and playing on light and shadows.

The Marist Art and Art History Faculty Exhibition, Plans, Sketchbooks and New Work, just came to an end on Friday, after being free to the public since late September. For faculty, this provided an opportunity to showcase what they design outside the classroom, inspire students and possibly sell some of their work.

Every year, there is a three-day period when all art classes are cancelled for the Prescriptive Critiques. Every art student in their junior year must present all the artwork they design to faculty and a panel of students in individual meetings. The process, which will be taking place October 21-23, is meant to teach students what to improve, what they do well and to help them plan out what career path to follow post-graduation.

“These are the best and most stressful experiences but in that moment every single teacher in the department is there to help you and their focus is only on you,” said Sullivan.

The year ends off with a student exhibition, in which students submit their best artwork. The student-run gallery staff will decide which pieces make it into the show and work together with the designers to prepare the gallery.

“It’s a really hands-on experience for us and it’s great for a resume,” said Sullivan about being involved in various gallery exhibitions.

Until then, student exhibitions take place approximately every two weeks, in which two students from Smith’s Advanced Studio Seminar class are required to “compete” in a showcase of their work. Each student is free to let their imagination run wild with their style and ideas. Students experience what it’s like to work on a deadline, they must make accommodations to their work based on space, resources and mishaps, and they have the opportunity to potentially sell their artwork.

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Speaking from an artistic viewpoint, Sullivan admitted that inspiration doesn’t always come from an outside source. Many times, you build on your idea, something goes wrong and from that mistake you may think it looks better than what was planned in the first place. “My inspirations sometimes just happen when I don’t expect them,” said Sullivan. “I call them my ‘happy accidents.’”

Kevin Cabello was one of the first students to present his work in the student exhibitions this semester, with very minimal time to prepare. For this reason, Cabello brought back a piece of artwork from his capping project last year, From Water to Wall, and expanded it. The piece, Segmental, is a homage to his roots put together after his hometown was wrecked due to Hurricane Sandy. Cabello spoke about his piece being very geometric-driven, a style that has become repetitive and something he hopes to break away from.

“I want people to be able to see that things are flat and also physical. And something can be so abstract, but there is always a start point and an end point,” he said.

With an overlap and variety of interests including photography, painting, graphic design, installation art and more, the gallery exhibitions are a great chance to sip on some wine and to see what goes on in the mind of Marist’s student artists.

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