Collegiate Tip-of-the-Month: Host an Art Show!
18 March 2002 (collegiateway.org) — Throughout the year, a residential college should provide a wide range informal social and academic opportunities for its members. One of the easiest activities of this kind to organize is an annual college art show. Send out a call for entries in all media—painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, needlework, and more—and establish a regular viewing time over a period of two or three weeks. Encourage participation from students and faculty alike, and perhaps invite faculty children and the younger siblings of the students to join in as well. Be sure the call for participation emphasizes that any original work, new or old, is welcome: people should not have to create new pieces for the event. Students should bring projects from their art classes, fellows should dig out family travel albums from their closets, children can bring drawings from school—the object is to encourage participation and to allow everyone to see what others in the college have done. At the final showing have the audience vote for their favorite pieces in several categories, as well as for a best piece overall. Each year invite the artist who wins the top prize to contribute a work to the college to become part of a permanent collection. For a modest example of what can be accomplished very easily at no cost, browse some pictures of the Strong College Art Show from 1999. (And don’t miss the program: that was the entry I voted for as Best in Show.)
Special events of this kind are successful when they build upon established social rhythms. If you have a weekly college social hour in place, have the art show be a special instance of this regular social hour for two or three weeks each year. Take pictures of the event, prepare a serious or humorous program, and make all these available on the college website as part of your ever-growing collection of college albums. This will allow new members to see what is to come, absent members to see what they missed, and old members to wax nostalgic for the days when the colors were brighter, the photographs were sharper, and the smell of paint was in the air.