2020 Art Graduates Given Opportunity to Display Work at Woodstock Gallery

Robert Cusack, graduate from spring 2020, stands in front of his displayed work in the WAAM. Photo courtesy of SUNY New Paltz.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the prospects of a thesis show for the spring 2020 Bachelor of Fine Arts graduates were grim.  

As the pandemic became an issue at the end of last semester, many on-campus art facilities closed their doors, forcing many students to complete their senior coursework from home. This was just the first obstacle, however, because it soon became clear that there would also be issues with the work being displayed or seen.

“As we approached the end of [last] semester, it became clear that the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art was not going to be reopening its doors,” said Michael Asbill, who is a visiting lecturer for the sculpture program. “At the time, students and faculty thought that the show would be pushed to the fall, but due to government guidelines, that was also not to be.”

“There wasn’t going to be a show until I reached out to [the Woodstock Arts Association and Museum (WAAM)]. There suddenly became an opportunity for the students to show and have that additional culminating experience outside of that sort of like confines of the campus system, which ended up being magnificent.”

The students were quite enthusiastic about having this opportunity, though there were some challenges, as some students moved into essential worker roles. That being said, “Opening Disclosed” showcased roughly three quarters of the BFA cohort.

“When Michael approached us about this, we still had no plan for reopening yet,” said Beth Humphrey, the education curator at WAAM. “It seemed like a great beta test for us to figure out ‘how do we reopen?’”

“But I’m also always looking for opportunities to help young artists, whether or not they’re in kindergarten or graduating college to feel like they’re participating in our community, and that they can be recognized and honored, and given opportunities to work with us,” Humphrey said.

And opportunities they got — the first one being the space at all and the second being the amount of space.

“Tip of the hat for the board,” Absill said. “They offered us the entire Museum, essentially. The entire top floor . . . it definitely rivals in space.”

The projects showcased were extremely varied, showcasing artforms like photography, painting, metalwork, sculpture and ceramics.

A photo essay by Shabiha Jafri ’20 (Photography)  told the story of her mother’s death from a brain tumor, and inspiration led to a photo of her mother’s shawls complemented by a pair of Celine by Hedi Slimane bags — the picture was recently featured in Vogue Magazine.  

Some graduates came away with other opportunities as well, such as the opportunity to continue work and collaboration with the Woodstock Arts Association and Museum.

“We’ve already engaged two of the students to do some work related to our permanent collection, for the show that we’re going to be having in November,” Humphry said. This is an important opportunity for not only the graduates but also for WAAM itself, which tends to “skew older” in the artists that it showcases, she explained.

“The pandemic offers us an opportunity for paradigm shift,” Asbill said. “It’s really about thinking about new models and frameworks for doing things in a more integrated and less siloed way. And this is a beautiful example of that happening.”

Opening DisClosed ended on Oct. 11, but can be viewed online here.

About Ethan Eisenberg 49 Articles
Ethan Eisenberg is a third-year psychology major and this is his sixth semester on The Oracle. He currently holds the position of Co-Editor-In-Chief, having previously held the positions of Managing Editor and Arts and Entertainment Editor. He feels privileged to exist in and work for a space that has the potential to uplift voices that may not typically be heard; he feels his experiences in psychology and journalism neatly intersect to aid in this process. When Ethan isn't Oracle-ing (yes, he considers it a verb) he is a Research Assistant on the New Paltz Evolutionary Psychology Lab, the President of the Evolutionary Studies Club and a Course Assistant for the Evolutionary Studies Seminar. Outside of academia, Ethan enjoys watching horror movies and loving his friends, family and boyfriend, Jayden.