When a digital fabrication lab replaced the student art gallery in SUNY New Paltz’s Smiley Art Building, third-year visual arts major Emma Corey said many talented students, including herself, lost a great deal of opportunity.
Instead of feeling devastated and doing nothing about it, Corey along with her friend Kevin Dejewski, a third-year sculpture major, decided it was time to step up and create the Mid-Hudson Student Art Collective (MHSAC), where friends and community members could spread their work beyond university borders.
“[We wanted] to try and get away from the school completely and define ourselves as not only art students, but artists as well,” said Dejewski. “[We] came to the conclusion that we wanted a gallery space of our own.”
By curating their first official MHSAC gallery opening, which started on Oct. 30 at the Unframed Artist Gallery in New Paltz, Corey and Dejewski were able to share their vision and take the first steps toward purchasing their own space.
Located on 173 Huguenot St., Saturday’s MHSAC show included displays from 31 artists. Corey said the gallery has allowed local artists the opportunity to build stronger bonds and relationships, something she said the community was sorely lacking.
“It seems strange to me that so little communication happens between college students in the Mid-Hudson region,” she said. “Though we’re all living in this beautiful area, dealing with similar stresses as students, we aren’t [working] together.”
According to Corey, having “Mid-Hudson” in the title of the collective comes with a responsibility to include artists hailing from all over the region.
While preparing for their first show, Dejewski and Corey said they approached as many students as they possibly could, reaching out to SUNY Ulster, SUNY Dutchess, Vassar and Marist.
“We advertised as much as we could single handedly and set up a general interest meeting about what we were trying to do,” Dejewski said. “Only a few people showed up.”
Not letting the small turnout deter them, Dejewski and Corey continued to talk to other schools and other art departments.
Because the show was initially just an idea, Dejewski said many interested students lacked the enthusiasm to be proactive, but that changed when the first show was officially announced.
“We put our foot down and said, ‘let’s have a show this date, this place, submit or not,’” Dejewski said. “We got a nice response.”
Corey said students learned about submitting work through a meeting in September and word of mouth.
For the first show, artists were asked to submit three pieces. From those works, Corey and Dejewski selected what they considered to be the most professional and highly developed.
“Anyone is welcome to submit work,” Dejewski said. “You do not need to be an art student, but we are trying to uphold the highest quality of work possible.”
Any new show information, Corey said, is available to the public via their official Facebook group, which currently boasts 69 members.
According to Corey, shows will occur as often as galleries allow them to. She and Dejewski said they plan to find more spaces in the area that are welcoming of college-level artists and won’t break the bank in rental fees.
Corey and Dejewski said they intend to be equal members of the collective and eventually hope to have other artists of the MHSAC curate future shows.
Dejewski said he welcomes as many recommendations as possible and has already considered planning a formal music concert in the near future to promote gallery openings.
“It’s primarily visual artists right now, but any art form that defines the nature of artists in the Mid-Hudson is what we’re trying to represent,” he said.
For Corey, creating the MHSAC with Dejewski has been a huge learning experience. With its growth, she hopes the collective becomes a support system for students throughout the area.
Besides being able to submit work, Corey said those interested in joining the MHSAC have the opportunity to sell work, curate, organize, work with gallery owners and promote shows.
With their first opening concluding this Sunday, Nov. 7, Corey and Dejewski have already started preparing for the future.
“If done well, this could be an incredible learning experience for everyone involved,” Corey said. “The end goal of this whole experience is for [Dejewski] and I to find a gallery space to be solely dedicated to the work of student artists in the area. Who knows, maybe in a year or two we’ll find funding and a space to call our own.”