In Department of Art, Exhibitions

During an unusual semester, art students Jeffery Hampshire and Amelia O’Neill seek a sense of community by simulating Open Studios online

At the end of every typical semester, the BYU Art Department holds an Open Studios event for its students. Friends, family, and members of the larger community are all invited to walk through art students’ personal workspaces to view their current work and works-in-progress.

But this is not a typical semester.

This is the second semester that routines and rituals have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. After an abrupt end to in-person learning and gathering in March, winter semester closed with a sense of disappointment for art students who had been looking forward to participating in Open Studios. This time around, BFA student Jeffery Hampshire and MFA student Amelia O’Neill hope to contribute to a sense of normalcy and community by creating a virtual platform for Open Studios to take place.

Image from the virtual Open Studios exhibition. Art from the series, “Neighborhood Walks”, by BFA student Jeffery Hampshire.

The Origin of Online Open Studios

Early in November, O’Neill read in a text for her business practices class about the advantages of Open Studios, including exposure to influential members of the art community. Discouraged by the prospect of missing out on yet another Open Studios opportunity, she texted Hampshire about her idea to move the event online. Hampshire, who is in the process of developing a separate online exhibition space for university art students in Utah, was immediately on board.

After garnering the support of the department, Hampshire and O’Neill approached visiting artist and instructor Madeline Rupard, who helped organize an online show for COVID-19 relief in May of this year. Using the open source site artsteps.com, Hampshire, O’Neill and Rupard are building an online space that will simulate student studios as accurately as possible. This space will be the site of the semi-annual reception for faculty and students, and the exhibition will also be made available to the public. After viewing each submitted work, faculty members will award grant money for selected BA, BFA and MFA students.

Between O’Neill’s first text message to Rupard about artsteps on November 11 and the date of the Open Studios reception on December 10, the team had less than one month to build a virtual exhibition.

“We’re coming down to just a few weeks away,” said Hampshire before Thanksgiving, “but why not push for it? I don’t think we should wait until next year to have everything figured out. I think this is the first version of something that might turn into something even better.”

Read the full story written by Abby Weidmer at art.byu.edu.

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