Launch into New Space
Student shows are nothing new for Nancy Hixon. After almost 30 years with the Blaffer Gallery, the art museum of the University of Houston, she’s seen and installed enough student art to fill the Louvre. But that doesn’t mean Hixon isn’t excited every time she works with students. “I find it interesting to learn what they’re reading, who they’re studying with and what artists they’re influenced by,” Hixon said. “I want to see where they take their work.”
Hixon served as the juror for “LAUNCH: Rice Student Art Exhibition 45.” “Nancy is one of the most respected arts professionals in Houston and she has so much experience working with students,” said Rice Gallery Director Kim Davenport. “Working closely with such a gifted curator and having the opportunity to recognize outstanding creative students are some of the great rewards for the gallery staff.”
One of those outstanding students was Amanda Wallace, who was awarded the Rice University Art Gallery Director’s Choice award for “Back Home,” a series of photographs she took of friends, family and the neighborhood where she grew up. Accompanying each photograph was a small story about the person or place depicted.
In her statement about the work, Wallace wrote, “When you are away at college, you are absent from the many moments experienced by your family. You also miss the changes that have taken place in areas that were once familiar to you. These photographs are the beginning of a way of representing these two experiences.”
“LAUNCH” also was something of a special occasion for the Rice Gallery staff and one of many turning points in the gallery’s long history.
“When I came to Rice, the student show looked very different than it did this year,” Davenport said. “In the past, visual arts faculty selected works from all classes and among all years of study, which were hung in the gallery salon style.”
The lively visual cacophony was complemented by the awards ceremony held in the gallery during the opening. “There was a huge attendance, and not everyone could see the speakers, so we brought in a 12-foot ladder,” Davenport said. Each professor giving an award would climb up to look out over the crowd.
The “ladder podium” became a tradition and was used until a few years ago when the student award ceremony was moved to the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts’ new quarters in the Rice Media Center. Beginning next year, the student art exhibition will be held there — a fresh start signaled by this year’s exhibition title, “LAUNCH.”
“The Media Center is the place on campus where art is being made every day, where the art students gather and where the department’s identity and sense of community lie.” —Kim Davenport
“It has been fun to organize the student art exhibitions over the past 13 years,” Davenport said. “However, we realize the need for students to reclaim the sense of ownership they had for the show when the art department was located in Sewall Hall, right up the stairs from the gallery. The Media Center is the place on campus where art is being made every day, where the art students gather and where the department’s identity and sense of community lie. It’s exciting to think about this change reinforcing the vitality of the arts at Rice.”