Most galleries need a week to take down one exhibit and install the next. With only nine weeks in Chautauqua Institution’s season, Strohl Art Center does not have the luxury of time.
As the gallery prepared to change from the 56th Chautauqua Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art to the show “Contemporary Couples: A Creative Life Together,” Strohl was closed for only one day.
One hour after closing, gallery workers get started. They work through the afternoon, and by the next morning, “Contemporary Couples” is ready to open.
Judy Barie, galleries director at the Institution, had assembled a team of two work-study students from the School of Art, three gallery interns and a gallery assistant. Painting student Teto Elsiddique and Daniel Mendoza, a sculpture student, both had little installation experience. Gallery intern Joshua Clark interned at the Weeks Gallery at Jamestown Community College before coming to Strohl, and another gallery intern, Nathan Trevino, learned the quick turnaround of the Institution’s galleries when he worked here last season.
On the night of the changeover, Samantha Ward, a gallery intern from Carnegie Mellon University, stood on top of a ladder filling nail holes with Spackle. Clark went around with a sponge sander to ensure the Spackle flushed with the wall, and Trevino followed with paint.
Barie and her team spent the first hour or so taking down the large pieces from the Annual. Most pieces required two people to move.
“Some pieces are really heavy,” Ward said. “You just have to be careful. And some of the work is really light. Art isn’t as delicate as you think.”
They boxed the art and prepared it be shipped to either the people who purchased the work or back to the artists. Then it was time for what Barie called “the fun part.” In a storage room off the back porch of Fowler-Kellogg Art Center, Clark, Trevino, Elsiddique and Mendoza worked in teams to carry the crated “Contemporary Couples” pieces into the building’s main gallery.
“It’s like Christmas,” Clark said, as he went around the crates with a drill to reveal the art he had yet to see.
They finished at 10 p.m. that night. Barie and Trevino arrived at Strohl early the next morning to start staging “Contemporary Couples.”
When she curated the pieces, Barie knew she liked the way the work of each couple played off the others.
On two stretches of wall, Barie had laid out a series of work; each piece seemed to lift one element from its neighbor, while taking that same element in a new direction. Black circles on a background of rainbow watercolors in an Ann Provan painting slide onto Erika Osborne’s black and white painting of the Hoover Dam, with a rainbow cutting through the water in the foreground. The pattern of a girl’s pink plaid shorts in a Tracy Stuckey Western seem to get a close-up in one of Stephanie McMahon’s large geometric paintings.
“I don’t get to look so much when I’m installing,” said Shaffer, who liked Provan’s work best. “It’s work first. Once I get it up and lit, I get a chance to appreciate it.”