Chautauquans get sneak peek of artists’ life at Open Studios night

Roxana Pop | Staff Photographer
School of Art student Aaron Von Seggern sits in his studio awaiting visitors during the school’s annual Open Studios event Monday evening at the Arts Quadrangle.

At Open Studios night last Monday at the School of Art, the first thing 7-year-old Jackson Kuhn did was make a beeline for art student Molly Berger’s ceramics studio. He traded a rock he painted — and autographed on the back — for one of her mugs. Kuhn loves ceramics; he takes classes in it through the Special Studies’ Young Artists program, and he started selling painted rocks last year to raise money for a ceramics student scholarship through the Chautauqua Fund.

“Jackson was the first person to buy my work in the [Chautauqua School of Art Annual Student Exhibition] last year,” said Berger, a School of Art student at Chautauqua for the second season in a row. “He was actually the first person to buy my work ever from a gallery, so I have a soft spot in my heart for him.”

When the School of Art invited Chautauquans into its studios for Open Studios night, the student artists had their work from the second half of the summer on sale. But some of Berger’s flower vases on display weren’t for sale, because she planned to present them to the school’s faculty for final critiques.

“I tried to look at this strictly as an open studio, not just a sale,” Berger said. “I didn’t want people to think that they couldn’t just look around and come talk to me.”

Talking was the main event at Open Studios night. While Matt Smith, the ceramics teaching assistant, stood behind his bowls and jars, one man pointed to a piece with a chipmunk on it. “Is that a cookie jar?” he asked. “Very close,” Smith responded. “It’s an urn.”

Meanwhile, in the painters’ wing, painting student Torrell Arnold was talking to a Chautauquan couple about how many studies he had to do before arriving at the final version of a large painting hanging in his studio.

In her fifth year attending Open Studios night, Chautauquan Valerie Parker, a quilter herself, spent her time talking to ceramics technician Brian Giniewski and ceramics student Sarah Olsen. Parker left Open Studios with Olsen’s business card so she could follow the young artist’s career.

“They’re so into what they’re doing,” Parker said of the artists, “and they have a nice presentation in their studios.”

Last year, Berger said, the ceramics students displayed all their work in a big, open room in which Special Studies classes are taught. This year’s move to individual studios allowed Chautauquans to get more of a feel for an artist’s daily grind.

“It’s crazy,” ceramist Lily Fein said. “We’re so discreet for most of the summer, and then all these people find out about us and cram in.”

Dozens of people roamed the Arts Quadrangle and artists’ studios throughout the two-hour event.

“That’s what I love about art,” sculptor Stephanie Wademan said, “all the interactions.”

Chautauquan Richard Rieser bought two photos from Wademan’s “Jagua” series. (She is in the program as a sculptor, but she creates all kinds of artwork.) At the Open Studios night, they talked about her work and what she planned to do after leaving the Institution.

“He believes in me,” Wademan said, “which is pretty awesome.”

Still, Open Studios night was bittersweet for the artists, who move out Saturday after seven weeks on the grounds. Wademan said she was surprised that she became good friends with all the other artists at the school in such a short amount of time.

“I told Don [Kimes, artistic director of Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution], I’m coming back next year,” Wademan said.