Crafts students’ work dominate arts show



Brian Sarama piece Miss Granger’s Second Chance at Acceptance is displayed at the Art MFA show in the Art building gallery. The show featuring the work of four students is running until March 30. Photo by Brian Smith.

Rachel Campbell

Roaming bison welcome you to a tour of toy-themed jewelry, ceramic-ware and coal mining-inspired weavings in the School of Art gallery.

This year, the School of Art’s MFA Thesis Show features work by graduate students Quinn Hulings, Tabitha Ott, Brian Sarama and Joanna Donchatz.

“This year, which is unusual, all four of the candidates are from the crafts division of the School of Art,” graduate coordinator Michael Loderstedt said. “Normally it’s kind of a mixture of fine arts people and crafts, but the way that it worked out is that all the crafts folks showed more interest in exhibiting in the gallery.”

Graduate students work with Loderstedt and director of galleries Anderson Turner to set up the exhibition portion, but they mostly put it together on their own.

“Generally speaking, all I am is the kind of clearinghouse for it,” Loderstedt said. “I sort of serve as the liaison to collect the names and determine what the interest level is and then when we have enough people, and we have to have four or else the gallery’s not going to be filled, then I go to the gallery director, Anderson Turner, and say ‘these are the four we have,’ and then he organizes a meeting with them and arranges the details for when they’re going to install it.”

Turner describes the opportunity that School of Art graduate students have at Kent State as a truly special opportunity.

“Kent State is the only school in Northeast Ohio where you can get an MFA, so it’s something unique and wonderful at KSU,” he said. “There’s no other school in Northeast Ohio that offers this degree.”

When graduate students are ready to do their thesis exhibition, they are given an adviser from their area of study. They also choose two other people to be on their committee in addition to writing a thesis paper. Loderstedt was chosen as part of Ott’s committee for this show.

“We meet at a predetermined time for an oral review, where we sit down and have read the paper and talk with her about what the concepts are behind her work,” he said. “[We] ask her some questions and talk a little bit about what we feel the strengths and maybe the weaknesses are in the work and then from there they go on and take that as they will.”

Ott chose a “lighthearted, playful concept” Loderstedt said, with her incorporation of completely functional toys as a high-fashion type of jewelry while Donchatz chose to use her life back home as inspiration for her weavings.

“These are all weavings based on her upbringing as a young woman in Appalachia,” Loderstedt said. “Her grandfather was a coal miner and died of black lung disease, so it’s really a real personal issue for her to make works that speak about the real struggles that these folks have.”

Hulings chose a trip he took as inspiration for his ceramic bison that were all created just this semester.

“I traveled out West over the summer and I went to Yellowstone and Yosemite and all the national parks,” he said. “I saw these things live in the wild. I’ve seen them before on ranches because people raise them for beef, but they’re smaller. These things are massive, and I was real inspired. I was real impressed.”

Hulings described how he would see these bison in the wild and they would disappear. He compared them to big problems that come and go and decided to make it the theme of his pieces.

“I decided to do bison as a representation of problems that I’ve faced,” he said. “There’s a little man in the center of those guys, so that’s supposed to represent myself and the bison are representative of emotions I have like fright.”

Those interested in viewing these students’ work can do so until Friday in the School of Art gallery on the second floor of the Art Building. The closing reception will also occur that day from 5 until 8 p.m.

Rachel Campbell is the School of Art reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].