SSU brings back art show


Shawnee State University (SSU) recently brought back a tradition that was axed during the Covid-19 years and Professor Chuck Davis says it has been a nice return to normalcy for students and faculty.

The event was the SSU student art show held in April and showcased approximately 50 pieces of work from SSU students in the Appleton Gallery.

The student show was organized by Davis, a graphic design professor who has worked with SSU students for 15 years.

“We had it every year at Shawnee and Covid hit, and, obviously, shut down student activities on campus,” Davis said. “The event has been closed since 2020 and we felt it was time to finally bring it back and it felt great.”

The Appleton Gallery was re-opened in the fall and featured an exhibition from SSU Professor Emeritus Tom Stead.

“We had him come in and set up a solo show and it was well received by staff and students,” Davis said. “We then followed that with the student show that allowed students, freshman to senior, to showcase their work in the gallery.”

Davis explained that the size of the show was a little smaller than usual, as it was announced later in the year and a lot goes into planning a submission, along with costs associated with preparing work. He believes the numbers will return, especially with an earlier announcement date next year.

“We will start the year off with an announcement next fall, so students will have more than enough time to properly plan for a submission,” Davis explained.

The recent show was still an impressive selection, according to the professor.

“I think it was a really good representation of students at Shawnee, given the situation. I know there are a lot of talented students who didn’t show, because of our late start, with students being caught off guard,” Davis said. “So, it wasn’t the most proper representation of the whole art department, but it was a very good presentation nonetheless. I thought it was a great show.”

Student art shows are instrumental for those entering the art world.

“For a lot of students, this is the first time they get to see their work in a gallery setting, especially for fine art students—painters, sculptors and such,” Davis said. “It is a really big deal for them, because the opportunity to showcase work is new. It is a good feeling for them to get their first show out of the way and getting the opportunity to interact with the public. It is a really good introduction to the art world.”

The university recognized several students who submitted by awarding prizes.

“The students who placed were a good representation of the gallery and student body,” Davis explained. “We had photography students who placed, fine art students place; it was a really good representation of talent.”

Elliot Reffitt received Best of Show, Jordan Love received First Place, Spencer Toy received Second Place, and Kitty Crouse received Third Place.

“The student art show is a wonderful tradition that gives students a boost of confidence in their work and their potential for after-college life,” Best of Show Winner Elliot Reffitt explained. “It brings us all together as a community, something I think is harder to find in a post pandemic world. I could not have been more excited to see the return of the show, and what luck to get to participate in it during my last semester here.”

Davis explained that the university has bigger plans for next year and they plan to address maintenance and painting needs in the Appleton over the summer. Next year will be bigger and better and even more reflective of what Shawnee students are capable of.

One potential expansion includes digital art and work created by gaming students.

“We do have our gaming conference that showcases a lot of that work, but we don’t really have a good way of currently showing their work in the gallery,” Davis claimed. “I think, with the help of Chair Mike Barnhart, we are looking to installing large, digital frames to showcase more of the digital and gaming side of our works that we will hopefully be showing next year.”

Overall, the professor is optimistic about getting back to normalcy and the university’s efforts to showcase student talent.

“I think we’ve made wonderful progress,” Davis said. “I know every university was impacted by Covid and I think we’re starting to come out of that, finally. I think the art programs offer a good avenue for local and regional students, even nationally, especially when looking at our gaming program, to get a degree and hopefully find a job in the art world. We have excellent faculty and a good representation of arts including gaming, graphic design, illustration, theatre, music, and more. I think it can be overlooked sometimes, but these showcases make it easier to show off those talents.”

The gallery will feature a regional art show in coming weeks, curated by Sharee Price. Davis says he is looking forward to viewing the submissions and speaking with local students about possible futures in the art world.

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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