Lord Hall Gallery’s Studio Art Senior Capstone exhibit ‘Énouement’ opens Nov. 18

This year, the Studio Art Senior Capstone exhibit in Lord Hall Gallery is called “Énouement.” As always, the students in the class chose the name, which is French for the bittersweetness of having arrived here in the future without being able to tell your past self how everything turned out. The pieces are at once hopeful, introspective and ethereal, with whimsical sculptures of mushrooms, glass trout adorned with feathers and realistic landscapes punctuated by colorful shapes.

For this cohort of sixteen UMaine senior studio art majors, the capstone exhibit experience has been about more than just learning about the behind-the-scenes work that makes art shows happen. It’s about displaying the art they created and the community they have built, despite the fact that for many of these students, this is their first full semester on campus since the pandemic started. 

For the Studio Art Senior Capstone class, every student is required not only to contribute art to the exhibit, but also to contribute the behind-the-scenes work that makes the exhibit possible, like fundraising, designing fliers and figuring out what food to serve at the opening. The students also have to write artist statements about their work, and practice resume writing and mock interviews to help them prepare for life after graduation.

“They have a lot to do in this class and they’ve done everything for this show,” says Andy Mauery, professor of studio art who is teaching this year’s capstone class. “The department does supply the gallery and hardware and fixtures, but the students do their own first rounds of curation to decide what should go in and what they should cut. They plan the reception, they bring the show into the gallery, they stage it, they work with the gallery director and they hang it and sometimes they do artist talks after.”

Mauery says that the capstone experience has been essential to UMaine’s studio art major since James Linehan, professor of art, introduced it 26 years ago. UMaine was an early adopter of having professional practice incorporated into academic art degrees.  

“It’s a really great course. It looks at the skill sets that students need to find different careers in art. We’re cognizant of being honest about the skills that will be useful for them in their careers,” Mauery says. “There’s an idea that a lot of people have that art is exclusively a solo pursuit. This is also a largely collaborative experience.”

Setting up the exhibit gives the artists a chance to see the details that make a quality show — everything from how to properly mat a piece of art to figuring out which local businesses and organizations will be the best collaborators for the show.

“It’s definitely been exciting,” says Connor Reese, senior studio art and art education double major. “It’s a taste of what it’s like to be a real artist. It’s been stressful trying to get everything put in and get all the deadlines in on time and everything like that, but we’ve all put a lot of time into this.”

Maurey said that the role that each student takes on in the exhibit planning process “can look really different depending on what their focus is.” The students have learned about elements of the art as a profession they might be involved in, opening them up to careers that they can pursue after graduation that they hadn’t previously considered.

For example, Sofia Rivera, a senior studio art and art education double major, says that she has felt “pride” in her successes fundraising for the show through events like bake sales, raffles and reaching out to the community; that skill, Mauery says, is essential in the professional art world.

“This group has been really great at fundraising and making connections in the community which is increasingly important in art,” Mauery says. 

Lily McLaughlin, a senior studio art major, designed the posters and images for social media for the show — another important element to getting the word out about the gallery.

“I have learned that I really enjoy making those. I have a minor in graphic design but I never had any experience to put something out there that was actually getting information to people,” McLaughlin says. 

The capstone exhibit takes place every fall, but this cohort of seniors faced a unique set of challenges leading up to the exhibit. Most of them have spent the bulk of their college art education virtually over Zoom. For many, this meant having to set up home studios, and having limited access to the materials and means for creating art. Up until this semester, most of the students in the class had only ever met their capstone classmates on a computer screen. 

Now that they’re back — in some cases, for the first full semester since their freshman year when the pandemic started — they have in-person access to everything that the UMaine Department of Art has to offer. Their work reflects that new sense of discovery while still displaying the students’ individual styles and interests.

“A lot of these works were made in the last couple months,” says Taylor Bair, a senior studio art major. “You see that desire and enjoyment of using what’s available to us now that we’re back and really going at that full force. I think a lot of people produced really strong work.” 

The sense of community with their peers has also allowed the students to create work that they are proud of. 

“We missed a lot of that during the pandemic getting to know each other and working together in the studio. I have gotten to know people more in the past month than the past two years,” says Anastasia Lipp, senior studio art and psychology major. “There’s a momentum of energy when you’re working with other people. I feel like that’s part of why it’s been such a productive and successful semester.”

The opening reception for “Énouement” begins at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18 at Lord Hall Gallery. It is free and open to the public. The exhibit will run until Jan. 20, 2023; Lord Hall Gallery is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–4 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

Contact: Sam Schipani, samantha.schipani@maine.edu