“7th Annual All Student Exhibition”
Nov. 14 – Dec. 11
The Slusser and Robbins Gallery, at the Art & Architecture Building
At the Work Gallery

For many, choosing what artwork goes into a gallery project seems like a daunting task. Spectators often walk in and out of art galleries wondering how a specific piece of artwork made the cut or why it’s worth being displayed. Mark Nielsen, director of exhibitions at The Jean Paul Slusser Gallery, often finds these questions difficult to answer as well.

“You’re getting into ‘what is art’ territory there. I will say that the longer I work in the arts, the less able I am to answer that question,” Nielsen said in an e-mail interview.

Although displaying artwork can be a scary task for young artists, the School of Art and Design’s 7th Annual “All Student Exhibition” provides a space to explore this necessary step. The exhibition runs through Dec. 11, and student work will be installed in University galleries, including Slusser, The Warren Robbins Gallery, Work Gallery and the Art and Architecture Building on North Campus.

“Exhibiting is an absolutely crucial aspect of the art-making process,” Nielsen said. “It’s hard for a lot of students to make the shocking and sudden transition from the solitude of studio activity to the public domain of exhibiting.”

The goal of the exhibition is to be inclusive. In order to ensure that students gain the experience needed to display their work in the public sphere, the exhibition has no jury. It invites artists of all levels to participate and view their work in a new setting.

“They begin to think about how their work changes with a change of context and see public reactions to the work they have entered,” Nielsen said. “With nearly 300 students participating, they often learn a bit about negotiating space and making compromises. It’s also a chance for the exhibition’s staff to help out a bit with installation problems or issues student have with a specific work.”

Although all students are encouraged to submit work without the fear of rejection, the exhibition staff still has to make tough choices.

“The hard part is deciding what goes where among such a vast spectrum of genre and ideas,” Nielsen said. “Some things just kill whatever you put them next to, not because they are bad or good, just because of what they are.”

One example of this challenging task was the placement of a giant yellow piece made out of foam tubing titled “Comb,” by Art and Design freshman Danielle Battaglia.

“It’s a really exciting piece, but it didn’t make any friends. I ended up putting it next to some other large commanding works that could handle the intensity,” Nielsen said. “The trick is to try to find a good spot for everything, so the show feels balanced and the process of moving through the gallery is not interrupted by an awareness of badly organized or displayed work.”

With numerous great works on display this year, it’s tough to create a list of must sees, but there are a couple that stand out in Nielsen’s eyes.

“I’m extremely impressed with many of our first-year students this year. There are some very ambitious projects in the show from this new group,” Nielsen said. “Like (A&D freshman) Eli Rosenbloom’s wall sized mural – a colossal psychedelic tree called ‘Hiroshima 3000.’ And on a smaller but no less ambitious scale, (A&D freshman) Kate Bonsted’s ‘Bull.’ The title is so direct and unassuming, but the image of a bull chopped out of a huge piece of cardboard literally reels between the representational and the abstract.”

With the opening of the new University of Michigan Museum of Art, fine arts are in the forefront of campus news. Events like the “All Student Exhibition” illuminate the art scene in Ann Arbor. Galleries are all over campus, but they are often concealed.

“The problem is they’re kind of hidden away, but (the galleries) are all addressing ways to improve their presence and accessibility,” Nielsen said. “There are more galleries downtown than ever before. I really believe that we are close to the tipping point, of becoming a destination for the visual arts as well as music and theater.”

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