The Empty Frame on the Wall

By LeAnna Shanks

Ever wonder why there aren’t many places on campus for students to exhibit their artwork? Dr. Laura Sommer says it’s an issue of security.

Besides the wonderful art wing and the Fanette Goldman and Carolyn Greenfield Art Gallery on the first floor of Duns Scotus, there are only a handful of student art exhibits hung around campus: in the Wick cafeteria, in the downstairs Wick lobby, outside the patio of Duns Scotus, in the foyer of Schenk, and just a couple others. Why so few?

I talked to Dr. Laura Sommer, assistant professor in the Art Department, about this issue. The main reason, she says, is concern over the safety of the paintings. “Some art pieces have been stolen or damaged. Somehow there’s soup on one of the big paintings in upstairs Wick,” says Dr. Sommer. “We want to exhibit student work that makes a visual impact, but we have to make sure that wherever the work is placed, it will be secure.”

Wait, what? People have stolen or ruined student artwork? I was shocked, too. Of course, there will always be a few miscreant students in every school, but each artwork is precious to the artist; he or she put a great deal of time and effort into making it and it saddens me that this is even an issue at all.

There are a few other reasons why student artwork is sparse; it’s not all student havoc and mayhem. The Art Department has certain limitations in that a graduate of the department has to leave two paintings behind when he or she leaves. However, they are only a couple student painters who graduate every year. Also, the artwork has to be visually effective or the public might not respond to it positively.

Speaking of positive reactions, what do you think about the current art on campus? Personally, I wondered why most of the student art I see is abstract. Why not paint people or figures we recognize? I was glad to find out that Dr. Sommer says that it’s more of an interpretive process and a learning experience. The students focus on the techniques of art, learning how to apply the elements of art, such as line, form, color, etc. The Art Department does include representational art in its curriculum, but  encourages a broad focus in its program, gearing students toward an intellectual level of understanding art as a whole.

The next time you see student art around campus, appreciate that it’s even there at all and have respect for the artist. If I may make one recommendation, the current art in the Duns Scotus wing features solutions to class assignments, and one in particular is eye-catching. In Dr. Kegler’s Graphic Design I class, they took letters, made a non-recognizable pattern from them, and creatively applied them to various functional items, such as a record player, a chair, and toast. The exhibit is visually stunning and complete with a live Betta fish! Other cool art displays include the graphic design students’ artworks on the second floor of Duns Scotus that deals with writing and grammar.

There is hope for more student art around campus, however. If you find a place that could use a little artistic assistance and it’s secure enough for the artwork not to be stolen or damaged in any way, contact Dr. Sommer ( for more information.

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Cameron - Graphic Design

Graphic Design

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Cam has spent a significant amount of time acting, puppeteering, writing, producing, and directing various productions associated with the theater department while also presenting his research throughout the country.