Curators in the Making

When it opened in 2008, the student-run Thomas P. Kelly, Jr. Student Art Gallery was an idea whose time had arrived. “The biggest challenge that first year was figuring out how to fit all the exhibitions,” said Kirsten Harkonen ’09, the first student director of the space. “So many students submitted proposals for exhibition, and we didn’t want to turn any down.”

Four years later, the student-run gallery is thriving. “I believe the gallery is getting better and better each year,” said Molly Corey, professor of art and art history and adviser to the Thomas P. Kelly, Jr. Gallery for the past three years. “The students have been striving to show the strongest and most interesting work,” Corey said.  “This gallery is incredibly unique: Colleges rarely have a space as grand as this solely for student work. It is an extremely impressive space.”

In addition to the accomplished art that is exhibited, the hands-on learning experience has made the Thomas P. Kelly, Jr. Student Art Gallery, which is named for an emeritus dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts, an important component of the Studio Arts Department. “This gallery gives students the opportunity to be engaged in long-term projects of their own design that transcend every level of the art market,” said Samantha Schulz ’13, a student-director of the gallery who majored in art history with minors in film studies and English.

The gallery also makes a valuable contribution to the cultural conversation at LMU, even offering those not majoring in art the opportunity to show their works. “Many of the artists shown in the gallery have never exhibited their work, and some have not shown their work to peers or their family,” Schulz said. “These shows provide artists with a sense of pride and accomplishment that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.”

Corey said she was exceptionally encouraged by the response to the show in 2011. “The parents and students who saw the ‘Womynhouse’ exhibition were impressed by how dedicated the student collaborators were, and visitors were overwhelmed by how emotionally powerful the work was.”

Harkonen has put her Thomas P. Kelly, Jr. Student Art Gallery experience to work. After graduation, she secured two internships: one at a commercial art gallery, the other at a nonprofit arts organization in her hometown of San Francisco. “From there, I was hired on as a part-time gallery assistant at the commercial art space, and then I went on to run my own galleries,” she said. She is in the planning stages for curating her next show, which will be at Leeds College of Art in England, in 2014. View her artwork.

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