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It is hard to believe that it has only been six months since I started working for the Center for the Arts (CFA) at Albright College. On one hand, it seems like such a short time considering all the exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical performances that already have come and gone, but on the other hand, it seems like I have been here for a much longer time, mainly because Albright feels like, well, it feels like home. This sentiment seems to be shared by many faculty, staff, students and alumni. I have had great jobs before, so, when I say this is the best job I have ever had, that really means something.

One of the great things about the CFA is that it offers experiences in every artistic area: fine art, music, theatre, dance, digital media, film, photography and fashion. On a Monday, I might be writing a grant for music. On a Tuesday, I may be leading a tour in the gallery and working on a playbill for the next Domino Players production. While the work never ends, it's never dull either, and it's always rewarding. Take, for instance, the recent exhibition at the Freedman Gallery.

Gender Matters/Matters of Gender drew nearly 200 visitors for the opening on March 24 and was the Freedman Gallery's first international, juried
competition, for which we received more than 450 entries in every media type by more than 240 artists from 48 states and several foreign countries. From this pool, 60 works by 48 artists were selected by Judith Tannenbaum, the Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. Tannenbaum, Freedman Gallery director from 1981 to 1986, also delivered an engaging lecture on gender in art for the opening.

This was an important step for the Freedman. Not only did the exhibition reengage a number of past supporters and friends, it also was forward thinking.

This year the Freedman Gallery, along with the Music Department and the Domino Players, focused on "Women and the Arts," a celebration of female creators, innovators, and dynamic forces in the cultural arena. But Gender Matters redefined the focus as a women and the arts show to one of gender that was inclusive of all artists. It exhibited works by artists of both sexes who work from a consciousness of how gender is reflected in art, how the artist's gender influences her or his medium, and how gender often affects the circumstances in which the artist creates.

The show included a range of artists exhibiting some provocative works such as those dealing with gender reassignment or transgender issues and concepts. Among them were Lauren Gillette's crystal studded, hand-painted, motorcycle jacket detailing the conversion of Carl Hammonds to stripper Hedy Jo Star and Jess Dugan's suite of three photographs of bare-chested individuals who have completed female to male gender reassignment.

The exhibition also engaged current students in a way we haven't seen recently. In fact, many students and faculty commented that this was one of the most accessible and most exciting shows we've had in recent years. First, by showing so many different artists and types of media, there was something for almost everyone to like.

Second, because the theme of this exhibition was more challenging and some of the works themselves presented controversial imagery, the staff chose to install the exhibit less like a gallery with only labels as didactic information and more like a museum. To add to the experience, we added questions, applying them in large letters directly to the wall to help group artworks with a shared theme. We carefully crafted our questions and chose a soft grey color, placing them higher up than standard, so as to suggest rather than direct visitors to a certain conclusion. For example, with the dozen artworks that dealt with feminists themes we asked questions like, "Can a pretty man be masculine?" We also posted sleek aluminum clipboards on which folks could leave us answers.
One gallery attendee wrote, "Masculinity is not derived from how you
look but how you feel and present yourself."

There is more wonderful, provocative and creative art on the way, including
the highly anticipated Annual Juried Student Art Show, May 3-12. Over the
summer the gallery will host an exhibition curated by Ron Schira, art critic
for the Reading Eagle, that includes artworks from four Berks County, Pa.,
artists: painter Rich Houck of Reading; ceramicist Dolores Kirschner of
Oley; sculptor Glen Speirs of Kutztown, and multimedia artist Thomas Kijak
of Leesport. The photography of local children will also grace the gallery's
walls in July as part of the summer camp program funded with a special
grant from the late Senator Michael O'Pake.

We hope you will visit us soon at the Freedman Gallery, or take in a
music or theatre performance at the Center for the Arts. Can't make it to
campus? Visit us online at www.albright.edu/centerforthearts

 
To learn more about David Tanner, check out his blog for the Chronicle of Higher Education at
http://chronicle.com/blogs/arts/david-tanner-on-arts-administrationgetting-to-know-me-part-1/28251

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