Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Figge Art Museum Provides Artists Platform Despite Pandemic

The Figge Art Museum is showcasing the artwork of seven Augustana students and students from six neighborhood colleges at the College Invitational Exhibition, which runs until June 6. Given the pandemic, artists’ experience and artistic expression seem quite different compared to previous years. Figge Art Museum celebrates these experiences. 
Brain Allen, studio school and education galleries coordinator at Figge museum, said, 
“The primary purpose of the College Invitational Exhibition is to display the artwork that the students are making and to celebrate their achievement and the academic excellence of the programs that they are involved in.”
Augustana students whose artwork are featured at the museum includes Keely Gallaghe, Rachel Gibson, Lindsey Johnson, Jordan Delinski, Hailey Mendell, Charles Nawara, and Rachel Oliver.
This year, “several works focus on mental health,” Allen said.
Senior Keely Gallaghe, having survived an emotionally abusive relationship, uses her artwork as a mechanism to visually relieve her struggles with mental health. 
“I got out of a really emotionally abusive relationship as soon as the pandemic started,” Gallaghe said. “I have been focusing a lot more on my art just because it is a really positive way to kind of take away your trauma almost and just express that through like a visual media.”
Gallaghe’s work appeals to people who may be going through similar situations. She is grateful the exhibition provides the platform to connect with more people.
“I think just being able to put my story out there will definitely help me connect with more people because I had a lot of people reaching out and telling me that they had similar experiences even if it is during the pandemic or not,” Gallaghe said.
Although, Charles Nawara, senior, shared his artwork was completed prior to the pandemic and does not necessarily relate to mental health. He stopped creating art due to the lack of accessibility to facilities, as he is now attending school virtually and has a more rigid schedule. 
“My experience as an artist has changed dramatically since then, and I kind of stopped creating art, stopped scratching and stopped making any sort of ceramics.” Nawara, however, focused on other things such as the political and racial equity climate. 
In their effort to follow safety protocols while also celebrating students’ artistic excellence, the museum hosted a virtual celebration on Feb. 4. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to have our large in-person gathering of teachers, students, administrators, and family to celebrate the achievement of the artist’s work,” Allen said.
Artist Rachel Oliver, senior, said she felt sad about the setup. “I couldn’t share with friends like I would have done without the pandemic,” Oliver said. However, Oliver assured, “it was still an accomplishment to be accepted into the Figge Art Museum.”  
Oliver explained what it means to have her work showcased at the museum as a fine artist whose works are primarily designed to interact with people in-person rather than digitally.
“Digital art keeps growing, and so for fine artists like me that really like painting and sculpting it worries me, like okay, what happens to my mediums that are in-person that you interact within the real world,” Oliver said. “So having the museum still actually have this exhibition and including my artwork was like ‘yay people still do want to see my art and there’s still a future for artworks like mine.’”
Gallaghe expressed a similar sentiment. Given that senior inquiry is online this year, “it is important for all artists at Augustana to be able to get their art out there in some way, shape, or form,” Gallaghe said. She appreciates “Figge for allowing that opportunity for so many college students to put their work in the museum.”
Allen acknowledges the impact of students’ work and what it means for the future of art.
“Visitors to the exhibition, including myself, enjoy seeing what the next generation of artists are making and what issues are most significant to them, providing insight to what the future holds,” Allen said. “As the artists that have come before them, their artwork is a testament to their time and place. Whether they are making artwork about their personal thoughts and feelings or thinking about social and political issues, these students are reaching visitors from all over the region and beyond that too.”

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    John doeApr 17, 2021 at 4:35 am

    Gallaghe is such a goddess step on me

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Figge Art Museum Provides Artists Platform Despite Pandemic