A mural underway
Odili Donald Odita, one of our current exhibiting artists, is making his mark on the Moss Arts Center long after his last work comes down off the gallery walls.
Odita, a master of geometric abstractions who mines the expressive and metaphoric power of line, color, and form in brilliantly colored canvases, will spend nearly a month creating a work on a wall in the Grand Lobby. He took inspiration for the mural design from the contrast between the lightness of the expansive of windows on the building and the use of Virginia Tech’s famed Hokie Stone.
It is an honor to be invited by the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to create a wall painting installation for the Moss Arts Center, which houses the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech. When arriving at the Moss Arts Center, I was struck by the long and jagged walkway that leads up to the monumental structure seen within a fielded landscape and surrounding park grounds.
My initial feelings were of astonishment; this building seemed to rise up out of the ground, singular and apart from the neighboring structures with its environment. A grounding factor was the stone that comprised much of the exterior structure of this building. The stone itself is saturated with a color that is dominant and starkly present, yet analogous with its surround of sparse green grass and blue-gray sky. This stone’s glow helped to give the feeling that this building could have been carved out of, rather than built into its environs.
There was another feeling I had of disjuncture. There seemed to be a general question of connection between the celestial, upward nature of the windows against the earthly-bound quality of the stone. This feeling changed as I entered the building through its main doors and walked toward the center stairwell. The building sang from this point forward as I walked through the grand, curvular stairwell and into its majestic concert hall. The concert space resonated with the joyous glory of a choir in full effect–the heavens opened up at the ceiling through the design of magnificent arched panels that glide upward with the grace of angels. It was in the stairwell, at the heart of the building, where it all began to make sense for me–this is where I understood the narrative between the forces of parts that are the stone, the windows, like steeples of a church, and the concert hall. Altogether these parts spoke to me with the grandeur of a magnum opus. I knew from that point I had to make a design that would build a bridge and continue the reconciliation between these distinctive parts.
My design has in mind crossroads; crossroads as the point of direction and change where choice and action is made. I want to make a form that is like a windmill rotating with this force of change. I want to create a space that is both reflective and attentive to the design forces throughout the building, and generate in my installation movements that begin to unlock the energies stored within the center’s walls. It is my intention to have the wall painting rotate with color in a big and expansive way, showering its forces outward, throughout the center’s grandiose and dynamic inner core.
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The mural, underway in the Grand Lobby right now, will be completed at the end of the month, and will remain in place for a year. Come by the Moss Arts Center to check on the progress of the mural and to see other works by Odita and his fellow exhibiting artists, Patrick Wilson and Manfred Mohr, while Evolving Geometries: Line, Form, and Color is open, now through November 20.
First image pictured above is a mural installation in Helsinki.
The birth of an exhibition
Graduate assistant Meggin Hicklin takes the reigns on the blog today to share what it’s like on this side of the curtain as we prepare for the upcoming season of visual arts exhibitions in the Moss Arts Center!
It’s a busy and exciting time in the Moss Arts Center galleries. The curatorial staff (which includes me; Margo Crutchfield, our curator; and Briana Blanchard, another curatorial assistant) is hard at work coordinating and researching our upcoming exhibitions.
As a graduate assistant, much of this process is still very new to me, and is always fascinating. I thought I’d share some behind-the-scenes insight on how our gallery team works and, ultimately, how a gallery show is born.
Our exhibitions, like all others, start with an idea—a story. To make a very long job description sound deceptively short, this is the role of a curator. Among many other things, a curator is–chiefly–a storyteller. For example, our upcoming show, Evolving Geometries: Line, Form and Color, tells a story about geometry in modern art: how artists have used rigid mathematical structures in combination with color, scale, or animation to tell stories of their own–stories about everything from music and African textiles to struggles with racial and cultural identity.
Once our curator defines the “story” and the artists she’d like to feature, we begin researching their lives and work. We look for books, articles, and galleries that have featured the artists, as well as information on interpretations of and influences on their art. The curator chooses specific works of art and we contact galleries and private owners to request loans. Art loans are a major component of our work here. The visual arts spaces in the Moss Arts Center are galleries, not dedicated museum spaces–meaning we do not house a collection of works like other institutions (Richmond’s Virginia Museum of Fine Art and Roanoke’s Taubman Museum of Art are some nearby institutions with great collections), but rather we borrow art from other parties.
Exhibiting works on loan is a tremendous responsibility, whether it’s work from a well-known artist or from local school children. Throughout the exhibition, including the time during which work is unpacked, hung, or repacked for shipping, we are the caretakers of irreplaceable objects. While the center is insured, the ethical and–at times–emotional pressure to protect such beautiful things weighs heavily on the staff. But with this pressure also comes great joy. I tell friends that working in a gallery is like having Christmas or a birthday over and over, all year long. The work arrives and we “unwrap” it, oohing and ahhhing over each piece. We then work tirelessly for days to paint and prepare the gallery spaces, arrange and hang the work, and then meticulously clean and fine-tune until the final exhibition looks pristine and effortless. I can tell you from firsthand experience—a lot of work goes into these shows.
Nothing compares to the moment a show opens to the public. While we’ve worked on it for months in advance and stared at it for days as we straightened paintings, patched holes and hung labels, there is something very special about sharing it with our visitors. People begin to see the story told by each artist as interpreted by our curator, then further interpreted by the exhibition design, including paint colors, lighting, and arrangement, and finally (and most importantly), visitors help create a new story with their own interpretations and reactions to the work. Amazing.
Then, much like Christmas or a party, the time comes to pack everything away. It is always bittersweet, saying goodbye to beautiful things, but as the walls once again become bare and white, you become anxious for the next show. Strangely enough, an empty gallery can be almost as inspiring as a full one—it is a magical space. I think of the Room of Requirement in the Harry Potter novels–an enchanted space that, with thought and focus, will become what it wants and needs to be. It’s remarkable what our galleries can do.
As we prepare for Evolving Geometries: Line, Form and Color (which opens Sept. 25 and, as of today, includes booking travel arrangements for visiting artists and designing our gallery brochure), we hope you’ll visit us for Collegiate Legacy: Emeritus Faculty Exhibition, presented by the College of Architecture and Urban Studies (CAUS) to celebrate their 50th anniversary, on view from August 21 through September 14.
Want to know more about how we create our visual arts exhibitions? Follow the Center for the Arts on Twitter (@artscenteratvt) for information on #AskaCurator Day, September 17.
Photos: Dedication ceremony at the Moss Arts Center
Before we kick everything into high gear for the 2014-15 season, let’s take a look back at one of the many exciting moments from the inaugural season: the building dedication ceremony at the Moss Arts Center!
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Folks visited from near and far to witness as the building was officially dedicated the day before our Center for the Arts Gala Celebration, on April 25, 2014.
Former Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said a few words, followed by remarks from some of our generous donors. It still feels surreal that we’ve come this far, with our first season in the MAC under our belts! Thank you to everyone who’s helped get us here.
One Cool Thing: Orchestra shell at the Moss Arts Center
The orchestra shell is one of the best tools we can give our performing musicians. It helps to direct the sound back towards the musicians as they’re playing, as well as to the audience members, rather than up into the catwalk above the stage.
Wally Easter, associate professor of music in the School of Performing Arts at Virginia Tech, explains how the orchestra shell helps to enhance sound during orchestral performances.
Our One Cool Thing series continues on the blog next week–be sure to check back then!
A bridge in the Grand Lobby?
Odili Donald Odita’s artwork brightened the spaces in the Miles C. Horton Jr. Gallery during the Evolving Geometries: Line, Form, and Color exhibition, which closed late last month. His paintings, so full of color, so vibrant and energetic, were a complete pleasure to have here in the Moss Arts Center.
But luckily, we don’t have to give up ALL of his work.
Odita’s expansive mural, Bridge, is in the Grand Lobby of the center, and will remain up for at least a year. It was such a treat to watch as the mural came together, bit by bit, day after day for nearly a month.
Check out this video and hear Odita discuss his inspiration for the video: our beautiful building!
You can see Bridge for yourself whenever the Moss Arts Center is open. For details on building hours and closings, please see our calendar.