The walls were bare: It was blank space on every side of the medium-sized room, which seemed off-putting for an art gallery. But the blankness of the walls is some kind of analogy for what is about to occur in this room in a few days. The walls are the canvas, waiting for someone to tell a story, hang a picture or, in this case, paint them by a process of layering acrylics.
This is the University Art Gallery, a segment of the Art and Design Department.
Gallery specialist Garet Zook explained that this is a place for student art to be represented on all ends of the spectrum.
“The gallery is primarily for the students,” Zook said. “So we try to represent the department really well with studio art, photography and graphic design.”
According to Zook, as a part of the CSU system, in order to have an accredited art department there has to be a gallery.
Art and design senior Charles Wilton works at the student gallery as an assistant, helping with the various shows.
“The art featured here is varied,” Wilton said. “We have student shows and also feature outside artists. At the last show, we featured photographer Clint Baclawski.”
The gallery has welcomed quite a few notable artists for exhibitions and installations.
“Every outside artist we’ve featured here is notable in their own way,” Wilton said. “We’ve had Erin Draplin, who had an entire wall of posters. And Heather L. Johnson, who did stitching and drawings and left them in places for people to find.”
This month the University Art Gallery is featuring the art of Erin Curtis, who will be working on an installation piece during the show.
“There will be some paintings in the show,” Curtis said. “But I am also going to be working on a site specific installation painting here.”
The show is called “100% Acrylic,” as Curtis will be working mostly with acrylics and other materials — some she says are new to her.
“I hope people find it exciting,” Curtis said. ”It’s going to be a little bit crazy.”
“A little bit crazy” and full of inspiration is what the University Art Gallery aims to be for art and design students, as well as for anyone who walks through the gallery.
“This is tremendously important to Cal Poly,” Wilton said. “This is about getting the extra exposure, meeting other artists and being exposed to other methods of other people.”
For art and design students, this is a prime spot to gather new ideas, inspiration and to be encouraged by other artists.
“You can come here and realize you might share the same struggle with some of the more successful artists out there,” Wilton said.
For students who might not have the urge to put paint to canvas, this gallery is also there to inspire them.
“There are just so many different departments at a polytechnic school and they are usually really open to working together,” Zook said. “I’m really hoping to collaborate with other departments — have shows together and group projects together where artists can influence architects and vice versa.”
The University Art Gallery will have five shows this 2015-16 academic year with Erin Curtis being their third show and second featured artist.
“We have a juried student show and a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) exhibition for graduating seniors in the spring,” Wilton said. “These are shows for students to strive for.”
Along with showcasing student art and outside featured artists, the gallery is about Learn by Doing.
“Learn by Doing is the most important part,” Zook said. “It’s about different creative minds getting together and working with each other.”
It’s also about students being able to showcase their art and be proud of what they’ve created.
“You can learn a lot from this gallery,” Curtis said. “It’s one thing to see your work in the classroom, but it’s another to see it in a gallery.”