Why is there a room covered in black streaks in the Melville Library? Why is there a paper bag on a podium in the Staller Center?
The answer is simple: they’re both works of art. They are just two of the many pieces displayed at the various art venues at Stony Brook University. These two pieces do an awful lot to illustrate the benefits that Stony Brook’s creative outlets provide, both for its art students and the community as a whole.
Certainly, the people who benefit most from the art on campus are the students that live in and breathe in the art world every day. Stony Brook offers its nascent artists ample opportunity to get their work out into the real world at any one of the five galleries on campus.
Karine Felleni, a second-year graduate student pursuing a Master of Fine Arts, born in Paris and raised in New York City, has been hard at work creating her latest piece “Drawn,” a conceptual composition that uses a flood of black marks to depict movement. According to Felleni, working in a room just off the main hallway in the Melville Library has added an entirely new challenge to her work.
“It’s very different, very different,” Felleni said. “I am used to closing the doors, I’m used to complete silence, but now this has been very interesting to me. I’m always amazed that somebody would stop in and even be interested, because I’m so used to working with nobody around. It hasn’t influenced the piece itself, but it’s helped me to grow in my practice and be more open to conversations and commentary.”
The professional exhibitions shown at Stony Brook galleries sit on the opposite end of the spectrum from the student-produced pieces. Apart from contributing to the diversity of art on campus with outside sources, that dual function of the galleries provides a wealth of potential inspiration that might very well be lacking if all the exhibitions came from students and faculty. Karen Levitov, director of the Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery located in the Staller Center, spoke about the importance of bringing in the work of outside professionals.
“Our gallery has two main focuses,” Levitov said. “We do student art shows — we do a graduate student show every year, the MFA thesis exhibition and the senior show for senior art majors and minors — and then the rest of the year we do professional artist shows. I think it’s really important for the campus community to have an opportunity to see shows by professional artists. These are museum-quality exhibitions and they’re really a fabulous opportunity. We think it’s exciting, it’s an inspiration for art students, but it’s also something for everyone.”
Apart from the unique benefits these galleries provide to art students, the presence of art on campus does a lot to lighten the general mood.
Stony Brook University was founded in 1957, and bears all the architectural hallmarks one might expect from a campus built during the Cold War. Forget the tired prison comparisons, the university looks like it was specifically designed to withstand nuclear bombardment. Stony Brook consistently finds itself near the top of any article or aggregate of the ugliest colleges in America, bolstering its reputation as a depressing place to get a degree.
This is a university desperately trying to shed its old image, or at least put in more work on the beautification front than ever before. A little bit of creativity can go a long way towards that goal, and art on campus can only help in breaking up the maddening monotone of red, gray, red, gray, red, gray.