As summer approaches, so does the end of school and the ensuing conflux of graduating student exhibitions. The next few weeks will feature a great abundance of artwork showing the culmination of years of work at many great institutions.
There are, of course, the obvious annual favorites. MassArt's Bakalar and Paine Galleries feature an MFA thesis exhibition that is not to be missed. SMFA's Grossman Gallery and Atrium will soon have a graduating students show, while Tufts University's Aidekman Arts Center features the MFA thesis work from SMFA's grad program. The Art Institute of Boston presents graduating student shows at their lower Newbury Street building and at The Porter Exchange building of Lesley University. NESAD/Suffolk University opened a graduating student show in their galleries on Arlington Street. Montserrat College, RISD, The New England School of Photography, MIT, and many others are sure to have MFA and BFA exhibitions in the next few weeks.
While it is impossible to see this much art, I think it is important to consider just what all this means for the art scene of New England. These exhibitions do not merely mark the end of study for a group of artists, and these shows are not hung so that parents can make awkward small-talk. These shows are a signal to the larger art community that, like the sprouting of leaves and the blooming of daffodils, fragile new life awaits our attention.
It is fair to say that a large number of these graduates will not remain in New England, but some will stay and make this region their home. Those that stay will look for access to the art scene in many ways. Some will access our limited range of alternative spaces and become volunteers, join group shows, and find a voice. Others will use their energy to fill voids they see in the art scene, by creating new galleries or organizations, publishing journals or blogs or writing for publications, or finding other areas to apply their energy. Many more will make work and show whenever opportunities arise, steadily engaging until they are as recognizeable as any other artist in our milieu.
We tend to think of 'graduation' as the end of something, a conclusion of one life. It is, however, important to remember that these students are now graduating from the relative protection of their schools into our elaborate and opaque business, and that the true measure of our citizenship will be gauged by how we welcome them. These shows are an exciting look at the future of art in New England, and the joy of discovering great new work comes complete with wine and cheese.
Top image by the author.
Bottom two images by James Manning.