Open Access Exhibition: accessible to all

Minnesota State opened its CSU Gallery doors to the Open Access Exhibition Monday, a gallery dedicated to displaying original pieces from artists, non-artists, and anyone in between. 

For the second year, the Registered Student Organization or RSO Future Art Teachers sponsored the exhibit located in the lower level of the CSU until Feb. 2. 

“I feel like the community that it brings, and the non-hierarchical aspect of it, is how I feel art should be,” said Gina Wegner, chair of the department of Art and Design. “It’s something that I’m really happy to feel supported by all of our faculty and staff in doing this; having a show that is truly open.” 

The Open Access Exhibition features an array of different paintings, sketches, sculptures, collages and more without any distinguished theme to welcome any member of the Mankato community’s contribution.

“I think it represents our school in a really collaborative way, which is pretty cool because it’s giving anybody an opportunity to show their work,” first-year MSU graduate student Amanda Jordan said. 

Jordan, who specializes in painting, drawing, and installation work, is pursuing a master’s degree after finishing a bachelor’s degree in art education. She submitted a small study piece completed at the beginning of her first post-graduate semester to the gallery. 

“I feel like, with art shows, you gain a lot of confidence in showing your work,” Jordan said. “Some people are very private about their work, so kind of pushing everybody to put their artwork out there for others to enjoy is really important.” 

With submissions ranging from MSU students, faculty and local highschoolers, exhibit sponsors strived to push more into the community and give value to art that may have otherwise gone without recognition. 

“Many of us have walked away from COVID, and the alienation of that, and the world is hard,” Wegner said. “This is a space that says, ‘This is still valuable, we still need it; it’s still useful and profitable.’” 

One highschooler who related to the human disconnect caused by COVID-19 is Mankato East student Kai Laidlaw.

“During middle school when COVID and the lockdown and all that hit, I was just isolated, alone,” Laidlaw said. “I would spend a lot of time drawing, and I think that kind of developed the liking for doing art, and now here I am.” 

Laidlaw submitted a piece to the Open Access Exhibition for the second time this year. His craft consists of two traditional Japanese dolls representing Hinamatsuri, a festival in March celebrating girls, or daughters in a family. 

“The two that I made out of paper are specifically the ones that we own that were passed down from my grandma, to my mom, and will soon be passed down to my sister,” Laidlaw said. 

His creation took two and a half months to complete between daily art classes, combining materials such as paper, tape, paint, paint pens, cardboard and nail polish.

“I just wanted to try to capture that memory I’ve had of this piece of culture,” Laidlaw said. 

The Open Access Exhibition gives the Mankato community the opportunity to explore art as a hobby, as a career and as a passion. 

“This is the purpose. This is giving an outlet, letting people find their voice,” Wegner said. “Whether it is a hobby, whether it is a way of life, whether it is a chance to find the right voice in the creative community where they’re going to be able to reach their market, if that’s their goal. And it’s, quite frankly, necessary for students to have many different ways to communicate in our world.” 

As for the creations inside the gallery, the unique ensemble captures the complexity and overall importance of art. 

“Art is such an abstract construct, but I feel like it’s such a valuable thing,” Laidlaw said. “It’s really a medium to express oneself and their experiences, or maybe just to make something that looks nice, but I think it’s, for me at least, that notion of making something that people can remember you by.” 

The Department of Creative Arts includes arts such as film, creative writing, fine arts, art history, art education, etc. with events such as the Good Thunder Reading series to take place this Spring semester, alongside the Open Access Exhibition reception on Jan. 23 from 6-8 p.m.

Write to Mercedes Kauphusman at mercedes.kauphusman@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: The Open Access Exhibition accepts submissions from anyone within the Mankato community, ranging from MSU students, faculty, local highschoolers, and more. (Dylan Long/The Reporter)

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