Inside the Curation of Rowan’s Art Galleries

Genevieve Gaignard's “Black, White, and Red All Over” as featured in Rowan's 301 High Street Gallery. - Contributor / Kiley Parker

In addition to the various student and amateur artistic endeavors Rowan University offers its student body, Rowan also features its very own professional gallery to showcase art to the Rowan and Glassboro communities. To do this, Director and Chief Curator Mary Salvante alongside Gallery Coordinator Kristin Qualls work with independent artists on how to best present their work in Rowan’s gallery.

Located on 301 High Street, the gallery exclusively features work from professional artists. The Rowan University Art Gallery is an academic gallery that focuses on education regarding contemporary art.

Salvante curates the showings and has a detailed process for securing artists for the gallery. Salvante travels to festivals, museums, fairs, studio visits and other galleries in order to observe what is making waves in the contemporary art world. Then, she examines the Rowan and greater Glassboro community to get a sense on what type of artist would resonate most with gallery visitors.

“She finds a union between the two,” said Qualls. 

Salvante then reaches out to the artists and organizes the details of the event. The gallery, as of writing this, is currently presenting Genevieve Gaignard.

Gaignard’s work most prominently exhibits her experience as a biracial woman – more specifically on how the world decides to view her identity. As a light-skinned biracial woman, Gaignard offers an interesting viewpoint on the perceptions of race and the signals of one’s identity. 

Qualls and Salvante thought that as university students are also grappling with similar themes of identity, Gaignard’s work would strike a particular chord with students. Art galleries are about new ways of thinking and engaging with ideas– Qualls and Salvante thought it was the perfect fit. 

The Rowan University art gallery has another space in Westby Hall. While the Westby art gallery features student work, one of the gallery’s main attractions is the permanent Sister Chapel exhibit. The exhibition combines work from several ’70s artists that primarily showcase themes from second-wave feminism. The gallery features monumental images of the female body as the center of the artwork. The gallery is curated by Dr. Andrew Hottle, a professor within Rowan’s Department of Art. 

“We feel it’s important to bring audiences contemporary art because artists at their core communicate what it means to be human,” said Qualls. “They provide an opportunity to really engage and tackle some themes and concepts and ideas that we don’t think about.” 

Qualls believes the art gallery provides a more visually stimulating way of understanding history and culture, in a way unachievable within a normal classroom or lecture setting. The public nature of the gallery allows for open constructive discussion about the works, allowing conversation about the concepts the artist wishes to present, without the exchange moving towards the individual.

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