It wasn't a protest. It was art.
Earlier this year three visual arts students locked themselves in a windowless basement room in Bates with foodstuffs and sleeping bags. They didn’t emerge for a week.
No, it wasn’t a protest. It was art.
The basement room is the A*Space Gallery, the only student-run art gallery on campus. The occasion was “The Lock-In Show,” and the three young artists spent their week creating a CD of music they’d written, as well as a whole body of visual art. “The students were examining what happens when you isolate yourself,” says Kristine Philipps, chair of the visual arts department and faculty advisor for A*Space.
Since its start in 1997, A*Space has given Sarah Lawrence students a venue for edgy, experimental works ranging from art books and video installations to performance art.
“It’s focused on what students love doing,” says Lisa Cralle ’05, who managed A*Space in 2002-03 with Alicia Cardoso ’03.
“We have promoted A* Space so people can really try out ideas, and we support their showing or creating work that isn’t necessarily involved with conference or class work.”
Student managers serve a one-year term before passing the post on to another pair. Philipps says the positions are highly sought after and demanding: The gallery puts on two shows a week, meaning A*Space managers spend a lot of time in the Bates basement, an environment that is often integrated into students’ work.
“It’s definitely a dungeon of sorts,” says Cralle. “It used to be the athletic department; there are strange pipes in the ceiling that people utilize for installations and hanging stuff in interesting ways.”
The location was even less glamorous when Rebecca Stupak ’98 co-founded it six years ago.
“It had nasty brown carpet on the walls and weird mirrors,” she recalls. Stupak and a group of friends estimated what it would cost to refurbish, and raised money from the College. They ripped out old lockers and put up sheet rock, turning to an art-world acquaintance to help them establish professional operating guidelines.
“We wanted it to be ‘anything goes,’ to encourage people to have wild ideas and act them out,” Stupak recalls.
Countless exhibitions later, their plucky effort is still paying off for Sarah Lawrence students. “There’s so much to be said about having a physical space where everyone can meet,” says Cralle, a painter. “My paintings have changed just being there. It’s so inspiring.”
Stupak, who divides her time among art direction, running videos at clubs and producing a mini-video festival, counts her involvement with A*Space as an important part of her Sarah Lawrence experience: “It gave me confidence that you can have an idea, bring it to fruition and have it still affect people years after you’ve left the school.”
Even after the opening of the Monika A. and Charles A. Heimbold, Jr. Visual Arts Center next year, Stupak’s vision will still be a part of Sarah Lawrence. Current plans are for A*Space to remain in Bates—strange pipes, funky visions, locks and all.
—Lynn C. Pitts MFA ’03