New ‘Study/Space’

By Katy Nielsen

Breaks from midterm study sessions can now include viewing colorful interactive art hidden in out-of-the-way places at the library, South Campus Building, 624 S. Michigan Ave.

October is the 15th annual Chicago Artists Month, a celebration of Chicago’s art community, which includes more than 200 events, exhibitions, demonstrations and open studios.

Columbia is participating with an exhibit, “Study/Space.” It is a collection of installation art featuring photography and some interactive pieces.

All the pieces are arranged in unusual locations such as in corners where students usually go to study alone.

The decision to use the library at Columbia came from “Study/Space” curator and photographer Cole Robertson, visual arts coordinator at the Columbia library.

“The library is kind of a quirky environment,” Robertson said. “People are surprised because they don’t expect to come across art when they are looking for books.”

When Robertson planned the exhibit, he said he made the guidelines clear for artists. The work is not controversial, but some of the pieces take a political stance, Robertson said.

Cherie Tymkiw, 27, received her Master of Fine Arts from Northern Illinois University and has exhibited her oil paintings and screen prints in galleries around Chicago.

Tymkiw’s piece in the show presents a distinct perspective, Robertson said. She addresses conflict and worldwide atrocities in her art by using mass media techniques.

“For students and for anyone visiting the library, art can be obvious, and art can be subtle,” said Kim Hale, head of Library Marketing, Outreach and Special Initiatives. “Art can be anywhere. It can be small, it can be large and it can be put in all types of places. We have put art in places you wouldn’t normally see it.”

Hale advertised the exhibition, and she also helped organize the “Study/Space” opening on Oct. 15, attended by more than 140 people, according to Hale.

Robertson said the idea behind “Study/Space” is to take a transitional public place, a place people regularly pass through, and transform it into a creative environment.

“The public space becomes the studio,” Roberston said.

Davida Fraya Newman, senior fine arts major, has an interactive slide exhibit in “Study/Space.” Newman arranged a slide viewer with an 80-slide carousel in a space surrounded by comfortable chairs. Posted near the viewer are memos and e-mails referring to the library’s decision last winter to remove its entire collection of art history slides.

Newman said she decided to make a memorial piece as soon as she was notified about the library’s decision.

Anyone on the fourth floor of the library—in a space near where the slides were formerly kept—can now turn on the slide viewer and see glimpses of art history flash by on a small screen. Newman said she hopes people will experience her piece in the same way they might experience a photo album.

“I really just want people to recognize a huge part of our [art] education has … been phased out,” Newman said. “We’re at a pretty pivotal time in history because we’re full on in the digital age.”

The removal of all slides from the library represents the end of an era to her. Slides were the primary way of teaching students about art history for years.

“There’s something really nice about being able to touch these things,” Newman said. “It’s the feeling of being able to hold a piece of history.”

People who come to the library throughout October will have the opportunity to discover interactive art in the library, but they will have to hunt for it.  A map is available at the circulation desk on the first floor.

“All the pieces are a little bit hidden,” Newman said. “The times they will be most appreciated are when people come across them unexpectedly.”