Columbia on track

By Samuel Charles

Three Columbia alumni and one graduate student won first prize in the third installment of “Art-on-Track,” a judged art exhibition to see which of the eight entries’ decorated rapid transit cars met criteria the best. The display traveled on the train tracks around the Loop on Aug. 7.

The exhibition judges decided Columbia’s train car was the best out of eight entries, which included other independent artist groups designing art galleries within trains. The winner was chosen based on three primary criteria: depth of concept, consideration of context and overall execution. Along with first prize, the group earned the title of “North American Arts Champion,” according to the group’s website.

Unlike other entries, Columbia’s exhibit had one person overseeing the entire effort. Alumnus Stephen DeSantis, a master of fine arts graduate in the interdisciplinary book and paper program, acted as curator and manager of the college’s display.

“I’m setting a standard for groups based on [Columbia’s] model because it was so successful,” said Tristan Hummel, founder of “Art-on-Track”. “Their organization was really key to their success.”

Along with DeSantis, alumnae Erin Cramer and Jackie Capozzoli, as well as current graduate student Haley Nagy, helped bring the vision to life. The four artists make up Three Blondes and a Bald Guy, a Chicago-based interdisciplinary, collaborative art group, according to the group’s website.

“Art-on-Track” is described on its website as a Chicago exhibition dedicated to increasing cultural awareness and appreciation through exposure to the fine arts.

The exhibition was held on an eight-car Orange Line train. Out of the eight different train lines, Orange Line trains have the widest aisles and most handrails. The wide aisles allowed artists to maximize their designated space, and the many handrails gave artists more places to fasten and secure their work.

Other than a few Chicago Transit Authority restrictions, such as those relating to family values standards, decency and what could be shown in public, there was no censorship of the artists’ work.

The Columbia car’s theme was a suburban home, complete with kitchen table, stove and bathroom. Hummel said because the group was so attentive to detail, photos of their car being used to promote the exhibit were almost a hindrance.

“They took the idea of transforming the space to heart,” Hummel said. “In all the photos, it doesn’t look like a train at all.”

In addition to Three Blondes and a Bald Guy, three outside actors helped give the space life. All preparations, ideas and physical building of the space were produced and conceived by Three Blondes and a Bald Guy. The project took more than a month to finish.

Not only did the judges award Columbia’s train car first prize, but everyday peoples’ opinions of their work were also positive, especially from the younger crowd.

“The reactions from the children were phenomenal,” Nagy said. “They thought they’d just walked into some kind

of wonderpark.”

Nagy said she believes the “Art-on-Track” exhibition said a lot about Columbia’s past and current students.

“It’s obvious that both the graduates of the book and paper program and the graduates of the fine arts program really know how to collaborate and come up with strong ideas

that are relevant to the contemporary art scene,” Nagy said.

Nagy and DeSantis said it would be a good idea to foster the relationship between Columbia and “Art-on-Track.”

DeSantis said Columbia’s involvement in “Art-on-Track” could be used to give students a practical, real-world experience.

“It is a really wonderful opportunity for the college to put [its] students out there and show what they do,” DeSantis said.

Nagy said she believes the college as a whole could benefit from being involved in the exhibition, not just students.

“Because it was such a success this year, I think it’s really an opportunity for the school to create a name for itself in the local art scene besides just hosting exhibits on campus,” Nagy said.