The Perspective Gallery in Squires offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of college with a calming gallery displaying thought-provoking art. Tucked inside a hallway, the gallery’s glass doors let anyone peek inside and get a glimpse at the curation of pieces. The Perspective Gallery was created to advance patronage of the arts and make art more accessible to students. There are about five exhibits a year, with artists of all walks of life (including students and alumni) getting to showcase their work to the Virginia Tech community.
The current exhibit is called “Stories of West Africa,” by Hollis Chatelain. According to VT Campus Life, Chatelain’s work details what she saw in her 12 years living in Africa. Each piece is a quilt, using fabric and designs from the area and screen printed photographs. Chatelain colors in and then hand-sews intricate detailing, colors and shadows into the design, bringing a striking photograph to life on the fabric. The exhibit uses traditional crafts to create high art influenced by the beauty of daily life and African fabrics.
Robin Scully, the art program director for the Perspective Gallery, was introduced to the artist about three years ago. Scully loved how the art wove in activism and was built around the artist’s work in the Peace Corps.
“The pieces are influenced by the community life and beauty,” Scully said. “They share the beauty of the African lifestyle. I’m drawn to activists that create easily-accessible methods of art and activism.”
Chatelain says: “The twelve years I lived in Africa have deeply influenced me. I feel Americans should know more about the joy, harmony, and pride of the African people, rather than only hearing about the suffering and turmoil so commonly depicted in the media. I would like viewers to see my African imagery as a tribute to a people I truly admire and respect.” The exhibit will run until Oct. 17.
After “Stories of West Africa” is the Biennial Student Exhibit, a social commentary on women’s image and social issues present in Carnival, the traditional Brazilian festival signaling the beginning of Lent in the Catholic Church. This exhibit will run from Oct. 26 to Dec. 18, and the artist is Virginia Tech Ph.D. student Leslie Ann C. R. Toney.
Students interested in art and the Perspective Gallery can get involved in a number of ways. Emily Bell, a senior studying clinical neuroscience, worked the front desk when I stopped in and shared why she loved working at the Perspective Gallery. Bell helps set up between exhibits, answers questions, maintains the gallery and is an art outreach coordinator for the department.
“My favorite part about working here is getting to be around art all the time and our fun activities outside the gallery too,” Bell said. “On most Mondays, I host a destressing coloring table about the Perspective Gallery from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.”
Over the summer, Bell also hosted a watercolor painting table for kids visiting the Blacksburg Farmers Market on Wednesdays.
“I love working with students,” Scully said. “It’s the most rewarding part, a job that’s allowed me to blend skill sets and perfectly suited for my passion: working in the arts.”
The gallery is a great example of trying to make art more attainable and widespread in college culture. The space is inviting and calming, drawing anyone to pop their head inside and spend some quiet time reflecting on the exhibit. Educating students to become patrons of the arts doesn’t have to be difficult; all one has to do is walk in and learn something from the pieces.