UNC Greensboro students and recently graduated alumni now have the unique opportunity to expand their artistic pursuits with the new Greensboro Project Space (GPS) student residency program, “Summer Studios: Arts on Site.”
The residency, which began with its inaugural cohort of four students in May and second in August, allows students to experiment and create with their art beyond the classroom. Each student – either a junior, senior, or recently graduated alum – gets their own gallery space in GPS. The program is made possible by the founding sponsor Maggie Triplett.
“It provides a framework and serves as a laboratory for ideas that are in the exploratory phase, and it provides students with dedicated time and space for these ideas to be realized,” says Caitlyn Schrader, the director of GPS and community engagement for the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
ENGAGING WITH THE COMMUNITY
GPS is an off-campus multi-purpose art space in downtown Greensboro, created by UNCG’s School of Art. It acts as a bridge between students and faculty in the School of Art and the community. During the residency, there were two opportunities for the public to come see the work in-progress, as well as a celebratory closing reception that was
“GPS plays a key role in expanding accessibility to the arts. Not only is it a site for engagement, but I think it also helps facilitate connection between a variety of our partner organizations,” says Schrader. “Students engaging with the community in this way is an integral part of growing their artistic practice and equips them with skills for a life in the arts.”
Senior Amiah Jones was part of the May residency cohort and jumped at the chance to join.
“I thought it was a great idea,” she says. “We got to work in the gallery, which is something you don’t hear about often for a student-level artist.”
Excited to experiment, Jones used the space and time to focus on what she describes as “exploring people” differently through painting and drawing.
“A lot of my work has to do with breaking down hierarchy and power compared to empathy in America,” says Jones, who is studying for a bachelor of fine arts in painting. “I was basically using my medium to get to know someone and try to knock down predetermined biases or things that I think about when I’m regularly getting to know someone.”
Jones hired a model who determined the direction of the project. She began by doing figure drawings of the model; then she used a two-sided painting to record her in a natural environment on one side. On the other side – she focused on questions like what makes her feel powerful compared to what makes her feel free.
“I started as a chemistry major at UNCG, so I was always interested in the variables that make up the things we might not think about when we first run into them,” Jones says. “I was also really into the philosophy classes, and I wanted to break down the ways that we absorb someone else without the hierarchy. I want to see what it’s like to have a free mind completely.”
PLAYING WITH ABSURDITY
Like Jones, recent alum Ashe Smith ’23 was also excited for the opportunity to experiment artistically.
“I got to create on my own without having to follow a teacher’s guidelines. So, I could just play around and create something that’s a little different than what I could do in a classroom,” says Smith, who earned a bachelor of fine arts in sculpture and ceramics.
Smiths’ work focused on taking found objects from the community, or the UNCG surplus, and turning them into other objects while keeping the integrity of their their same shape. For example, Smith took televisions and altered them in different ways. While they still appeared to be TVs, it provoked viewers to consider this object differently than one usually would.
“It’s playing with the absurdity of things,” Smith says. “I deal with mental illness, and sometimes your brain can take over and come up with really absurd, crazy situations that aren’t real. I’m playing with that concept.’
As an alum, the residency has given Smith a soft landing of sorts into the world of professional art.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” says Smith. “When you’re in school, you’re creating what you know, and professors give you guidelines. This time, I have no rules but if I get stuck, I still have someone to turn to for help.”
Applications for the next cohort will open in Spring 2024 and are open only to School of Art students/alumni.
“GPS is an educational resource that is by and for our UNCG students,” says Schrader. “I really want to educate the students around this fact and continue to develop and facilitate opportunities for our students to engage with our space in new ways.”
Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications