When the University of Delaware decided three years ago to lease space in Philadelphia's historic Crane Building, the goals were twofold.
In addition to marketing the graduate arts program to prospective MFA students (applications have doubled since 2008), the satellite gallery presented a unique opportunity to promote knowledge and spark an intellectual dialogue within a larger regional arts community.
"Research, in the traditional sense, is about the creation, cultivation and disseminating of new knowledge," says Janet Hethorn, professor and chair of the Department of Art. "So how does that work in the arts? In the very same way."
UD@Crane is, as the name suggests, a two-story, 3,000-square- foot space leased by the University at the Crane Building in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. Originally designed as a plumbing warehouse, the massive four-floor building that spans an entire city block is now home to an eclectic community of artists and institutions, with schools such as the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University's Tyler School of the Arts exhibiting there.
For the University of Delaware, the space in one of the country's most vibrant urban arts communities "allowed us to be part of what's happening in contemporary art and help lead that conversation," says Hethorn.
With six exhibitions a year — an annual "New Blood" show each fall that highlights the works of incoming MFA students, a final show in the spring for graduating MFA students to display their thesis presentations, and four broader exhibitions in between — UD@Crane has increased both the University's presence and prominence in the creative exploration of the arts.
"Our exhibitions are never of just one artist; they are always about ideas," explains curator Anthony Vega. "Our goal is to put together different pieces to make up a whole conversation."
Previous exhibitions have ranged from ceramic sculptures depicting the "idiosyncratic approaches to the ancient medium of clay" by second-year graduate students, to performances and paintings by students, faculty, alumni and prominent national artists exploring "the complexity of meaning within the continuum of being Asian."
The most recent exhibition, "Faction Politic," examined fashion and its relationship to the body, and demonstrated the successful partnership between the departments of Art, and Fashion and Apparel Studies, and artists at the University of California-Davis, who contributed pieces to the exhibit.
"Collaborating with departments and scholars outside of the art department," says Hethorn, "is part of what makes this experience so special."
Students and faculty in the English Department have given poetry readings there, and the gallery has even been used as the site of performance art created by Ashley Pigford, an assistant professor in art, and Marianne Gythfeldt, associate music professor.
As Hethorn puts it, "Art has no boundaries. It permeates our being, and this venue affords us an incredible opportunity to explore the role of artistic conversation in everyday life and create meaningful discussions that extend well beyond the walls of an art gallery."
Indulge yourself in this exploration of the over-done, overwhelming and often-unnecessary nature of decadence.
A possible collaboration on the myriad concepts and tensions found in "economy," from the notions of use and elegance, to finances and social debt.
How does choice relate to art, politics and the notions of self?
Graduating MFA students exhibit their thesis presentations.