Thomas Hunter Projects begins its new seasonPeter Dunifon
If you’ve never been to the basement of the Thomas Hunter building, you’re not alone. Far removed from the rest of Hunter’s Art Department, located on the eleventh floor of Hunter North, is the school’s ceramics studio, a sculptor’s haven. A fine film of dust covers everything: tables, stools, plastic-wrapped creations, and students’ clothes that can be seen draped over the artwork. Just past this tableau, nestled snuggly in the back of the room, exists a hidden jewel in Hunter College: The Project Room.
The Thomas Hunter Projects are comprised of the Project Room and another exhibition-friendly space by the elevators. The space is for a variety of different ceramic artists. It is used to exhibit experimental ceramics work. For the ceramics department at Hunter, it’s possibly their greatest asset, and best kept secret.
The Thomas Hunter Projects were created in the summer of 2010 after Paul Krauss, the ceramics area technician, moved to a new room. Shortly after Krauss’ departure, the ceramics department chair, Jeff Mongrain re-imagined how the room could be used.
In a decision made with the rest of the ceramics faculty, Mongrain turned the room into “a not-for-profit, experimental, exhibition space.” According to Mongrain, the main purpose of the room is education. Unless you are one of the fifty-six or so students enrolled in ceramics this semester, it’s easy to miss out on the exhibition space.
For students interested in ceramics and sculpture the Projects are a unique resource. Not only do students get to work in a professional studio setting, they also get to work with the exhibiting artists, and learn from them first hand.
Many ceramics faculty members can attest to the benefits of exposure in art environment. The days of solely using slide-show lectures are over. Now teachers can simply walk with their students into the Project Room, providing them with a more intimate learning experience.
Advanced students interested in pursuing art beyond Hunter College will soon be able to help artists with the installation process.
Magaret P. Coleman, an artist based out of Brooklyn, and a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s MFA program in ceramics, started working as the Projects’ curator in January. In collaboration with the ceramics department faculty members, she helps choose the exhibiting artists, and she works with them to organize special events.
She manages to do it it all without a budget. Only in its second year, the Projects are mostly an informal affair. Artists have done almost everything themselves, from installation to basic gallery maintenance. “It’s different than a gallery,” she said. “It’s more casual, it’s right there, and it’s really accessible.”
Without the pressures brought on by art world formalities, the Projects are rather relaxed. “It’s a little more low key; it’s a little more experimental,” Coleman said.
Each exhibit is unique. For example, starting in late August, Roxanne Hillier
took the Project Room and filled it with rosemary plants, that were spread across the floor. During the exhibition’s three weeks, the smell permeated throughout the ceramics department.
Starting the week of September 12th, the Project Room has been occupied by the work of Erick Miller. His work emulates everyday objects: a camera, a baseball bat, and a suitcase, among others. All the objects are slightly enlarged, and in shiny glazes are reminiscent of cartoons.
Starting in mid-October, students’ art will be exhibited in the Projects as well. In the Project Space, each ceramics class will display their cumulative works for a week.
So far the Projects have worked well for the department, and Mongrain has little plan to change that. “I see it kind of staying just as it is,” he said.
“I want to keep this simple. If it gets anymore involved, there’s gonna be some committee somewhere,” he said.
So don’t expect a flyer thrown in your face. But be warned, the Projects are there, and they are free to the public.