‘Foundations’ at the Hugh McPeck Gallery

Beginner art students at UAA don’t always have the opportunity to show their work in a public setting, but once a year the Hugh McPeck Gallery hosts an exhibition of artwork pulled from the department’s 100 and 200-level classes.

The work in “Foundations” includes watercolors, digital art, sculptures, ceramics, photography and drawings. While the individual artwork is unique, the show is tied together by the thread of students taking their first steps into serious art.

“It’s kind of a big deal for freshmen and sophomores, because this is probably the first time that they’ve been in an exhibition,” Assistant Professor and “Foundations” Coordinator Garry Mealor said.

Professors who teach beginner art courses chose three of their students’ pieces to put on display, but Mealor said it’s not the full extent of the quality work coming out of those classes.

“It’s not easy picking three. I mean, I could have easily picked half the class,” he said.

Among other subjects, Mealor teaches beginning drawing and watercolor. He’s always surprised about the quality of work that comes out of the beginner art students. The progression he sees in students’ abilities from the time they start to where they end up is “unbelievable” sometimes, but it’s not without hard work.

“All of [this] represents a lot of time and effort and experimentation,” Mealor said of the pieces on display. “None of this stuff is easy.”

If someone wasn’t informed about where the work came from, Mealor thinks they’d have a hard time figuring out the pieces were done by beginners.

At the beginning of every year, Mealor said he wonders if they’ll end up with anything good enough to be featured in “Foundations,” but he’s never been let down.

Tyler Teese, a gallery manager for the Hugh McPeck, said as a student gallery, it’s part of their mission to feature work that might not otherwise have a chance to be seen.

“I think it’s really important for these first and second year students to get this opportunity to present their work at shows, because normally the rest of the art department doesn’t have this opportunity until they get to their senior year,” he said. “It kind of gives them a little bit of experience presenting their work in an exhibition.”

On the afternoon of Nov. 17, Jackie Bowling was in the gallery posing for a picture next to her photo that’s on display. It’s not her first time having her work shown publicly, but it still warranted a memento.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Bowling said.

Mealor believes most of the artists featured in “Foundations” will continue on to do good things. He remembers the first time his own work was on display and thinks that’s a moment an artist never forgets. He said if they can do it one time, they can do it again.

“It’s kind of the front door,” Mealor said.

“Foundations” will be on display at the Hugh McPeck Gallery in the Student Union until Dec. 8 with a Second Friday reception that evening from 5 to 7 p.m.