Laser Replaces Campus Art Gallery

When students returned to SUNY New Paltz for the Fall 2009 semester they may have noticed that a lot of things had changed while they were gone. The more obvious changes include a large pyramid that is being built onto the Student Union building and parking lots and walkways that are being taken over by construction fences. But something that may have gone unnoticed to some is the lack of a student exhibition gallery in the Smiley Art Building (SAB).

The room that was once used by students to coordinate their own exhibitions in a professional gallery space has been converted to a digital lab for 3-D production. According to Myra Mimlitsch-Gray, chair of the art department, the loss of the gallery space was due to a “space crunch” that is happening on campus.

“What happened was, in this very short time equipment and faculty arrived with no place to put it,” Mimlitsch-Gray said.

The new technology includes computer aided design (CAD) software that allows students to design 3-D objects in the virtual space of a computer and print it with the new 3-D printer. A new laser cutter is also available with the capability to cut through wood or create low reliefs on ceramic tile.

Along with the new equipment came new faculty members who are proficient with this cutting edge technology. Professors Jennifer Woodin and Arthur Hash are two of the newest members of the art department and are hoping to incorporate this new technology into new curriculum that will be available to all art students at New Paltz. Hash has already started using this new technology in his graduate course entitled Digital Fabrication and Woodin is teaching a ceramics class how to use the CAD software.

“People will be able to send information to companies for the output, laser cutting the same way you can send film to be developed,” Mimlitsch-Gray said. “It’s a really important opportunity for people to see how their designs can keep pace with industry.”

While this new technology may have some students excited, others are upset that they are lacking a student art gallery.

Bina Fronda, a visual arts major with a concentration in photography, displayed her work in the gallery with two other art majors last winter.

“The space was a great way to expose my work on a professional level while networking with local artists,” Fronda said. “I am deeply disappointed that the school would take away such an opportunity from students. It is already difficult enough for students to run galleries and expose their work.”

While Mimlitsch-Gray pointed out that there is no room in the budget for a new gallery space any time soon, there are other opportunities for students to display their work on campus.

The Fine Arts Building offers a sign up sheet for two-week time slots to students who want to exhibit their work in the rotunda. Also Mimlitsch-Gray and Library Outreach Coordinator Morgan Gwenwald are planning a theme based exhibit to be held in the library for the month of February. There are also plans in the works to convert the area outside of the McKenna Theatre on campus into an exhibition space.

Also housed in the SAB is the Black Box Theater, a performance space for theater students. The art and theater departments are working together to turn the space into a collaboration of the two departments.

“We are looking to cross germinate with theater in student productions that include performance but also exhibition and video,” Mimlitsch-Gray said. “That’s the way people are working now. Everyone’s working in a cross disciplinary mode.”

Students at New Paltz may have lost a gallery but in return they have gained the opportunity to explore revolutionary technology that could change the way art is made.

“What other SUNY campus can say that they’re doing 3-D printing in the art studio?” Mimlitsch-Gray said. “Students will be receiving this knowledge that they never had access to before.”

Samantha Urbanski

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