Zach Scheinfeld ’16, an art major, wanted a stronger network of artists on campus.
“What if Wesleyan were more of a place where, if we walk into each other’s rooms, we would see the works of other artists who go here?” he said.
Envisioning a more collaborative Wesleyan arts community, Scheinfeld and Gabe Gordon ’15 recently joined several other creative minds on campus to reconstruct and solidify an online platform. SWERVE(D) will not only serve as a visual gallery but also as an interactive sphere where artists and non-artists alike can create their own profiles and connect with one another. They hope that this public website will open up nonexclusive artistic interactions to the entire school.
The website, called SWERVE(D), was originally created by Laura Lupton ’12, Mark Hellerman ’12, and Dan Obzejta ’12 in 2010 as an online gallery for student artists to submit their works. The organization later expanded beyond cyberspace to on-the-ground campus shows and exhibitions. Despite its initial success, however, SWERVE(D)’s presence dwindled over the past couple of years. The last SWERVE(D) show took place at the Zilkha Gallery two years ago.
This semester, SWERVE(D)’s management fell into the hands of Gordon, who joined the group in his freshman year. Gordon met with Lupton last summer during his internship at the public arts organization Creative Time, and after conversations with her about the website, he returned to campus this fall with an initiative to revive and broaden the creative platform.
“There will always be an interest at Wesleyan in the arts,” Gordon said. “Look at how many concerts there are every weekend. Look at how many people are drawing in their dorm rooms or taking art classes. So, the interest in the group never faded, just the attention towards it.”
During the first group meeting, which took place last Wednesday at his house, Gordon described his plans to enhance the website’s function. The new version, which is still in development, will allow students to create user accounts and publish any form of artwork on their individual portfolios. Students will also be able to establish ID profiles through which they can promote themselves to the greater public. SWERVE(D)’s homepage will remain a gallery for visitors to view all artwork submitted, divided into categories. While these plans sound ambitious, these renovations have already begun. The SWERVE(D) team ultimately hopes to redefine SWERVE(D)’s presence on campus.
“In addition to creating an artist’s profile…people can log into their profile and set themselves up like, ‘I’m a writer,’ ‘I’m a painter,’ and ‘I’m an actor,’ and you’ll see all the feeds that come in labeled ‘Looking for actors, writers,’ things like that,” said Noah Masur ’15, who is in charge of the website’s technical support.
The group also aims to establish SWERVE(D) as both a vehicle for students to broadcast themselves and an agent that helps organizations and individuals find talent. Instead of having to ask a friend of a friend of a friend for some help on their film or art projects, students can simply find the right people on the website.
“Part of the founding ethos of [SWERVE(D)] is that it is non-curatorial, which means that there is no editing for quality,” Gordon said.
Gordon stressed that collaboration through SWERVE(D) is by no means exclusive. SWERVE(D) archives people’s creativity in its most genuine form. The team sees the website as a stimulus for more art-making on campus. More importantly, SWERVE(D) will provide an atmosphere for creation that is not restricted to the studio workshops. Cara Sunberg ’15, who experienced the limitations on art-making due to the school’s departmentalization, became a member of the leadership group to help spread SWERVE(D)’s accessibility to non-art majors.
“As a frustrated now-philosophy-major-once-art-major…I’m really excited for a platform for art that doesn’t have to be department-related,” Sunberg said.
The open nature of SWERVE(D) means it will cooperate and collaborate with other organizations on campus. SWERVE(D) will function as a link between art groups that already exist on campus.
“We don’t want to step on the toes of any other group of artists,” Gordon said. “We want to help pave pathways for their toes to intersect.”
Soon after the first staff meeting, SWERVE(D) teamed up with Method Magazine and Postcrypt Art Gallery at Columbia University to co-sponsor the Exquisite Corpse project. The project asked artists to create sections of a visual art piece using their own styles without knowing what any other part of the artwork looks like. Essentially, the project seeks to simultaneously explore spontaneity and imagination’s influence in art and showcase a collective whole whose beauty derives from its chaos. As co-sponsor, SWERVE(D) will be encouraging artists of all types to submit work for the event, which will open on October 24th in the Postcrypt Art Gallery.
In addition to collaborating with other art groups on campus, SWERVE(D) will also provide resources for groups in other fields seeking artistic expertise. Ultimately, Scheinfeld explained, SWERVE(D)’s purpose is to capture and enhance the college experience during which our creativity is at the peak of its freedom.
“At the end of [printmaking] class, we had a session where we would all lay out each other’s work and just trade, and give each other work, take work,” Scheinfeld said. “We are trying to create that experience that’s specific to college.”
SWERVE(D) supports student artists by opening up a universal platform for all students interested in art and further promoting creativity on and outside the campus. While the new version of SWERVE(D) is currently in development, right now Gordon and the SWERVE(D) team are seeking ways to encourage more submissions by building a stronger presence on campus.
“To say in the broadest sense, [our goal] is to get more and more people to share the work they are making in every medium, because I think the ethos of Wesleyan is to share what you are learning, share what you are making, share your ideas,” Gordon said.
Submissions to SWERVE(D) can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.