c/o Caleb Henning, Arts and Culture Editor, Head Layout Editor

c/o Caleb Henning, Arts and Culture Editor, Head Layout Editor

The “Sum of Its Parts,” a gallery focused on art exhibitions that feature a collaboration between multiple artistic disciplines, opened on Thursday, Jan. 25 in Olin Memorial Library. Altogether, the exhibit posits the question: What are the best spaces of creation on campus?

In Fall 2023, four students—Ellie Salinas ’24, Marina Cañedo-Argüelles MA ’24, Emerson Jenisch ’25, and Loren Wang ’25—took the class “Composition Across the Arts: Theory And Practice of Interdisciplinary Curating” (DANC212), in which each student curated a glass display case called a vitrine. The class, taught by Center for the Arts (CFA) Director Joshua Lubin-Levy ’06, focused on understanding perceptions of the CFA across campus, culminating in an exhibit focused on the CFA and its role at the University. While each vitrine was curated separately, the students collaborated on the name for the overall exhibit—“Sum of Its Parts,” which was taken from an archival document—and gave each other feedback on their work.

“[Jenisch] found something that was part of one of the records for the CFA. I think it was one of the initial plans for the CFA,” Salinas said. “So, in some ways, that also ties into what we’re doing about the CFA, ’cause it’s actually coming from one of the pages that’s from the creation or the development of the CFA.” 

Each vitrine takes up a quarter of the hallway on the first floor of Olin where the exhibit is located, and is labeled with vinyl lettering displaying the name of each project and the student who curated it. Above each vitrine rests a poster with a description of what’s inside it and some pictures that go along with it. All together, the vitrines stand out as cohesive parts without losing their individuality, truly capturing the spirit of “Sum of Its Parts.” 

One of the famous features of the University is the various tunnels that run through the buildings, whether in the CFA, the Foss Hill dormitories, the Butterfield Colleges, or elsewhere. These tunnels are captured through several dimly lit images in the vitrine “Tunnel Fever: Working in unclaimable dimensions.” Wang depicts this with a poster for a performance in addition to some old photos, student projects, and a poem from 1997 published in The Argus exploring the feelings inspired by the tunnels. The exhibit allows the viewer to consider tunnels in the context of creative spaces on campus, especially since the tunnels between the CFA buildings seemingly symbolize the interdisciplinary nature of art forms in the process of creation.

Salinas put together a vitrine showcasing the work that dance clubs do around campus. While the theme of the course was focused on the interdisciplinary nature of the CFA, Salinas chose to focus on the presence of dance in spaces outside of the buildings that comprise the complex, often in churches, outdoor patios, or houses rather than on stages. The vitrine’s name—“Outsider’s Dance”—captures this feeling of separation from the CFA.

“One way to showcase [dance] is showing actual shots of dancers in performance, especially in spaces that are not in the CFA, in a space that advocates for art and advocates, even more so, for student art,” Salinas said. “However, students don’t really dance at the CFA unless it’s part of a theater production. A lot of us technically aren’t part of that community.” 

The vitrine consists of vibrant and colorful images of dance performances by student groups including K-pop Dance Crew (KDC), X-Tacy The Collective, Precision Troupe, SUYA, Fusion Dance Crew, and Collective Motion, all surrounding a black-and-white page full of images of dancers from the Sep. 24, 2019 edition of The Argus. Each photo is accompanied by a small note that describes the group performing, the person who took the photo, and the year the performance took place. While many of the other vitrines utilized pieces from Special Collections & Archives, these photos were mostly taken by student photographers and highlighted performances that took place in the last five or so years. The recency on display here is especially striking given the exhibit’s overall focus on the CFA, which has just celebrated its 50th anniversary, once again highlighting the fact that dance on campus exists much outside the CFA’s sphere.

The focus on photography of dance, rather than the movement itself, allows the viewer to slow down and appreciate the beauty of the performances on display. A lot of the photographs unintentionally centered the scenery around the dancers, emphasizing the contrast between their upbeat, modern, and fun movements and the organ in the Memorial Chapel or the windows of Exley Science Center. 

Cañedo-Argüelles, who is a Foreign Language Teaching Assistant and master’s student, explores the work of dramatist and set designer Robert Edmond Jones, who believed that dreams allow people to be more awake and alive, through her vitrine, “House of dreams.” The vitrine is the most abstract of the four on display, bringing together a large set drawing, a letter by Jones, a page from an illuminated manuscript, and a beautifully decorated book bound in gold-tooled vellum. All of the pieces on display were taken from Special Collections & Archives and date back to the early 1900s, making them even older than the CFA. 

“I didn’t know what to do this about, because it’s my first year here and my last one, and I didn’t know anything about Wesleyan,” Cañedo-Argüelles said. “So I started on the webpage of the archive, just putting in words that I like, like theater or set design, and I found the drawings of Robert Edmond Jones.” 

While the vitrine doesn’t deal directly with the CFA as a set of buildings, it explores the concept of theater, which takes up a large part of the CFA through the theater department, studios, and stage. The abstractness of the vitrine allows viewers to put together their own story of how these elements relate to theater and our experiences of it as a dream-like state. 

Jenisch has curated a collection of various posters and listings of past performances of music, including those of both modern and classical music, in a vitrine called “Sounds from the: Inside/Outside/and Otherwise.” The numerous spaces are also included in a map that illustrates all the performance spaces in the CFA, as well as when and where other music spaces have opened up over time. The list of unconventional spaces that have become more important in the music scene on campus is particularly striking, as the same locations where we view performances today were also used by many performers throughout the University’s history.

The exhibit showcases amazing work by students and all the different ways that the CFA, as well as the departments that reside in and outside of it, touch our lives. We highly recommend that you spend some time looking at it the next time you’re in Olin before it closes on Sunday, May 24!

Ting Tsai can be reached at ttsai@wesleyan.edu
Caleb Henning can be reached at chenning@wesleyan.edu.