slice of life

SUArt Galleries is giving students a look into art history with its new exhibit

Casey Russell | Feature Editor

SUArt Galleries hosts multiple exhibitions throughout the year -- "Art For Every Home" is its latest.

There’s art just about everywhere on the Syracuse University campus. From any vantage point on the quad, a number of sculptures are within view — paintings or portraits can be found when strolling down the halls of an academic building.

Now, picture the walls of any home you’re familiar with. There’s probably a piece of art hanging somewhere.

Art has become a seemingly commonplace facet of American life — but art wasn’t always this way. That’s what SUArt Galleries is reminding the community of with its newest exhibition, “Art For Every Home: Associated American Artists, 1934-2000.” Opening Thursday in Shaffer Art Building, the gallery will remain on campus through March 19.

Hailing from the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art at Kansas State University, “Art For Every Home” is now on the final stop of a national tour. The exhibition contains 136 different objects, consisting of mostly prints, but it also contains ceramics and fabrics in the forms of swatches and products such as bathing suits.

It’s all the work of artists Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry and Grant Wood — a trio that became known in the 20th century for their work with publishing group Associated American Artists.

AAA, as the exhibition’s name suggests, began in 1934. Emily Dittman, exhibition and collection manager at SUArt Galleries, likened AAA to an organization that published a “Sears catalogue for artwork.” AAA’s publications enabled Americans who lived in places where galleries weren’t accessible to purchase art at a relatively low cost for their home — and have it delivered right to their doorstep.

“(AAA) kind of spearheaded this movement to get artwork to the common, everyday people,” Dittman said. “They could afford, then, to bring original artwork into their homes to decorate, to appreciate.”

Today, of course, these groundbreaking catalogues have mostly faded out due to something that has the habit of making the 20th century obsolete — the internet, namely its ability to host commercial galleries. Dittman said that she still sees the spirit of AAA in sites like Etsy, a place where consumers can still find and order a piece of affordable, original artwork.

The changed times haven’t stopped SUArt Galleries from celebrating the lasting impact of what AAA did for the perception of art. Director Dominic Iacono is a member of the Print Council of America, and over the years he had developed bonds with the curators of “Art for Every Home.” Considering the large print collection from AAA artists that is already in place at SUArt Galleries, Dittman said it made sense to bring this kind of exhibit to SU. So they did.

The textile and print aspects of the exhibition, Dittman said, offer a good connection to other departments on campus — something SUArt Galleries is proud to do. This interdepartmental bond will be especially visible when Jeffrey Mayer, professor of fashion and a curator at SU’s Sue Ann Genet Costume Collection, gives one of five lectures related to the exhibition’s materials. The lectures, which start on Feb. 9, will run at 6 p.m. every following Thursday during the exhibition’s run.

Another event taking place during the exhibition’s stay will be a reception on Thursday, Feb. 2 from 5-7 p.m. The gallery’s normal hours are Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

It’s Dittman’s hope that during those hours, people from all parts of the community can come to realize what “Art for Every Home” is all about.

Said Dittman: “It’s a beautiful show, but it’s also very much about that concept of trying to reach people and educate them about looking at art and appreciating art.”

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