Last Thursday, the co-directors of Kitao Gallery, Tara Giangrande ’16 and Deborah Krieger ’16, sent out a campus wide notice of Kitao’s proposal for a Community Development Grant for the 2016-2017 academic year. The proposal, titled “Kitao Campus Arts Initiative” outlines an ambitious plan for fostering the development of a student arts scene on campus. The next evening, Kitao held an interest meeting to discuss the proposal.
The foundation of this proposal is the belief that the Kitao Gallery, which will potentially be relabeled “Kitao Art House”, can serve a greater function for the artistic community of the college than it has in the past. Krieger identified some of the issues that have historically plagued Kitao, pointing out that in past years Kitao has seen very sparse attendance.
“We’ve been on the board since freshman year and our experience has been, if there was an opening — and there was wine and cheese — then maybe 10 people would come. There were some really great shows that happened my freshman and sophomore years, and I would be sitting and monitoring — it would be during Arts Weekend, on a Sunday — and no one would come,” she said.
Additionally, the proposal finds a basis in the problems with the Swarthmore student art scene elucidated by Colette Gerstmann ’18 in the Phoenix Op-Ed she penned in December. As a result of the success of Kitao events held this past semester, such as the Paint the Walls Party and the Kitao Coffee Houses, the Kitao Board believes that, if given this grant, they will be able to address those issues.
The transformation of Kitao Gallery into Kitao Art House involves both physical and functional changes. One of the most significant proposed changes is that Kitao will be outfitted to function as a studio art space. The Kitao Board plans to stock various art supplies and provide a studio space so that instead of being limited to a place to display art, Kitao will become a place to create art. The Board also plans to refurbish the upstairs of the building, with the aim to create a better social space and facilitate collaborative creativity.
“We would like to start instituting open hours, so that it becomes not only a space that’s open for specific events, but a place where people can come through and collaborate together and be free do whatever their ideas are. The upstairs — there’s a room up there that we would really like to outfit as a cozy hangout/discussion/conversation space where people can go to collaborate that way. We definitely want to make a studio art component available,” Giangrande explained.
The proposal also outlines several planned events, the most prominent of which is the Fall Student Arts Festival, to be held in October. Giangrande explained that this event is meant as a display and celebration of student creativity in all forms.
“We envision it as an event that showcases student art in the broad sense, not just in the academic department sense because there are a lot of artists on campus who aren’t in departmental programs and we really want to provide a space for it to be shown. But also collaborating with the departments,” she said.
The grand plan for this event includes food, exhibitions, art workshops, live music, and more. This event would be a collaborative effort between Kitao and many other arts-related student organizations on campus, such as Olde Club and Oasis.
“Basically, we want it to be an all-day event where people are just in this area, having fun. Outside is going to be a casual space. We want to have easy crafts going on that people can come in and do as they want,” said Giangrande. “In Kitao during the day, we want to have more intensive workshops with guest artists. So, those would be an hour and a half, two hour long workshops during the day for people who really want to gain a skill.”
One of the many collaborating organizations would be the Women’s Resource Center. The Kitao Board has plans to incorporate the WRC into the Fall Student Arts Festival in a way which respects the mission of the WRC.
“WRC will likely be having an exhibition. There’s an art history course going on this semester, “Women in Art”, and we’ve talked to the professor of that, Patricia Reilly. Their findings would be exhibited at WRC,” said Giangrande.
On top of the Fall Student Arts Festival, the Board has proposed holding three Friday Arts Nights throughout the year. These events would be an expanded version of their current Kitao Coffee Houses and would also be a product of increased collaboration with the Women’s Resource Center, Olde Club, and other student artistic organizations. These events, along with Kitao’s new open hours, would allow Kitao to play a significantly larger role in supporting student art. Krieger explained the Board’s goals for the Campus Arts Initiative.
“There are often some really great things on display. We want people to get in the door, we want to prove that art really has a space on this campus that isn’t just in the academic realm,” she said. “We want people to feel that they can be a part of this space.”