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Directions in Contemporary Art zine goes on display at Street Road Artists Space

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Friday, March 5th, 2021

A month after wrapping up their online exhibition, Beyond Things Left Unsaid, a collaboration with Lancaster Museum of Art, PCA&D’s Fine Art seniors are once again on display.

A zine created by members of Prof. Henry Gepfer’s Directions in Contemporary Art Class is on exhibit at Street Road Artists’ Space. The Chester County project integrates indoor and outdoor exhibition spaces,  ongoing on-site projects, and Little Free Library Cochranville, a community gathering place and resource featuring a permanent collection as well as book exchanges in Street Road’s rural setting.

Emily Artinian, a former Fine Art Department adjunct at the College and now Director of Street Road, was the lynchpin that linked PCA&D and Street Road.

The result, Chain mail for bad communicators, has 19 works in zine form, and includes art from all 10 Fine Art seniors: Rachel Boldt, Sharnee Burnett, Karissa Deiter, Meranda Hall, Paige Hershey, Brittany Lare, Sarah Lennon, Danielle Parker, Spencer Robbins, and Mab Ulrich-Neureuter.

Chain mail for bad communicators, Fine Art seniors zine on display at Street Road Artists' Space, Cochranville. Photo courtesy Street Road.

Chain mail for bad communicators, Fine Art seniors zine on display at Street Road Artists’ Space, Cochranville. Photo courtesy Street Road.

“The original proposal or idea for this zine was to create an art version of whisper down the lane or telephone,” says Boldt, who also compiled the physical zine now on display at Street Road. “One artist began each of the two chains — each ‘telephone chain’ starts from different ends of the book,” she says. “The next artist would then make a piece responding to the art given to them with no context or explanation.”

“We’ve all had very different kinds of communication and indirect contact in the year 2020,” the Fine Art cohort said in their artists’ statement, “so it seemed relevant and nostalgic.”

The Fine Art Department, says Chair William Mammarella, has a “commitment of participating in the community. This project was an avenue for that to continue in these Covid-affected times.”

It also, says Gepfer, fits perfectly into the structure of his class, which has a collaborative element built in as an opportunity to work with an outside organization.

Chain mail for bad communicators, Fine Art seniors zine on display at Street Road Artists' Space, Cochranville. Photo courtesy Street Road.

Chain mail for bad communicators, Fine Art seniors zine on display at Street Road Artists’ Space, Cochranville. Photo courtesy Street Road.

“(Prof. Mammarella) suggested I reach out to Emily,” Gepfer says. “Emily visited our class to introduce herself and Street Road, and to facilitate a conversation on what the students thought a collaboration might look like. We had decided to pitch the idea of a publication as this would be a project that could be managed remotely” due to distance and pandemic learning protocols. Both Artinian and Gepfer, too, have histories with publication as a creative practice. Gepfer, for example, last summer curated Past Lives, a collaborative publication that benefitted working artists during pandemic shutdowns as well as The Loveland Foundation, which focuses its efforts on Black women and girls. Artinian, meanwhile, focuses her practice on artist’s books, text-based art, installations, and audience-participation works.

But what form would that publication take? “The students came up with a postal art exchange as the kernel of an idea for an exhibition,” Artinian remembers, “and then they and (Gepfer) took it from there.”

The students were on their own to organize the structure of their collaboration, and to keep themselves accountable to deadlines. Each student had to complete their pages for publication by a prescribed deadline, scan the work, and then send it on to the next artist. That next artist would then base their work on their predecessor’s, scan their own work, and continue the chain.

The physical zine that resulted, Chain mail for bad communicators, is installed in the front foyer of Street Road’s Little Free Library (1016B Gap Newport Pike, Route 41, Cochranville). Hours for the space are changeable due to the pandemic, but Chain mail for bad communicators can be viewed from outside the building.

The zine also has joined the library’s permanent collection, but it’s not the first PCA&D connection there. Little Free Library Cochranville also has a 2019 student’s artist’s book in its collection, and that same year it hosted a pop-up exhibition by Fine Art and Photography seniors with Photography & Video Prof. Julia Staples.

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