Part I: Students behind the Faculty Biennial, Jaymi Vilardo and Isiah Bates
Thursday, March 11th, 2021
Part 1 of a series highlighting the students who worked behind the scenes to make the Faculty Biennial.
The Faculty Biennial is an important tradition that celebrates faculty members for their dedication to the College’s mission and showcases their creative talents. This year’s rendition of the exhibit has been enhanced by the hard work and creative flair of a team of Gallery student workers: Isiah Bates ’22, and Jaymi Vilardo ’22, both Fine Art; Na’Chelle Morris ’22, and Cameren White ’24, both Photography & Video.
Bates and Vilardo are in their second semester of working at the Main Gallery under the mentorship of Director of Exhibitions Alana Coates. Additionally, both Bates and Vilardo work at the student-managed exhibition space, CORE Gallery, where they have been developing a firm grasp of the exhibition process and a key eye for spatial configuration. After demonstrating great aptitude and growth in their roles, Bates and Vilardo were selected for the opportunity to fill the role of Exhibition Designer for the Faculty Biennial.
As Exhibition Designers, they were tasked with the total viewer experience, arranging the artwork’s layout and creating a mood for the space. They selected colors for the accent walls, determined the label presentation, helped install the artwork, and made major decisions for the exhibition’s overall artistic direction.
Featured artists in the 2021 Faculty Biennial include Pamela Barby, Becky Blosser, Linda King Brown, Maria Cummings-Miller, Jon di Venti, Christina Hess, Johan Klingler, William Mammarella, Justin Phillips, Dr. Jessica Sponsler, Aaron Thompson, Jeremy Waak, Eric Weeks, and Robert Young—all of the College’s full-time faculty.
The pair also conducted studio visits with the faculty, studying their practices and the intent behind works in the exhibit. Working tirelessly over the winter break, they explored exhibition themes and possible titles, made mockups, and conceptualized the flow of the Gallery space.
“It was easier to focus on the show during winter break because I was able to focus more on the work I was doing,” Bates says. “However, working from home definitely does come with its own set of challenges.” Vilardo agrees, adding that working on a project as large as this, it was nice to have “time to focus solely on the project. Not having other work to get completed simultaneously made it easier to spread out and pace the layout design.”
It’s not typical for students to work on a Faculty Biennial in a college or university setting. This, though, is one of the advantages of the student experience at PCA&D. Students can have more active involvement in all of the exhibitions due to the College’s small size, the Main Gallery’s mentorship program, and nurturing nature of the faculty.
This project presented a bit of a role reversal for Bates and Vilardo, who were charged with handling works by their professors. And both admit it felt a little intimidating — at least at the start.
“I think there was a little pressure,” Vilardo says, “but, overall, I was extremely grateful and excited for this opportunity.” “They are our professors,” Bates notes, “but it helped that each interaction felt as if I were working with another professional in the art field.” Vilardo was present for the studio visit with Prof. Justin Phillips and recalls it as the most exciting learning experience in the process. As an emerging curator during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was her first-ever studio visit experience.
Working with faculty art, Vilardo says, felt similar in some ways to the exhibitions she’s helped stage with CORE Gallery, but the biennial “had different challenges.
“It was easier because we didn’t have to think about theming or anything like that, but it was harder to figure out placement with pre-selected pieces. I usually place pieces by color, size, and tone, but when you don’t select the artworks, the tone is kind of already set for you. It also takes away some of the time you get to familiarize yourself with the work, which also made it different, but it was a great learning experience. Isiah and I selected (a) dark gray color for the gallery to help the artwork stand out. The color we chose has been used in the gallery before, so we knew what it looked like, and after we mocked it up, we decided it would be great in contrast to the white walls and vibrant works.”
The Gallery at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design uses art-based learning alongside artist-centered and community-focused programming to enable critical thinking and encourage dialogue with global perspectives for both the PCA&D and broader Lancaster communities. Located on Lancaster’s Gallery Row at 204 North Prince Street, the Gallery is temporarily closed to outside visitors at this time. The Faculty Biennial is currently on display for the campus community to enjoy, and the public can view the exhibit and accompanying publication online at pcad.edu/gallery.
Photos of Bates and Vilardo by Na’Chelle Morris ’22, Photography & Video; photo graphic by John Hollas ’21, Graphic Design.