OCU welcomes the Symbiotic collaborative art series to Hulsey Gallery 

click to enlarge from left Student artists Courtney Segrest, Matthew Wakeham and Noelle Moon meet with Adam Lanman to discuss plans for their Symbiotic sculpture installation. | Photo Symbiotic / provided
  • from left Student artists Courtney Segrest, Matthew Wakeham and Noelle Moon meet with Adam Lanman to discuss plans for their Symbiotic sculpture installation. | Photo Symbiotic / provided

In 2016, local ceramic artist Jarica Walsh co-curated the first Symbiotic exhibition with friend Katie Pendley at University of Oklahoma’s Lightwell Gallery. The show presented an unusual opportunity for student artists, pairing them with established local career artists.

It was originally a one-off exhibit, but as Walsh and Pendley saw how well the collaborative sessions between artists were going and received positive feedback from participating students, they began to see it as something more.

“At that point, I started thinking, ‘This should happen again,’” Walsh said.

Symbiotic moves from OU to Oklahoma City University for its latest installment. This is the first show in the series to take place outside Norman.

Guests can enjoy works in multiple mediums from seven artist teams. An opening reception is scheduled 6-8 p.m. Friday at OCU’s Nona Jean Hulsey Gallery. The gallery is located inside the school’s Norick Art Center, 1609 NW 26th St.

Participating community artists are invited to work with the students who are selected by curators through an application on Symbiotic’s website. Students participating in the latest show come not only from OCU, but OU, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Christian University, the University of Central Oklahoma and Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

Artist teams include Autumn Brown with students Van Nguyen and Abbie Sears; Adam Lanman with Noelle Moon, Courtney Segrest and Matthew Wakeham; Steffanie Halley with Kyla Bruegel and Emily Spalding; Dan Harris with Reva Kashikar and BJ Stepp; Mandy Messina with Sidney Bernbaum and Shakurah Maynard; Marissa Raglin with Jasmine Jones; and Romy Owens with Rebecca Curtis, Alyssa Howery and Jake Jones.

With founding curator Pendley busy with graduate school, Walsh handled curating duties solo for this show. In some past Symbiotic exhibits, Walsh and Pendley worked to create their own art as well, but the extra work became cumbersome. This year, Walsh is consolidating her efforts.

“I realized that was something I didn’t want to do,” she said. “I didn’t want to make art for a show that I’m curating.”

Bridging gaps

The first Symbiotic show was born out of a call for proposals by OU’s Lightwell Gallery. Walsh and Pendley had already been talking about doing a show together before they saw the call and submitted their own proposal.

“Because we were wanting to collaborate,” Walsh said, “it made sense to do a show on collaborations.”

Walsh said she knew this kind of show was something that would interest college-student artists.

“[While attending school,] I felt really separate from the Oklahoma City arts scene,” she said. “I knew if I was feeling that way, the other students were as well.”

Symbiotic is a good way for young artists to get their foot in the door and establish relationships in the art community that will be beneficial to them after graduation.

Walsh, who was also named associate director at Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC) in 2017, first began attending OU after high school. She studied film but got burned out on college after a few years and put school on hold.

In 2013, she made the decision to return to school and finish her degree. This time around, she put all her focus on her new passion: ceramics.

“I fell in love to where I wanted to do that all the time,” she said.

Walsh currently maintains Paseo Arts District’s Walsh Pottery with fellow artist and husband Timothy Walsh. She said one of her greatest passions is working with other artists curating Symbiotic and other shows.

“Curating is fun to do,” she said. “It’s endlessly interesting.”

click to enlarge from left Noelle Moon, Courtney Segrest and Matthew Wakeham are three of the 15 student artists participating in the collaborative Symbiotic art exhibition at Oklahoma City University. | Photo Symbiotic / provided
  • from left Noelle Moon, Courtney Segrest and Matthew Wakeham are three of the 15 student artists participating in the collaborative Symbiotic art exhibition at Oklahoma City University. | Photo Symbiotic / provided

Increased accessibility

Walsh is looking for more ways to make Symbiotic interactive. The new exhibit opening will include a mural wall on which community members can write.

On Saturday, Brown hosts a free (and currently full) papier-mâché workshop that is open to the public. As part of Symbiotic, Brown and her team made a papier-mâché dress that lights up when a button is pushed. Walsh said in the future, she would like more, if not all, participating artists to hold free workshops.

When Symbiotic finishes its OCU run, the artwork will make its way to Fowler Volkswagen of Norman, one of the exhibit’s main sponsors. This is the first time Symbiotic has sent its work to Fowler, and it will likely be the first time many future customers have ever seen an elaborate local art installation at a car dealership.

“I like the idea of taking it out of the gallery and making it more accessible,” Walsh said. “I like the idea of people who are just out shopping for a car and then they just run into this art.”

When people talk about Symbiotic, they often mention how greatly it benefits the student artists involved. But Walsh thinks the community artists have multiple things to gain from the experience as well.

Working with younger artists keeps the established on their toes. As student artists benefit from exposure to the larger art community, current members of that community benefit from outside perspectives.

“I think any time you’re working with a young artist, you’re getting inspired,” she said. “You’re finding out about new things, whether it’s cultural or sometimes even art stuff.”

Visit symbioticoklahoma.com.

Print headline: Creative symmetry; OCU welcomes the Symbiotic collaborative art series to Hulsey Gallery.

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