An interview with leaders of ArtMatters

The Record had the opportunity to speak with two of the current leaders of ArtMatters, Langley Eide ’98 and Yung-En Chen ’99, about their hopes and plans for the organization.

Record: What prompted you to form a group like ArtMatters? What need did you see for such a group in the Williams community?

Langley Eide: ArtMatters existed on the Williams campus when I was a sophomore. I wanted to revive the organization. ArtMatters’ primary role is integrate and coordinate the disparate art interests on campus.

Yung-En Chen: During the fall of this year, I went to the weekly Art Lunch to munch on some grub and to discuss art issues at Williams with some professors. While there, I met Langley. We talked about involving Williams students with the local Art community by visiting and interning at places like NoBIAS (North Bennington Independent Artist Space), MassMoCA and the Norman Rockwell Museum. The focus of our discussion revolved around students volunteering at NoBIAS. I find it important to be able to place our education in some sort of larger context, to have an idea of how we can apply what we learn in school. Working at a non-profit arts organization seems like a logical step for artists and art historians.

Another one of our goals was to have dialogue between students in the studio Art and Art history departments. This could apply to studio art majors recieving informal critiques of thier work. As a studio art major myself, I like having feedback about my pieces. And what better way to do it than to have students trained in looking at art respond? Art history students have repertoirs of images that they can share with studio art students. [Such an exchange] helps both participants. Art historians sharpen their analytical skills and articulate their thoughts. Artists sharpen their ability to make their pieces have that visual punch. This dialogue would create that sense of an academic community that originally attracted me to Williams.

Record: What unique opportunities will ArtMatters offer the average, and potentially art-illiterate, Williams student?

Langley: I think one of the most exciting opportunities presented by ArtMatters is the chance to work with professionals in the art community outside of Williams.

Yung-En: At the Art Lunch, we have informal discussions about pretty much anything from recent pieces in the Wilde gallery to the WCMA shows to recent gossip in the art community.[Also], the trips to NoBIAS and local museums are open to everyone, and anyone who’s interested in leaving the campus for a while to look at art can do so.

Record: How could art be made a more prominent and integral part of life at Williams?

Langley: I think most members of the college community have encountered art at some point in their Williams experience. Whether in the classroom, at the museums, or through artist-friends, they generally have a high level of art-awareness. ArtMatters hopes to publicize events like student exhibitions to as wide an audience as possible.

Yung-En: Public art projects would be a great thing. Last year [there were some] pretty neat public art projects; I remember one with S.T.O.P stickers. Hopefully some more dramatic public art projects can be pursued too. Maybe someone transforming Baxter hall into a clean white space could be interesting… The key is student participation.

Record: What specific plans does the group have for the near future?

Langley: We are bringing a speaker to campus in April.

Yung-En: We’re also planning a kick-ass New York trip. Two big places that we want to hit are the DIA Center for the Arts in Chelsea and PS1. Both art spaces are huge and have really uplifting and creative pieces. There was an article in the NY Times about a large Richard Serra piece in DIA. The piece consists of these huge cylidrical planes that are one foot thick and probably two stories tall. I’ve seen it. Viewing the sculptures feels like a huge cold wave enveloping you. We are hoping we could transport some Williams students to the Big Apple to experience that.

Record: Two of your three current founding members (Langley Eide and Kaiva Klimanis) are graduating seniors, so you won’t be around to lead the group or to enjoy its efforts for very long. How do you intend to keep the group going? How will you spark an interest in art that will be maintained?

Langley: Great question! We are eager to get underclassmen involved in the planning of the organization, because the key to its success is continuity.

Yung-En: We are working closely with the Art Studio faculty to make ArtMatters an established organization. They just gave us some funding, so they are willing to support us fininacially. The next step is for professors to encourage students to participate in these events. We want a lot of involvement from students in any and all majors. We think that the trips, the lectures, and the Art Lunch discussions are exciting enough that Williams students will want to continue Art Matters in the future.