Students hang out with friends over cups of coffee and rounds of pool in TDU, their conversations framed by large photos displayed on the walls around them. In the Airport Lounge, more of these student-shot photos surround study sessions on comfy couches. These accessible art spaces are the product of JMU’s student-run Madison Union Art Galleries.
This two-person gallery team showcases student photography, allowing students to share their creativity on the very walls fellow Dukes see every day. Rather than display these pieces of art in inconvenient locations, these gallery spaces are in public areas, so that the artists and their work can be properly appreciated. Senior Lauren Hunt is already feeling the gratification of having her own show.
“It’s nice to be celebrated,” Hunt says. The SMAD major is referring to her upcoming photography show, which debuts November 10th in the Airport Lounge. “A lot of times when you take pictures for someone you don’t get recognition…It’s always about the subject of the pictures, but not the person who took them.”
Photography and art students frequently have their work celebrated in locations like Duke Hall, but students from other majors aren’t offered opportunities to publicly share their artistic talent. Students from all majors are encouraged to submit their work to the Madison Union Art Galleries, either for one of their contest shows, or a solo show.
Past shows reflect not just photography talent, but students’ passions for nature, travel and volunteerism. At last semester’s Alternative Spring Break show, inspiring images of student service trips to exotic lands reminded all of JMU students’ big hearts.
Each semester the gallery team brainstorms themes for upcoming shows and puts out a call for submissions. Interested photographers submit their photos to the gallery team online for consideration. The gallery team reviews submissions and contacts photographers to inform if they’ve been selected for a show. Once artists have been selected, they work with the gallery team to work out the captions for the photos and date of the gallery openings.
Every three weeks the gallery team rotates through the two spaces, putting up new student- submitted photos, which remain in the gallery spaces for six weeks. Having the gallery spaces on different schedules allows for new life to be brought to campus on a regular basis. The gallery team prints high quality copies of the artists’ photos with their state of the art Epson and HP printers.
Students, faculty and friends are all invited to the public grand opening of the photography shows. The show’s contributing artists and gallery team greet attendees, offering light refreshments and conversation. These events last a few hours and welcome the artwork to their new home in the gallery spaces.
“[The gallery openings] are my favorite part of the job,” engineering major and gallery co-director Kathryn Mahach said. These openings are also particularly special for the artists themselves.
Though this is Hunt’s first solo show at JMU, she is no stranger to photography. After receiving her first “point and shoot” camera at age 13, she found a certain creative freedom in photography.
“I could actually make art to look the way I wanted it to look,” Hunt recalls. Receiving a DSLR camera at 17 and studying photography in high school reinforced the emerging passion’s importance in her life. At JMU, Hunt is the managing editor for The Breeze, and occasionally takes her own photos for stories. Hunt’s upcoming show features photos from her study abroad trip to London, architecture and landscapes.
For more information, visit the Madison Union Art Galleries website and find out how to submit your own work. Next time you’re sneaking a nap in at the Airport lounge, be sure to notice the passion hanging on the walls around you.