Red Room acts as alternative outlet for student artists: Local student-run arts center hosts collaborative art projects and gallery shows

Posted by Max Siegelbaum In an unassuming apartment building on Washington Street, six Skidmore students sit among cardboard boxes, egg crates, discarded construction materials and a vast array of other salvaged items. The students are diligently cutting, painting and gluing. Slowly, the material is repurposed as the room becomes more organized and less like a strangely clean trash heap. The students work through the night, and the next day, a tiny city stands.

"Crooked City," the miniature city produced by the night of work, is the second community-sourced show of Red Room, an art gallery and project center located in the apartment of four Skidmore seniors, Grace Hale, Victoria Manganiello, Aliza Cohen and Sarah Rosenblatt.

For "Crooked City," the curators scavenged the streets and dumpsters of Saratoga Springs for materials to use in the project. They then used these materials to create a surreal vision of a metropolis – complete with a religious center, shanty town, miniature swimming pool, a motel and of course, a pornography theater.

Fed up with the limited opportunities for artistic expression at the College, the four housemates decided to repurpose an unused room in their apartment into their very own art gallery. What differentiates Red Room from the established galleries of the College (other than its color) is that it is completely student run and funded.

The gallery is a community-sourced project, rather than a space curated by a select group of individuals. "We want everyone to be involved, [so] all students are invited to contribute" Cohen added. In this sense, Red Room is more a local arts center than a gallery.

One of the goals of Red Room is to provide a space for the students' friends to show their art works. "We wanted from the beginning for it to be a space for our community," said Manganiello.

Red Room is a dynamic venue for collaborative art projects. Shows like "Crooked City" demonstrate that Red Room is a venue for a more collective style of art.

As an organization, Red Room connects with potential collaborators through email chains, social networking, and word-of-mouth in order to amass likeminded students to participate in their projects. "We want members to be involved," Hale said.

All of the students expressed frustration with the constrictions of the conventional gallery space on campus. Compared to the Schick Art Gallery and Case Art Gallery, there is a greater degree of freedom at Red Room. It is an open venue for artists who choose to explore taboo and potentially offensive imagery in their work. Hale described the gallery as "open to explicitness. The works do not have to undergo censorship for fear of [college] tours."

Red Room is also free of the pressures of the College's faculty. "We want to avoid the politics of the art department," Cohen said.

The four housemates emphasize that there is a curatorial process behind the shows, and they "don't want it to just be put your art on our walls." Rosenblatt admits that although the curators have their own subjective biases, they are open to different ideas.

"Crooked City" was the second community-sourced show in the gallery. Red Room's first show, "Responses to Red," invited campus artists to interpret the color red in an array of media. From found sculpture to oil painting and woodblock prints, artists studied the color red, the emotions it evokes and the ways it is perceived.

The opening reception for the next Red Room event, a solo show by Ashton LeCraw '12, is on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 6:30 pm. Red Room is at 72 Washington Street, Apartment 8. The show, called "Animal Behavior, Human Obsession," will explore themes drawn from human and interactions with animals. According to LeCraw, it "comments on the hierarchy of humans and animals that need to be broken down."

More information on the Red Room is available at redroomgallery.wordpress.com.

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