By Blake Nelson
Saturday afternoon hosted one of the University of Nevada, Reno’s most detailed investigations into art — the Art History & Visual Culture Studies Student Forum. Conducted with a host of students, graduates and faculty, the forum covered topics that ranged centuries and issues in art. Visitors were greeted with comestibles and an inviting, yet informative atmosphere that generated discussion from the crowd.
With a short welcome from the heads of the organization, Janaye Lunsford and Dr. Brett Van Hoesen, the forum began. After Ashley Westwood and Megan Kay took the stage in the Wells Fargo Auditorium in the Knowledge Center, the two gave the audience of around 20 students and faculty the keynote address.
Westwood, who graduated from UNR in 2010 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting, spoke about the influences on her work and how she tries to capture a certain aspect of animal spirituality in her work. Most of her work consists of animals represented ethereally to further illuminate the theme of what might be left behind in the situation of violent animal death at the hands of humans.
Kay then gave her speech on the topic of contemporary art in Reno. Kay graduated from UNR in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in art with an art history minor. Through her research into Reno’s art scene and her job as the art installer for the Nevada Arts Council’s Touring Exhibition, Kay spoke on the trends of contemporary art in Reno and how the past shapes the present.
The two keynote addresses primed the rest of the forum with their in-depth approach to an aspect of art. Dr. Elizabeth Cummins took the stage as the discussant for the first panel, which consisted of three students, each exploring a certain aspect of art history through the lens of contemporary study.
Although each student’s interest in art history was quite varied, they all took similar approaches in examining the issues with an intelligent and comprehensive detail that elucidated the topics.
One speech in particular given by Flora Toulouse not only related art history to modern animation, but also connected the topic to today’s issues of sex and gender. Toulouse examined the issue of changing roles for women in the animation field. Not only was the topic explored, but Toulouse exposed issues to a wider audience than a traditional study into art history.
Followed by an open question section of the entire panel, each speaker was able to field questions from the audience. What followed was an open discussion about the topics; they allowed the audience to better grasp or better understand an facet of the speeches just given. After each subsequent panel the audience became more comfortable with the speakers, allowing for a much warmer discourse between the two.
Two more panels followed with a break in between each, in which the audience was allowed to further discuss the topics presented and enjoy some of the provided snacks. After the breaks, the students resumed their efforts into the discussion of art.
The forum wrapped up on schedule, due to all the speakers having rehearsed for multiple hours the previous day, and with it, the audience heartily applauded the 15 speakers and discussants, and began to file out of the auditorium with a deeper understanding of art and more questions to research themselves.
The forum worked on multiple levels, as not only a platform to speak of art, but also to confer with a larger audience on the issue at hand. If another forum on a topic of interest is being held at UNR, it would be advised to attend, due the university’s ability to have an open and informed discussion between the knowledgeable and those wishing to be informed.
Blake Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @b_e_nelson.