Conversation With Steven Hoover, Gallery Director, Main Art Gallery, Kishwaukee College
1) Can you briefly talk about your time at Kishwaukee College and how the gallery directing part works? (were you hired as instructor, then gallery dir? ) I was first hired as the Gallery Director at Kishwaukee College and teach classes when instructors are in need. The main focus of my position is to find qualified artists to fill the calendar school year with a diverse group of artists. The exhibition schedule typically consists of displaying artwork in Kish student exhibitions, faculty shows, and solo and/or group exhibitions of emerging as well as established artists. The day-to-day activities are always somewhat different. I oversee the permanent art collection, establish insurance coverage on all visiting artists artwork, install and uninstall exhibitions, supervise student employees, manage the inventory, balance the budget, participate in committee(s) work, and regularly communicate with the art gallery committee, catering, printing, marketing, students, faculty, administration, and the artists.
2) Can you talk about your background and how you developed your passion for art? Will you include your educational background and experience That is an interesting question due to the fact that I am a late bloomer in the art world. Out of high school I first went to school for Marketing. After earning my degree in 1996, I started my career in finance as a mortgage broker. Completely unhappy with my career choices, I walked out of my office one Friday afternoon, drove to the nearest university, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and enrolled in classes. The following week I started my first class with no plan other than to follow my heart. Long story short, I earned my BFA in Painting and Drawing and decided to continue my education at Northern Illinois University where I earned my MFA in Painting in 2011. (My CV is on my website is one semester behind, but mostly current.) stevenhoover.net
3) What is your vision and intent for the gallery? How does that connect w/ your teaching?
To achieve my vision I need to get as many people in the gallery as possible. I have reached out to all students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community. There seems to be this misconception that art galleries are like museums or libraries. I believe an art gallery should have a sense of energy, or life when an individual walks through the door. It is a place for people to meet and speak freely. I have promoted the gallery as a place to hold meetings, read a book, have lunch, hang out, etc. The art gallery is a public space for the Kishwaukee College community to use for a variety of reasons. It is important to me that visitors think of the gallery as an easygoing, fun place to be that can also be a thought-provoking environment that stimulates conversation.
My commitment to displaying a diverse amount of work will teach people that art comes in many different forms, aesthetically and conceptually. My vision is to include everyone and encourage people to have an opinion. It’s all about promoting conversation, critical thinking, and changing the perception of what an art gallery is. Ultimately, I want to educate people on the significance of art.
4) What have been your biggest challenges as gallery director? My biggest challenges as gallery director change from day to day. At the moment, things are running smoothly. Kishwaukee College has been wonderful in dedicating funding to the art gallery. In fact, new construction for an art gallery will begin in fall of 2012. My biggest challenge is to make the right decisions now to make sure there are not any regrets five years from now.
5) What are you looking for in terms of the artists you select for exhibition at your gallery?
When reviewing potential artists for exhibitions, I look for the potential impact an artist will have on the diverse student population. The art should, to a certain degree, be professional, educational, and interesting. It has to persuade gallery visitation and induce curiosity. As I previously mentioned, I want to welcome all people to enter the gallery and talk about the art.
6) What support or assistance does the college give you in the practical running of the Gallery and also in getting the word out to community and students?
The school has an in-house print shop where I can print promotional material inexpensively. The Marketing Department does a great job at sending out announcements to Kishwaukee College employees, local newspapers, and radio stations. Kishwaukee College is committed to offering a well-rounded educational experience for all students. Assistance is only a phone call away whenever I am in need of something.
7) What experience do you think visitors walk away with after visiting the gallery?The visitors will hopefully have a completely different experience every time they visit the gallery. Ideally, visitors will leave with an assorted amount of thoughts and questions about what they have just witnessed. I want them to tell others and think about coming back to visit the gallery again. For opening receptions I have broken away from the traditional veggie tray and stale crackers and cater in hot pretzels, pizza, and other “fun” foods and beverages for the visitors to enjoy. I also try to get people to bring their children to add more life to the crowd.
8) What do you look for when viewing an artist’s portfolio? The first thing I do is ask myself if I have seen this before. I am not interested in bringing work that is too comfortable or too readily available. That does not mean it needs to have vulgar shock value, but the work does need to have some level of pop. The artwork should create curiosity and interest. It must stimulate feeling, thought, and conversation.
9) If you could give any advice to artists seeking a gallery exhibition, what would it be? There are three main approaches to seeking a gallery exhibition. One- Go to artist resource websites that post calls for artists. A simple google search with keep you busy for hours. Two- Randomly send out professional packets, however, that can get expensive. Three- Networking, networking, and more networking. For the 2012-13 school year Kishwaukee College will have eight exhibitions. There will be two student exhibitions and one faculty. Of the five remaining exhibitions, two are from website submissions, two are from word of mouth, and the last one (still in the works) is borrowed from a neighboring university’s permanent collection.
When sending out submissions have a professional packet (CV, artist statement, written proposal of exhibition) with professional quality images. Most will ask for digital files, which is great for expense and ease of submission. If the artist is responding to call for artists, they need to follow the guidelines for submission or it may not even get looked at. Keep in mind, presenting the work professionally lets the gallery know the artist takes their work seriously.
One last comment, people ask me what is meant by the written proposal. This is different from the artist statement, but may have much of the same material in it. Explain what pieces will be shown and why they work together. What will the show “say?” Let the gallery know you have put together a cohesive body of work that is worthy of a solo exhibition. It’s all about having confidence, or at least faking it!