The Student Art Exhibit opening at 6 tonight and running through June 7 at Clatsop Community College’s art gallery showcases some of the year’s best work.

It also showcases an art program that, despite funding challenges and being down to one full-time instructor, continues inspiring students in many mediums.

“I try to set everything up so that the room flows,” said Jamie Boyd, a volunteer art gallery aide for the past five years. “There’s always a composition to a room.”

Three-dimensional pieces, from a wood-fired ceramic sea lion to a steampunk found-art time machine, spread out across the gallery. Interpretations of Rorschach tests, salutes to El Greco, a hand-drawn, poetically guided map of Astoria cover the walls, along with many other pieces.

During opening night only, instructors open their classroom spaces to show off pieces that didn’t make the cut for the exhibition.

“I’m really excited by everything we’re doing in our department,” says Kristin Shauck, an instructor of two-dimensional art, head of the department and the only full-time instructor left in it.

The exhibit includes more than 60 pieces, showcasing more than 100 students and covering the college’s visual arts offerings: Graphic and basic design, photography, printmaking, ceramics and Shauck’s painting and drawing courses.

The “Astoria Neighborhoods Project,” as Shauck calls it, takes the viewer on an expansive, poetically guided tour of the city. Shauck’s drawing class and instructor Nancy Cook’s poetry class collaborated on the multipanel drawing.

The collaborative project is featured in the 2014 Neighbors & Neighborhoods edition of RAIN Magazine, the college’s more than 40-year-old literary and arts publication. This year’s magazine debuts a week from tonight during a 5:30 p.m. meet-and-greet and readings on the second floor of Columbia Hall.

Art and academics

“The middle name of the college is community,” said William Ittmann, local photographer, the college’s former art gallery director and juror for this year’s show. He takes a more lenient judging approach to make sure everyone is represented by at least one piece. “Everybody should have a whack at coming to the opening with their family and friends.”

For some it’s their first time showing. For the older students, they’ve had plenty of times. The age of the artists range from teens to 80s.

“It’s been a lifetime thing,” said 18-year-old Corwyn Prichard, an Astoria High School grad who created a Rorschach test titled “There’s Nothing Wrong with You.” Prichard wants to study animation at a university, adding that he’ll take his love of art with him.

Many older, nontraditional students, including Laura Villar-Berrueta, take art continually for professional development, rather than as an elective for an academic degree.

“Art is the most important thing for me,” said Villar-Berrueta, who already earned an art degree in Uruguay and recently moved to Astoria and later Long Beach, Wash. For the exhibit, she re-created El Greco’s “St. Martin and the Beggar.”

Students receive 100 percent of the proceeds from the sales. The college’s art gallery waives its usual nominal commission for the student show.

Ittmann said he remembers when the gallery had a full-time director and did up to eight shows a year. The college still managed five this year, including a recent University of Puget Sound Alumni Association’s ceramics exhibit. Au Naturel, which started the year, might be the most popular exhibit. Other exhibitions showcase specific programs. Visit www.clatsopcc.edu/community/art-gallery for more information on the gallery’s offerings.

Art, part time

Despite the passion inherent in art, students today only receive financial aid for a prescribed number of credits and terms, and the college must worry about degree completion in awarding aid.

The art department has taken several hits over the years. A few years ago, it had three full-time instructors in 2-D and 3-D arts. It’s now down to Shauck and about five adjunct instructors. They include famed ceramics expert and former head of the art department Richard Rowland, who took an early retirement in 2011 and returned as an adjunct to support Shauck’s full-time status.

“It’s about half of where it should be,” said Rowland about the arts department, adding it could do very well with three full-time instructors.

“It’s very difficult to teach ceramics and not be here all the time, because it’s such a complex process,” said Rowland.

The difference between full-timers and adjuncts, he said, reveals itself in the time teachers can spend with students. Many adjuncts, he added, don’t even have to hold office hours outside class. Rowland teaches beginning and intermediate ceramics, along with an atmospheric firing course at his Astoria Dragon Kiln in Lewis and Clark. He said he still spends three-quarters of the time he used to at the college. And he pays someone out of his own pocket to serve as his assistant.

Colorful future

“I spend countless hours here, but I love it,” said Shauck, eternally positive about the future of the program and its vast involvement in and support from the community.

There’s strong enrollment in beginning art classes across the board and the recent creation of an Associate of General Studies art major, said Shauck. There are three students at the college majoring in art, she added, although the program has started off slow. With the return this coming fall of a previously canceled art history course, she sees recruitment for the major picking back up.

Shauck’s especially excited about the end of school this year. For the first time, she will lead travelers, some of them students at the college, on an 11-day tour of Rome, Florence and Paris from June 16 to 26 to see some of the most influential art ever produced in the Western world.

The tour (http://tinyurl.com/artwithShauck) is self-funded, open to everyone and usually announced in December. Shauck hopes it will become another yearly tradition.

    

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