Art students learn professional skills from the Gallery Practices class


Aside from figure drawing and cut paper, painting is another area of Jeffrey’s interest, as shown with this pop-art style painting of Charlize Theron. Photo credit: Natalie Hyman

By Natalie Hyman

It is not often that art students get the chance to plan and execute their very own gallery, from the beginning “light bulb” moments of inspiration to the very final touches. It can be difficult for students to handle the whole process on their own, which is why having a “how-to” class serves them well on their journey to becoming artists.

The Gallery Practices art class, taught by art professor and director of the Moorpark College Art Gallery Erika Lizée, gives students a platform where they can display their art and experience putting together a show.

With this class, students learn how to set up their particular pieces in the space given to them so it best fits their vision and medium, as well as how to advertise their exhibit so others can see it.

Lizée wrote the class herself and has been teaching it since 2014. According to her, this is great practice for artists who want to get into the field of showcasing art and learn the logistics of the whole process.

“There’s a portfolio side of the class also, and that’s writing an artist statement, a resume, a biography, a press release, having a real strong portfolio of your work, [and] taking photographs of the work as well, so that you’re able to present yourself professionally,” Lizée said, “The best thing is when an opportunity arises, you’re ready so that you can take advantage of it.”

Julian Foley and Thanos Valentine are the first students this semester to showcase their art with their exhibit, “Come One, Come All!. Though not all of these art students have to, the two paired up to present a multi-media work that is personal to them both.

Julian Foley (left) and Thanos Valentine (right) pose in front of their art. They both had trouble finding cohesion between their two art styles, but ended up focusing on their love for expression instead of worrying about the gap between them. Photo credit: Shariliz Poveda

They are both members of the LGBTQ+ community and use this as a starting point with which they branch off into different perspectives, fueled by their unfiltered emotions and diverse life experiences. For their exhibit, they painted a mural and included various sculptures and designs.

There are many things beyond simply making the art that goes into curating a gallery according to Lizée, and this class makes sure students feel prepared every step of the way.

Foley says that setting up a gallery had its challenges, but Gallery Practices gave him the confidence he needed to get it done.

“Before this [class], I had no idea about any of it and honestly putting it together was a lot more difficult than [I thought],” he said. “It was difficult to navigate our way through it, but all-in-all it was a great way to practice how to display your art and how to put together a show, and I feel much more prepared. I’m looking forward to shows that I’ll put together in the future.”

Julian Foley uses clay to make these three expressive creatures in various shapes. Photo credit: Shariliz Poveda

Valentine, who goes by they/them pronouns, says that they has learned a new side of producing art from the Gallery Practices class. To be a professional artist, self-promotion is very important.

“We’re learning a lot of, more so, the P.R. and business side of being an artist, which is really interesting,” Valentine said. “Because most people think that you wake up one day and you have the talent to be an artist and that’s all you need to have an art career, but with things like social media, there’s a lot more that goes into it … marketing and such.”

Each student gets to display their art in either the Student Art Gallery in Applied Arts 141 or the Pink Flamingo Room, which can be entered through HSS 129, for one week from the week of March 18 to the last week of the semester, May 13.

These exhibits cover a wide variety of mediums and themes, ranging from abstract art to art depicting scenes of nature. Lizée works closely with each student to ensure that the artist’s vision is carried through regardless of medium. However, it can still be daunting.

“I’m there to teach them, but also help them and encourage them to do this thing that they’ve never done before. When I introduce [the class] and I get their dates assigned in the beginning of the semester, I just see this ‘deer-in-headlights’ look; there’s a lot of fear and anxiety,” she said. “We slowly get into the semester and we start to see people having their shows and it gets really fun and exciting and it’s a great sense of community that the class has.”

Jeffrey Sugishita’s gallery took place from April 8-12 in the Student Art Gallery. His exhibit, called “Synthesis,” was a collection of works old and new and consisted of a wide variety of mediums, such as cut paper and sculptures. The display highlighted how much he has transformed as an artist from his formative years to now.

Sugishita spoke on what he learned in the class, as well as what challenges he faced.

“[Gallery Practices teaches] everything that has to do with putting up a gallery, like how to physically put it up is one of them, but also how to make a mailing list, how to make postcards, how to put the information out there for the gallery,” Sugishita said. “The hardest part for me was writing my artist statement.”

He also spoke on his readiness to showcase his work in other exhibits.

“If there’s opportunities for other jobs, other opportunities, then I’m down for all of them. And if I have the chance to open another gallery, I’m definitely willing to do so,” Sugishita said.

Each student works hard int the semester-long class to broaden their understanding and gain new skills. For the remaining time of the semester the two art rooms will be transformed on a weekly basis to adhere to each artists’ vision and hard work.

The Gallery Practices class has a few events each year, such as the Multicultural Day exhibit, where an outside artist comes in and displays their work. This year, they had Kristine Schomaker display her photography exhibit, “Plus”, along with the students’ self-portraits.

On the future of the class, Lizée says collaborations are always welcome in order to help students learn and to grow the class.

“What I typically do is have outside professional artists come in and show their ,” she said. “We tend to collaborate with outside artists for Multicultural Day, and then we have our student scholarship show, and then our summer show, and then students are also having their solo shows. There’s always room for more collaboration and just helping the students to put their work out”

For more information, visit the Moorpark College Photography website or for inquiries about the class, which is taught every Spring semester, email Erika Lizée at [email protected]