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A Test Run for Test Site, SUG’s new Summer Residency

A look at the new summer residency opportunity provided by the Student Union Galleries.


The open studio residency space for Cassandra Davis' "Of roses and jessamine."

The open studio residency space for Cassandra Davis’ “Of Roses and Jessamine.” Photograph by Emily Fenn.

The Student Union Galleries at the School of the Arts Institute (SAIC) are switching things up this summer. Rather than continuing with selected exhibitions as they do throughout the school year, the Galleries — known colloquially as SUGs — are piloting “Test Site,” a residency and series of open studios that lead up to the fall semester’s exhibitions.

“Test Site” consists of three two-week residencies located in the Leroy Neiman Center Gallery. The last day of each residency is an open studio.

“Test Site” allows for artists to get familiar with the gallery space and create work in response to the space. The residency also gives the artists the opportunity to work closely with the SUGs team and will be able to request studio visits from art professionals of their choice.

Emily Fenn, gallery director of PR and Marketing at SUGs, said that “Test Site” is an “opportunity to intimately consider the physical and conceptual qualities of the gallery space and what it means to present their work with in it.” Fenn is excited for the possibilities the setup puts forth. “‘Test Site’ allows the development of stronger relationships with our exhibitors and enables us to facilitate open studio programming and studio visits with notable artists, curators, and other arts professionals that open up the exhibition development process to the SAIC community,” she added.

The three open studios will feature three separate student artists: Cassandra Davis in preparation for her show, “Of Roses and Jessamine,” which opens July 6, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Yinjie Deng in preparation for “Sensory Garden,” which opens July 20, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; and the artists and curators of “De Nue,” which opens August 3, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Davis, the first resident, is an MFA 2017 candidate. “Of Roses and Jessaminenavigates the relationship between spirituality and queerness that manifests in her own life.Davis, interested in materiality and space, installed a tent that acted as a site for performance during the residency’s open studio. In addition to experimenting with curatorial ideas, Davis also sought to bring in Low-Res graduate students to the residency for collaboration through performance.

A close-up of the performance collaboration during Davis’ open studio. Photograph by Emily Fenn.

Yinjie Deng, the second “Test Site” recipient, brings together traditional Chinese landscape and her experience in Chicago by constructing a re-imagined Chinese garden. The show is titled “Sensory Garden.”

“De Nue,” the third residency, consists of ten artists: Patrice Barnes (BFA 2017), Da’Niro Elle Brown (BFA 2017), Intunu Ebijimi (BFA 2018), Darren Edwards (BFA 2019), André Fuqua (Bacc 2016), Jesus Hilario-Reyes (BFA 2019), Shala Miller (BFA 2017), Tiana Mincey (BFA 2016), Amina Ross (BFA 2015), and Derrick Wood-Morrow (MFA 2016). There are also three curators for the show: Da’Niro Elle Brown (BFA 2017), Janelle Miller (BFA 2017), and Brianna McIntyre (BFA 2017). The show aims to confront the SAIC community with black identity.

During open studio hours, the public is encouraged to talk to the artists, provide feedback, ask questions, and be a sounding board for the projects.

Each of the three residencies correspond with shows occurring in the fall. The group show, “De Nue,” kicks off the fall season on September 2. The two individual shows, Davis and Deng, will close out the semester; “Sensory Garden” opens November 3, and “Of Roses and Jessamine” opens November 17.

The residency has some obvious perks. Having a residency comes with an opportunity to FaceTime with art professionals. It also offers new artists some hands-on site-specific experience.

However, as a program to increase student opportunities to develop and show their art, it could have reached more students by selecting different residents through a separate application process, rather than giving residencies to artists who have already been granted exhibitions.

Overall, this residency provides a great opportunity for all of us to learn, fail, question and succeed and hopefully, enhance and deepen the experience of exhibiting at SUGs,” said Fenn.

There is one other opportunity for artists not selected for the residencies to exhibit in SUGs in the fall. Artists may submit work to “Talking Points,” the second of the fall exhibitions. SUGS will be taking submissions via their website through July 29.  

“Talking Points” will run from October 13 through November 2. Parallel with election season, this juried show asks for submissions that use the 2016 presidential election as a starting point and explore issues of politics today.

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