The Bowdoin visual arts department hopes to showcase student artwork and spark conversation through their new Instagram account. The account, which has been in operation since October, is administered by Colleen Kinsella, visual arts technician, along with Teaching Assistants Sarah Flanagan ’21, Lizzy Gracey ’22 and Abby Wang ’23.
Carrie Scanga, chair of the visual arts department and associate professor of art, hopes this new platform will connect student artists who are working across the country and the world during the fall semester. The account features pictures of self-selected works by students, along with written statements about each piece.
“It’s kind of a virtual hallway. It’s like everything that we would do in that hallway of the Edwards [Center for Art and Dance]” Scanga said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “It’s every conversation and activity that happens in our very active hallways… So it was a way to replicate that really valuable piece of learning that happens in our Edwards building that can’t be happening during an online remote semester.”
While the department had considered creating an Instagram for many years, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic served as the catalyst for getting the account up and running.
“I don’t think we’re looking for anything specific; just things that would make people happy to see,” Wang said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “I think that creates a positive environment for other people.”
The account aims not only to showcase pieces, but also to capture the artistic process during unprecedented and historic times.
“It’s so important to share the artwork that we’re processing, and especially the students at Bowdoin because their experiences are really valuable,” Kinsella said in a phone interview with the Orient. “To know how you’re experiencing COVID[-19] is really valuable. How are they processing the times, like the election? You know, where we’re at in the moment.”
This year, the visual art department’s end-of-semester open house is virtual, and the Instagram account will allow students outside of the department to view their peers’ finished pieces.
“I think there’s a bigger outreach, since not just people who are in the department themselves follow the account,” Wang said. “Normally, aside from the open house, it’s mostly the [art] students who see each other’s works in the hallways or things like that, so now I think it’s more consistent throughout the year. Everyone can see what everyone is doing.”
In addition to allowing students the opportunity to admire their classmates’ work, Kinella has noticed that the Instagram account has garnered attention from outside the student body; recent and long-time alumni, faculty and students at other institutions, visiting artists and even the Portland community have engaged with the account.
While this is the Instagram account’s inaugural semester, members of the visual arts department believe that it will continue to be active as long as students continue to participate.
“The material, physical and studio engagement will always be a core aspect of the visual arts courses at Bowdoin,” Scanga said. “But maybe there are some things from this online semester that we’ll want to carry over.”