A look inside The Samek

Nicole Yeager, Special Features Editor

An Academic Art Lab

The Samek Art Museum is one of the key components of the arts culture at the University. It is not just any old museum, but a place where art and creation that is specifically curated for our community is showcased. With two locations– on campus and in downtown Lewisburg — it truly brings everyone together. Since it was first established, the Samek, like all other art facilities, has gone through various waves of artistic style and culture. 

Their mission, according to their website, is to “create meaningful encounters between artists, students, scholars, the public and works of art.” They fulfill this through various exhibits and installations at the Campus Gallery on the top floor of the Elaine Langone Center (ELC), the Downtown Gallery on Market Street, the Collection Study Room in Bertrand Library and even across campus with pop-up exhibits. They showcase visual fine art of many subjects and mediums.

According to the Samek’s mission statement they present art “in critical contexts consistent with Bucknell’s high academic standards,” and “the museum challenges students and extends the intellectual life of campus in an informal life long learning environment.” They describe their facilities as “academic art labs” that fosters experimentation, innovation and engagement when it comes to art.

In the past, the Samek has invited classes and organizations to spend a class period or a day at the museum in order to connect their studies and work to art. In this way, the artworks become more than just painting, drawings, graphics and collages on a wall—they take on multiple meanings through the different lenses and perspectives that the classes and organizations bring. The museum interacts with the community population by exhibits pieces created by faculty and students.

Art in the Pandemic

This past year, the Samek has been extra creative in order to execute their mission and keep the gallery open and running through the pandemic. From beginning the pandemic short-staffed, the museum managed to turn things around and share artwork with the community when they needed it most. “We managed to pivot with the pandemic and keep both of our museum locations open and welcome classes/visitors with new safety precautions, including requiring masks and limiting attendance to a couple of visitors at a time,” Tiffany Demmon, the Public Programs and Outreach Manager said. During the past year, the museum held 10 exhibitions, displayed artworks chosen by faculty for class engagement and put on numerous educational virtual events. Demmon said that she is “incredibly proud and grateful to [her] colleagues, Bucknell students, staff, faculty and the Lewisburg community for the year the Samek has had.”

Current Exhibits

The Samek Art Museum’s campus gallery currently houses two student-driven exhibits: “Field Notes: Annual Senior Student Art Exhibition” and “Expressions: The Body Now.”

The first showcases the artwork of graduating senior studio art majors and studio assistants. This year, the theme of the annual exhibition is field work; inspired by the methodology of scientists and researchers, students engaged in their own “recording and interpreting of the empirical world” in order to “bring meaning and comprehension to otherwise unexplainable phenomena.” Each senior selected their own topic and executed their own “field work” in order to produce a collection of artworks. 

Senior studio art majors featured in this exhibit are: Kelvin Adjei-Akosah, Kalista Kocinski, Jenna Marek, Lydia Palumbo, Ethan Sales, Steven Sedig, Olivia Sherman, Chris Urin, Ruoying Zhang, Isabella Convertino, Lya Finston and Jackson Sayler. Their collections cover a range of styles and mediums, including paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures and even digitized works.

Marek used her project as an exploration of diversity at the University. “In the context of recent events and movements, I thought it was important to explore what diversity actually means, because it isn’t just race and ethnicity, and how it is present in our campus community.” Her project served to “give voice to other students who don’t fit the stereotypical mold to talk about their story and what makes them diverse.” Marek first created a poster to showcase her personal story and allow students interested in being a part of the project to come to her; she then interviewed each person and “interpreted those conversations to convert them into digitally illustrated art pieces.”

Marek went on to say, “The seniors this year all used their work to address really important topics and create conversations, which is what art should do, so I am proud of the senior studio art majors as a whole.” 

Sales focused his project on the heavily personal topic of depression. He used sculpture to illustrate the relationship between medical marijuana as a treatment and the legal barriers on it at the University. He expressed how his exhibited pieces have a “strong duality,” and went on to say, “I have experienced hardship and changes while in school but simultaneously it has made me who I am in addition to motivating me to produce art I’m proud of.” Sales concluded by saying, “I am tied to Bucknell in a weird way” and “I feel a great sense of closure in having the art up.”

“The senior exhibition provided an opportunity to display my artwork and ideas for the entire Bucknell community,” Sherman said. She further expressed that it was important to her “that all Bucknellians, not just those who are interested enough in art to visit the Samek, would have access to [her] message.” 

A virtual event was organized for the Senior Art show, “Field Notes;” this recording can be accessed through the museum’s website.

The second is a curated exhibition by students in the Museum & Contemporary Curating class taught by Richard Rinehart, the museum’s director, and teaching assistant Rachel Martine. All artworks were selected from the Samek’s permanent collection by students in the course this semester as the class project. This year’s curation explores “the vulnerability of the body” and highlights “how the physical body evokes mental sensations and immerses the viewer in a sea of emotions induced by both facial expression and body language.”

Two artworks were curated by these nine students in the course: Will Woods ’21, Yusef Chisholm ’22, Josie Lippincott ’22, Isabelle DZenzo ’21, Ian Heinicke ’24, Noa Evenhaim ’21, Zoe Stupek ’23, Alex Hong ’24, Caroline Fitzgerald ’21, Kalista Kocinski ’21 and Caio Jordao ’21. The works include photographs, lithographs, watercolors, prints and etchings by artists such as Elliot Erwitt, David Seltzer, Ralph Gibson, Andy Warhol and the Guerilla Girls.

Lippincott shared that this course allowed her to “understand the museum’s role in society as well as story-telling mechanisms that can be applied to other areas of my life.” She went on to say, “While I have always enjoyed visiting museums, being on the other side of the exhibits has opened my eyes to the function of exhibitions and their relationship to the broader society.” 

The downtown gallery is currently exhibiting “Santina Amato: Convulsive Beauty.” Santina Amato worked with Lisa Freiman, a guest curator, to bring this exhibition to the University. A weblink for the show and a recording of the virtual event can be found on the museum’s website.

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