Published: April 4, 2017 By

King Exhibition, Open Studios and the CU Art Museum create a synergy of art

Next Thursday, April 13, from 2 to 5 p.m., the University of Colorado Boulder Visual Arts Complex (VAC) will join its neighboring Art Museum and Boulder’s Open Studios in hosting a unique joint showcase of two annual Art and Art History Department events: The King Exhibition and Emerging Artists Open Studios.

The King Exhibition will feature artwork throughout the VAC hallway walls, doubling as both gallery exhibit and open scholarship competition for graduate and undergraduate students. Meanwhile, the artists’ creative laboratories will be open and on display for the Emerging Artists Open Studios.

That afternoon, the Visual Arts Complex, home to the majority of CU’s fine arts programs and faculty/student studio space, becomes the gallery. Photography, video, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, painting, drawing and more will all be on view throughout the event.

Each year, the King Exhibition hosts a guest curator to select featured work, as well as award graduate and undergraduate students first- and second-place prizes of $1,000 and $500, generously donated by the King family, longtime supporters of the Art and Art History Department.


Laura Smith, a second-year MFA student focusing on ceramics, takes a moment in her tool-filled studio. At the top of the page, Jenny Shenk, also a second-year student in ceramics, poses with some of her work. Photos by Craig Levinsky.

Mandy Vink, of the City of Boulder Office of Arts and Culture, will provide curating services this year to the event where many students have sold pieces in the past or been solicited to exhibit in other venues.

For the Emerging Artists Open Studios share of the event, the artists’ workspace is the exhibit. At the same time the King Exhibition takes over the hallways of every floor in VAC, attendees will be able to visit both the undergraduate and graduate students’ creative space, speak with the student-artists themselves and explore their creative practice.

The most exciting thing about Open Studios, said Catherine Cartwright, graduate coordinator for the Department of Art and History, “is that it’s really the only time the public has an opportunity to see what’s behind closed doors. If you walk through the building any other time of year, you can’t tell what’s going on in people’s studios, so it’s like seeing inside the mind of the artist. To be able to ask, ‘What does this mean? What are you working on?’ I think is the most interesting part of the engagement.”

“So we not only see the student’s work in the form of a polished group exhibition,” added Cartwright, “but we get to see the rawness of the studios. It’s an interesting combination, like the front stage and behind the scenes at the same time.”

In addition to merging the King Exhibition and Open Studios events, another aspect that makes this year’s show unique is the timing overlap with the CU Boulder Conference on World Affairs. “So there’s a lot of presence and excitement with arts panels on campus,” said Cartwright.

“I think Mandy did a fantastic job pairing work together,” said Megan Chase, second-year graduate student focusing on painting and drawing, of being featured alongside her colleagues. “There’s a conversation happening between Laura’s piece, my pieces and Melissa’s pieces. I would have never thought to put them together, but I think they work really nicely and have this interesting dialogue going.”

“Every curator does something different and has a different vision,” said Kirk Ambrose, chair of the Department of Art and Art History.

“I think that’s part of the value. As students go through the program over the years, they see the dynamic or dialogic relationship between the curator and student, and that’s a really important aspect of this. Mandy Vink is going to have a very different vision than previous curators and that’s all for the good, across all the different formats, so that’s what I’m looking forward to the most, just seeing how that relationship between the students and the curator unfold. It’s always exciting.”