Central Michigan Life – Q&A: University Art Gallery director discusses travel and the importance of art

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Inside a converted church in A is a hidden gem of Central Michigan University.

A wealth of art and culture can be found inside the University Art Gallery. Along the back wall, a display of twisted plastics and fabrics show the possibilities of shapes and textures.

To the right of this display, another wall is occupied by paintings so full of texture that they almost pop out of the wall.

Further down the gallery is a desk filled with art materials and shipping boxes. Sitting at a desk, nestled in the chaos, is a woman in a black jumpsuit and dressy coat.

Gallery director Anne Gochenour has been responsible for presenting art to the CMU community for 14 years. Having lived across the United States for work and school, Gochenour has experienced everything from working in health care to attending fine arts graduate school in Iowa.

The one constant in his life has been art.

Gochenour is a trained artist who has worked in museums as a contemporary art curator for 11 years, while creating her own work.

Today, she creates art that sheds light on the environmental threats of plastic and what art means to the people who appreciate it.

Central Michigan Life spoke with Gochenour about his art, experiences and running a gallery.

OWhat prompted you to get into art?

I guess it was my language. When you look back, I was constantly doing murals for my walls at home and I felt good doing (art).

What kind of art did you do during your undergraduate years at William & Mary?

I took a lot of paint, but somehow I knew I was a 3D artist. But I took the painting to study it because it’s hard to do. Then my senior year, I kind of decided that I wanted to continue with art. I decided in January and things were due in February. I was admitted to five of the six places I applied to.

I remember the faculty saying “Well don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get in” and I was like “Thanks for the support”. Then I went to the University of Iowa.

I saw that you also work as a curator?

I worked at the Arkansas Art Center for 12 years. I started exhibiting art as an undergrad, for senior exhibits. I remember helping out another student and really started talking about the right way to hang the show.

Do you think the art of hanging galleries is an art form in its own right?

It’s creative, and it’s kind of been my art for 20 years. I still make pieces but I haven’t had time.

When I had a baby and my full-time job, I thought that instead of feeling guilty about everything, I would put my artistic creation on sabbatical.

Tell me about your transition to environmentally-focused art.

Have you seen the whale? It was (made of) the amount of plastic found in a dead whale.

(The plastic in the dead whale) was 88 pounds, and I didn’t even reach 88 pounds. I had to stop as it was 15ft and as big as I wanted it to be.

I was saving plastic because I’m really upset with the amount of plastic I use.

So I thought of different ways to handle plastic, then I cleaned my table and there was a cut of New York Times who was talking about the (dead) whale.

Do you think the art department has shrunk over the years?

He diminished. It’s a good art department. And one of the things students get when they come here is a lot of attention. What I admire is the quality of work for these shows.

(Students’ art) doesn’t sound like their teachers, so teachers really focus on (students’) voice and develop it.

What do you think society loses when you lose funding for artists who want to explore their medium?

To be human is the richness of life. We’re sitting there having a lot of fun. And all this entertainment, the quality of entertainment, is artists (doing it).

What do you think the public could gain by coming to the gallery?

It is another form of communication. They might come and think it’s just a little weird or something. But I don’t get that from all the students, I think they’re just a little intrigued to see what people think of doing.

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