Sarasota Visual Art interviews Instructor, and Gallery Manager, Joe Loccisano.
Tell us about the gallery you curate.
The SCF Fine Art Gallery functions like a museum – which is why we will be applying for museum accreditation through the American Association of Museums (AAM). Located at SCF Bradenton, Neel Performing Arts Center, North, the gallery features exhibitions by national and international artists and serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas. This exceptional facility includes a state-of-the-art exhibition space complete with staging and support areas. The gallery manager oversees the College collection displayed throughout SCF’s three campus locations and available for loan to other institutions.
How was the SCF Gallery founded and how has it evolved?
The original Art Building included a gallery that for many years was the shared responsibility of Art Department faculty members. From the beginning, faculty staged exhibitions for the benefit of the students and community. Exhibitions featured works by contemporary artists and from the collection in the process of development. A full-time position came into existence in the mid-80s. Original gallery manager A. Scheurer was responsible for the gallery’s transformation into a “…center of vitality and innovation…” and included a successful artist series by Syd Solomon. After Scheurer’s departure in the late 80s, I accepted the position and continued the momentum that he and the others had established. In intervening years the gallery would continue to transform and gain further recognition through partnerships with other colleges, community groups and arts organizations. Support from College presidents would prove vital to the success of the gallery and result in numerous enhancements including funding to sustain the art collection, construction of a new gallery in 2009, and reorganization under the Office of the Provost in 2011.
What is your philosophy behind your curatorial process?
My curatorial philosophy is to select art that is outstanding, innovative (in terms of idea and execution) and of interest to the College and community. This is the same when choosing art for the collection. I select art for its intrinsic value and I find it beneficial to showcase artists from outside the region whose work is inspiring and intellectually challenging. These characteristics add vibrancy to the community and promote dynamic cultural exchange.
What do you think is most misunderstood about the art that has been exhibited at SCF Gallery?
I think what is most misunderstood about the art exhibited at SCF is the same as that which is misunderstood about art in general. Art is not just for artists; it is for everyone. Although we may not immediately comprehend or appreciate a work of art, we can, however, increase our awareness when we take the time to engage art on its own terms.
Have trends in student work from the SCF art program influenced the work exhibited in the gallery?
Some of the most exciting and innovative trends are coming from students – especially those just out of grad school. Students are particularly responsive to experimentation and to the assimilation of traditional media and new technology. We see this trend reflected in the rapidly expanding new media and interdisciplinary programs found at many colleges. However, since the gallery is integral to the College, it is influenced by what is of interest to the students. For example, exhibitions might engage a science student working with fractals or a literature student exploring onomatopoeia. Thus, the gallery is responsive to educational concerns campus-wide.
Is the general public your target audience, or do you focus your outreach to just the students?
Our target audience is both students and the general public. Therefore, we focus our outreach on both. The gallery bridges the gap between the College and community. We exist in order to educate and entertain but we delight in offering an experience that is meaningful and, hopefully, transformational.
How does your work as a curator/director inform your practice as an artist and vice versa?
My wide-ranging interests inform my artistic practice as well as my work as a museum professional. In the West we tend to classify and differentiate for the sake of analysis. I take pleasure in art that relates to other disciplines and I delight in making unexpected connections between things that may at first seem dissimilar. My participation in national and international organizations helps me remain current and in touch with a wide variety of artists, academicians, collectors, and museum professionals that informs my practice over all.
Can you comment on artists in the past that left a lasting impression on you?
Japanese artist Toshiko Takaezu’s Eastern sensibilities influenced the manner in which I display art. In the gallery, I’d created a series of islands made of lava rock to represent the Hawaiian Islands where she lived and worked for much of her life. My intent was to display her ceramic vessels on pedestals (as objects of veneration) positioned on the islands. However, she encouraged me to place them on the lava rocks instead – and this revealed the true nature of her art, which was first and foremost, about everyday life.
Ugandan artist Fred Mutebi created art in celebration of everyday life in Uganda. He printed his colorful and soulful prints on handmade African bark cloth using discarded commercial materials including paneling and offset lithographic inks rescued from the trash. His view toward recycling, a consequence of his need to create, helped expand my conception of sustainability.
Sarasota artist Olympia Zacchini was a true collaborator with each of her exhibitions. Through Olympia, I gained a greater appreciation for the circus and the role of women artists in society.
Finally, Eastern Indian artist Shaurya Kumar, whose exhibition is currently on display in the Fine Art Gallery, left a lasting impression. His work which integrates ancient and contemporary images and art making techniques demonstrates how diverse cultures can embrace uncertainty and thrive in an ever changing world.
Does the gallery have a preference of the type of art that it exhibits?
Yes, the gallery prefers art and exhibitions that address universal concerns. The art, because of its universality, offers the community a wide range of topics and viewpoints.
What are the future goals of SCF Gallery?
The SCF Fine Art Gallery is undergoing a process of transformation as it prepares for museum accreditation. Our first step is participation in the MAP (Museum Assessment Program), a rigorous self-study designed to assist organizations in the process of becoming a museum. This designation will help SCF garner support on many levels and provide an even greater range of exhibitions for the community. As a globally recognized and innovative educational organization, SCF is po¬sitioned to create a unique museum devoted to education through a dynamic continuum of academic and cultural exhibitions focused on student success and community responsiveness. The Museum will capitalize on SCF’s role as a cultural destination on Florida’s Suncoast and feature ground-breaking exhibitions that explore art and culture. With several distinct gallery spaces at each of SCF’s three campus locations, the Museum will be recognized for its leadership and responsiveness to the community.
What would be your dream artist to exhibit in the gallery and why?
My dream artist would involve a convergence of both “artists” and “non-artists” (identified as “everyman” or “everywoman” who, if given the opportunity to demonstrate their artistry, might offer something surprising and beautiful). Like Joseph Beuys, who said that “Everyone is an artist,” I don’t mean to suggest that everyone is an artist in the traditional sense, but, is an artist in terms of who they are and what they do in everyday life. My dream exhibition, therefore, would effectively eliminate the perceived barriers between “artist” and “non-artist” and show that art and life are inseparable as they were in ancient culture.
State College of Florida
5840 26th Street West
Bradenton, FL 34207