BFA Thesis Exhibition: "OUT OF STOCK," Still Fully Stocked on Talent

At the end of each semester, graduating Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) art students are required to conceptualize, curate, and construct a physical exhibition of their work and write a thesis paper about the process. This includes an artist statement about themselves and their inspiration as well as context on their method, influences, artistic choices, background, and challenges they may have faced. Even in a normal year there are significant challenges, however this year, amidst the pandemic there were additional obstacles that only inspired these students even further.

2020 USF BFA Exhibition circular advertisement with half tone, hand drawn, and collage elements.

In charge of this class and the engagement of these students is Assistant Professor of Art, Susan Havens who could not be more proud of how these students have handled adversity during this time. This time is normally stressful for graduating students and all that that entails from finals to projects to job searching. Not to mention the added stresses of Covid-19 and all the many factors that that posed for these students, both current and future. However, even with all of this on their plate, Havens said that this group of students could not have been more willing to work towards this project. “These students really took the bull by the horns,” she said. Many of them were inspired to create during this time and took photos early on in the pandemic of empty store shelves, toilet paper outages, and other images representative of the times. This is where the idea for the “Out of Stock” title came from which was a collaborative class effort. All of this in addition to their own works for the exhibit.

When the students decided to also add online components, Havens said that these students became “organizational powerhouses” who completely took charge of the situation presented to them and not only thrived in creating their own art but also supported other classmates, helped create the title, logo, website, posters, social media posts, multimedia, and video posts for their final virtual reception. What they really did was use their collective vision of the classes works to create an entire brand for their exhibition. These students utilized online platforms such as Instagram, Google, Discord, and their own website to facilitate both working together virtually and showing their works online so that they could be seen by the masses. By putting so much of their content and process online throughout the semester, it was able to be seen by future students, shared by university faculty and staff, and even gained some recognition amongst alumni, professionals, and peers within the art world which was an added bonus.

While activity on campus is limited right now, Havens emphasized that curating the physical collection and seeing it within the Carolyn M. Wilson Gallery on campus is still the majority of the project for this class, but making it so versatile and virtually pleasing was a group effort. She said that she still “prefers a more hands on, face to face approach” but would be willing to continue to allow her students to use these platforms and expand their ideas of how art is received. She noted that many of these students are set on being artists while others were so proactive in the organizational and directional aspects of this project that they could go on to do nearly anything in or out of the art sphere. Havens said that this semester “really gave each student the chance to use their best skill sets” and that while she hopes this experience broadened their scope of things, it also taught her a great deal as well.

The exhibition can be viewed virtually at outofstock-usf.org through December 31, 2020.