Open Members Exhibition combines talent, community, philanthropy

Nathan Trevino hangs art in for the VACI Open Members Exhibition, which opened Sunday in Fowler-Kellogg Art Center. Photo by Adam Birkan.

Joanna Hamer | Staff Writer

As the Student Exhibition comes down in the Fowler-Kellogg Art Center, another show goes up featuring different artists but with a similar philosophy.

The annual VACI Open Members Exhibition opening reception is today from 3–5 p.m. Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution will highlight local artists and community members, who will show their work and support the School of Art.

Bob Hopper, member of the VACI Partners board, enjoys where the Members Exhibition sits in the Chautauqua art scene.

“You see these kids who are at the beginning of their productive careers, and you see what they do,” he said, “and then a couple of weeks later, you can see people who might have been students 50 years ago and are still producing things or just retired and started taking art classes.”

The members show is the last exhibition in a season full of professionals and students alike, who span a range of mediums, ages and geographic regions just like VACI members.

Hopper, who spends his off-season time in Virginia, works with photographs, often digitally altered historical work. He may take an old photo, scan it and touch it up before printing it out on canvas to raise questions about authorship and media.

“What I put in the show will be something like that, that’s derivative and appropriated,” he said.

The show is a great opportunity for VACI members who are full-time artists and for those who are new to art, Hopper said.

“To be able to pay $40, be a supporting friend, and get one or maybe two pieces for sale in a reputable gallery — it’s a great bargain,” he said.

Mary Khosh has entered her acrylic paintings in the show, as she has done for the past 14 years — every summer she has been to Chautauqua.

“It’s a great opportunity for the artists that are on the grounds — and there’s lot of us — to show our work, and also to see what each other is doing,” she said. “I love that part of it too; I love going to the show as much as putting my stuff in the show.”

Khosh, who retired from her job as an industrial organizational psychologist, served two years as president of the Chautauqua Center for the Visual Arts as the visual arts program went through its evolution from the CCVA and the School of Art to its current form.

“It was a great time to be president, because there was so much going on,” she said. “There was great interest in the visual arts, and you could just see the changes. The word was out that the visual arts were on the move.”

Now, as an exhibiting member, Khosh shows her vibrant and multi-layered abstract acrylics, a style of art she began in the Special Studies program at Chautauqua and honed with her studio group in Florida.

“I started with Rita Auerbach probably 30 years ago,” she said, naming one of Chautauqua’s great teachers and watercolor artists. “We live in St. Petersburg, Fla., now, as we have for the last 19 years, and I paint pretty much full-time.”

Khosh loves Chautauqua’s art program, and her love has been infectious. Her 10 grandchildren, when they visit, paint with her on her front porch and take ceramics classes.

“They’ll remember all their lives that Chautauqua is where they come to paint,” Khosh said.

The members show represents a way to bring all aspects of the visual arts together for Khosh and to engage all members of the community.

“It’s another way to give back, and still do our own work, and be proud of what we’ve done and support the students,” she said. “I love the members show — it serves lots of purposes.”

For Barbara Pendergast, it provides a stage for her return to ceramics. With an undergraduate degree in art education and a master’s in ceramics, Pendergast spent 38 years teaching art before retiring six years ago. Last year was her first year submitting her raku pottery to the show, which she makes both in the Chautauqua Special Studies classes and in her home.

The work she puts in the show is all made in the School of Art studio, and she loved the response to her work last season.

“My stuff sold right away last year. I had a really positive experience,” Pendergast said.

As she lives off the grounds, she uses her ceramic courses and the exhibition as excuses to visit the Institution.

“It’s really so wonderful to be around people with similar interests after you’ve retired and you’re not in school anymore, to come here and have the support at Chautauqua that we do in the ceramics department,” Pendergast said. “It’s right in the center of the art quad, and you see what’s going on with the students. It’s a lovely positive atmosphere, and the kids are always interesting.”

The Fowler-Kellogg itself is also a draw for Pendergast, who found the experience of submitting her work simple and professional.

“I thought that the shows were so well displayed, and the new galleries are so beautiful,” she said. “Just to be in the gallery is an honor to me.”

The show will run through the end of the season, serving as a celebratory culmination of all aspects of visual arts at Chautauqua.