Exhibition design class shows what it takes to make an art gallery

Renae Moua registers an art piece, which is apart of the “Mashrabiya” gallery, for any damages on Friday Jan. 27, 2017. Every art piece must be noted as present, and checked for damages before going on display. (Roxanne Hernandez / Xpress)

SF State’s Exhibition Design class, Art 619, is already working hard on the first art gallery of the semester “Mashrabiya: The Art of Looking Back,” which is set to open Feb. 18.

Every Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., enrolled students gather in the Fine Arts gallery to get hands-on experience working with the assembly and care of expensive art pieces, as well as the curation and publicity of art galleries.

Roxanne Hernandez / Xpress

Brandon Crisostomo, right, handed Ewart Bungo Jr., left, a power drill during their Exhibition Design class Friday Jan. 27, 2017.

The class is divided into 17 groups that cover the different aspects of gallery production, including exhibition curating, registration, publicity, community outreach, installation, lighting and didactics. Art major Geovanni Ramos, who is a part of the public relations group, said Art 619 showed him that there are a lot of job opportunities in the art world.

“This class is showing me that you can do so much with an art degree,” Ramos said. “There are so many different groups that have to do so many different things to make one thing happen.”

Lizzy Johnson, manager of the design group, works on producing publication flyers such as posters and brochure pamphlets. Her team’s goal is to provide viewers with an invitation that captures their curiosity.

“A lot of people are intimidated by galleries, especially fine arts galleries,” Johnson said. “The design we have is to create an experience that people will be intrigued by.”

Although many people, especially students, can feel intimidated by fine arts, Johnson doesn’t  want viewers to feel that way in their gallery. She says those working behind the scenes work hard to produce a comforting environment.

“Since art galleries have signs that say ‘don’t touch anything’ people feel like they have to be super restrained,” Johnson said. “The people behind it just want you to relax and enjoy the art.”

The group of students in the upper division art class that are allowed to touch the artwork, are “the Registrars.” Their job is to take in all the artwork, while making note of any prior damage to pieces.

Renae Moua, a member of the registration group, said although it’s nerve-racking to work with expensive pieces, it is also exciting.

“You’re working with pieces that are worth millions of dollars,” Moua said. “It’s a bit intimidating but really fun because it feels like archeological work.”

Near the end of each class, the head curator, professor Mark Johnson, calls out “Kumbaya” to gather the different groups together for discussion. This is where managers share their group’s progress, findings and ideas. Art 619 Exhibition Design is structured with tiers of management and separate production roles to provide students with realistic cases of gallery production.

“I wanted to see what it was like to work in a museum,” Ramos said. “This class is like practice for the real world.”