Arts & Culture

U. staff members display artistic flair

Twelve employees showcase their diversity through 16 works of art in a Granoff exhibition

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, January 28, 2013

An exhibit at the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts features mixed media works by University staff drawn from a variety of inspirations.

Though most students know him for his long golden hair and post at the entrance to the Sciences Library, few are familiar with Steve Gervais’ second career, which showcases his more creative and artistic side.

“I like to call my two pieces ‘Strange Bedfellows,’” said Gervais, who in addition to being a library clerk, has worked as an artist since the 1970s and illustrated for the likes of Stephen King, Clive Barker and other horror novelists. His two works, currently on display at a staff art exhibition at the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, juxtapose gruesome and beautiful scenes —  the first inspired by the 1979 film “Alien” and the second inspired by a photo Gervais took years ago of a snowy Charlesfield Street.

Along with 11 other University staff employees, he currently has work featured in a “Staff Appreciation Exhibit” on display in Granoff. From photography to etching, acrylic to oils and even bamboo to fabric, the exhibit showcases 16 works created by 12 staffers in a variety of media.

The exhibit was the brainchild of Shayna Zema ’15, whose connections to both the Granoff Center and to staff across campus readily positioned her to organize the event, she said. The exhibit was curated by Elyse McNiff, associate curator at the Granoff Center.

Zema formed the idea for the exhibit last semester, McNiff said. The two sent out a call for submissions from staff members early in the year to ensure sufficient time to submit work. Richard Fishman, director of the council and professor of visual arts, was committed to the idea that everyone who submitted work would have at least one of their pieces shown, McNiff said.

The exhibit fits well with the ethos of the Granoff Center, which aims to be a hub of a variety of creative endeavors on campus, McNiff said. “We weren’t looking for just fine art. We were looking for … a more holistic approach to art,” she said, noting examples of mixed media presentations and textile works in the exhibit.

Much of the work reflects the diversity of the participants. An administrative assistant at the Warren Alpert Medical School, Esther Escotto said her work, “Bushel of Bamboo II,” was inspired by her life in the Dominican Republic before she immigrated to the United States. “Bushel” is made up of a bundle of four-foot long bamboo sticks bound together with rope, which hangs from the wall to create a mock shelf holding authentic Dominican iron and tin containers laden with dried lentils, which Escotto and her family would use to cook rice and meat on Christmas and other occasions. “I wanted to incorporate a piece of my history, my heritage in it,” Escotto said.

Lisa Noble Reenan, an administrative coordinator for the Public Health Program, submitted a work titled “Hartford Sunset,” which she said was inspired by a “pointillism-type effect.” The painting was Reenan’s artistic reaction to a beautiful sunset playing out before her eyes while driving back home from an old job in Hartford, she said.

The remaining works vary in subject and medium. Tracey Maroni, administrator at the Center for Vision Research, has some of her recent paintings on display. Close friends with Reenan, the two decided to participate in the exhibit together and have been attending campus art shows for some time, Reenan said.

Nancy Baker, administrative assistant for the School of Engineering for 27 years, submitted a work in quilting titled “Welcome.”

The event garnered interest in expanding the opportunities University staff members have to share their experiences and histories with the Brown community. “It would be really nice to have any kinds of events to showcase what staff members do outside of work,” she said. “I think that oftentimes translates into a better work environment. It makes you feel appreciated as an employee.”

The exhibit will be running through Friday, Feb. 8, and there will be a closing reception for artists, organizers and other guests at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7.