November 19, 2021
By Michael C. Butz
The BFA Exhibition that punctuates a week of fervent activity for graduating seniors is a Cleveland Institute of Art tradition that can’t be replaced. The opportunity to share work that’s been a year in the making—if not longer—with fellow students, family, friends and faculty is a crowning moment in the undergraduate experience.
The Class of 2020 missed out on that experience. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the physical presentation of its BFA Exhibition. While an online presentation was created, CIA leaders understood more was needed. During Commencement, they announced they would re-envision the lost exhibition and host a new show when it was again safe to gather as a community.
That’s happening now via Back in my day …, on view through December 17 in Reinberger Gallery. The show invites those alumni to share work that’s meaningful to them now, and as 2020 Sculpture + Expanded Media alum Megan Young emphasizes, “does not replace the BFA thesis exhibition.”
“We missed out on that experience, which we were working toward for so long,” Young said prior to the exhibition opening. “There really is no replacing that, but this exhibition is an opportunity to come back and show off some recent work that I’m excited about. I’m mostly looking forward to reuniting with some faculty and alumni and catching up on our art and lives.”
Alicia Telzerow, a 2020 Glass alum, echoes Young’s sentiments. She believes her and her former classmates’ work and practices have evolved so much since graduation that it would be wrong to consider Back in my day … a “replacement BFA Exhibition.”
“What I really hope for this show is that the growth and talent are the focus, not what was lost in this past year-and-a-half. These are artists who are out in the world practicing, exhibiting and challenging norms, and I think it would be a disservice to them to be reduced to the ‘lost BFA’ group,” Telzerow says. “It honestly was just another bump in the road; artists are used to the struggle. Our practices face far more difficult problems than the loss of a single show, and we overcome those because you cannot keep a maker from making. We always find a way.”
Reinberger Gallery Director Nikki Woods ’12 says Back in my day … to be one of the gallery’s “most important and ambitious projects to date.”
“It’s ambitious in the sense that it aims to bring a graduating class back together to consider the importance of their connections,” Woods says. “Many lives have changed dramatically since the start of the pandemic. We want to be sensitive to that fact and present the gallery as a generative site for communicating new, exciting ideas, and most importantly, as a supportive space for artists and designers.”
Young and Telzerow both served on an advisory committee of 2020 grads that helped organize and name the show.
“I really appreciate that CIA kept their word on carrying out this exhibition and that they have included us so heavily in the planning process,” Young says. “Any opportunity to exhibit work is valuable, but this is also an opportunity to reunite with the CIA community and do some networking, which is really valuable as a recent grad.
“I want to have conversations about my work,” she adds. “That dialogue is so important and it’s something I’ve missed since COVID and graduating.”
Telzerow agrees on the value of those conversations and the connections that foster them. “Nobody does a better job pushing the boundaries than other artists; they know how to challenge you. They say things about your work that the average viewer is afraid to say, the things that get overlooked or taken for granted. I’ve really missed those interactions. I value the opportunity to show work in a physical setting, but more so, the connections I can revisit with my peers.”
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