Art Across Time in Athens
Graduate students in the Department of Art's Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) program went to Athens, Greece, this spring for their annual trip abroad. Each year the students and a member of the art faculty travel as a group to an international city where students gain personal insight from their firsthand encounters with art in the context of professional practice and exhibition. This year, they spent seven days visiting galleries, museums, artist's studios, and a number of cultural sites specific to Greek history and public life.
Ahead of departure, students made plans for the trip with art Chair and Associate Professor Michael Ashkin, who traveled with them. The itinerary combined their interest in archaeological artifacts and the ancient ruins of the Athenian Acropolis that date back thousands of years, with private studio visits that were prearranged with artists who currently live and work in the city.
"Our trip was tremendously fruitful," commented Ashkin. "The hospitality of Athens extends to its art community, and we were welcomed by everyone we contacted. Over the course of one week, we made at least 10 visits to artist studios, galleries, and larger institutions. The city has a small but highly diverse community energized by both the ongoing economic crisis and the city's recent participation in Documenta 14."
The studios they visited included those of Andreas Angelidakis, Thomas Hutton, Panos Papadopoulos, Angelo Plessas, and Tind Silkscreen Workshop, where they discussed the artist's work, creative process, and perspective on contemporary practice in Athens.
"Visiting a city that we most often see only from a distance made a pretty huge impression on me," noted Kaleb Hunkele (M.F.A. '18). "While in Athens I became more aware of conversations happening within the artist community around serious issues that affect everyday life in Greece. Issues like austerity, discrimination, and migration were palpable and problematized the art world as a whole, raising productive and important concerns for us to consider as we think about our own place and impact as artists."
Between their visits to institutions such as the National Museum of Contemporary Art and meetings with artists in their studios, the group also saw a number of exhibits at small or specialized galleries including Enterprise Projects, State of Concept, Hot Wheels Gallery, 3 137, and Haus N, where they found a broad range of work and modes of exhibition.
"I found Athens to be an exciting and accessible city," added Kate Huffman (M.F.A. '18), reflecting. "Artists living there make work as methods of survival, resistance, and beautification — seeing this made me realize how art and other processes of making are important for the community and serve as tremendous builders of time itself. Being surrounded by that much history was an experience I'll never forget."
In addition to Huffman and Hunkele, other students who traveled to Athens included Alex Jahani (M.F.A. '18), Vladislav Markov (M.F.A. '19), Chet Moye (M.F.A. '19), Brice Peterson (M.F.A. '19), Sasha Phyars-Burgess (M.F.A. '18), Gabriel Ramos (M.F.A. '18), Libby Rosa (M.F.A. '19), Sophia Starling (M.F.A. '19), Bruno Cançado (M.F.A. '19), and Richard Zimmerman (M.F.A. '18).
The 2018 trip to Athens is the fourth trip to date for the M.F.A. program. In the past, students and faculty groups have traveled twice to Berlin — once for the inaugural trip in 2015 and again in 2017 — and once to Mexico City in 2016.
By Edith Fikes