Give student artists the space they deserve
Ten years ago, visual and dramatic arts professor Chris Sperandio founded Matchbox Gallery out of his old office (see p. 1). A decade later, Matchbox, now Inferno, is the only space on campus solely dedicated to student art. However, student artists and the VADA department need more space to create and display their work.
This is not the first editorial the Thresher has published on the Rice administration’s disregard for student art. Despite the existence of an art museum in the form of the Moody Center on campus, senior VADA students’ art continues to be relegated to small studios in Sewall Hall. Student artists featured in last year’s Art at Rice banners, which hung on lampposts around campus, were never credited for their artwork, despite criticism which included an opinion piece by a former Thresher arts and entertainment editor.
Even now, the document describing each banner lists student work as “Rice Student Art”, while other works feature artists’ names and the titles of their work. Initiatives like the , refurbished containers that serve as studios, hang on a funding thread, relying on external grants without an endowment or designated budget.
The black box theater in the Moody Center, the only space in the building clearly advertised online as available for student artists, requires users to represent “diverse disciplines” — a standard in line with Moody’s “interdisciplinary approach” but unfriendly to productions put on solely by VADA students. Even if a team of students successfully books their production in the black box, no funding is available from the Moody Center, an additional burden to cash-strapped undergraduates.
The administration should not be lulled into complacency by student and faculty initiatives like Matchbox Gallery, Espresso Yourself and the juiceBOXes. Huge construction projects like the opera house and the new social sciences building are a slap in the face to VADA professors and students who remain confined to tiny spaces across campus. A decade from now, we — along with Sperandio, who began the Matchbox Gallery a decade ago — hope a fine arts building exists on campus that meets the needs of student artists and the VADA department.
More from The Rice Thresher
On Oct. 5, 2021, the Thresher published a guest opinion written by David Getter lamenting the erosion of freedom of expression at Rice. In the interest of embracing Getter’s call for reasoned discourse, I would like to offer a response to the claims made in the piece.
Within the hedges of Rice University, it is possible — and thanks to online shopping, sometimes easier — not to venture out and explore the city that Rice calls home. However, treating campus as separate from Houston fails to recognize the impact that we have on the larger community that we are a part of. To support the relationship between us and Houston, the Rice community should make a consistent and concerted effort to shop at and support local businesses.
Before Hispanic Heritage Month officially ends, I would like to take a moment to write about the labels those of us of Latin American heritage use to describe ourselves. At Rice, club names, course titles and survey questions often defer to pan-ethnic labels even though most people tend to use their national origin group as a primary identifier. These pan-ethnic labels are problematic. Although they in some ways unify Latin American communities, they often leave out others, like Afro-Latinos and indigenous Latinos. My goal here is not to dissuade people from using pan-ethnic labels; as history has shown, they can be useful, to some degree. However, my intention is for all of us, Latinos and non-Latinos alike, to use them wisely — with the understanding that the Latino community cannot be condensed into one culturally, ethnically or even linguistically homogeneous group. With that in mind, I hope that we as a Rice community continue to discuss and re-evaluate our language even after Hispanic Heritage Month ends.