by Nada Shoreibah ’23

Cole Thornton ’21 walks through Rebecca Pempek’s student exhibition, Understory. World on Fire|Watergun by Rebecca Pempek ’20

The challenges presented by COVID-19 have changed the nature of every interactive aspect of Davidson. The William H. Van Every and Edward M. Smith Galleries are no exception. The latest Van Every gallery exhibition, “Auguste Rodin: Truth Form Life,” is currently closed. The awaited Annual Student Art exhibition has been cancelled. While in-person exhibitions are no longer safe or feasible, art gallery staff and senior studio art majors continue to share work virtually. 

Now, the galleries are operating virtually through their website, email, and social media. “We are working very hard to get our collection database online so that it is accessible for faculty, students, staff, and the wider community,” said Gallery Director and Curator Lia Newman in an email. “We updated our website to include a 360 degree panorama of the Rodin exhibition […and] also added more photographs from the exhibition to the web gallery.” Students can sign up for a new weekly e-newsletter and engage with the galleries on Instagram (@davidsoncollegeartgalleries). “We are […] asking folks to submit artwork (or baked goods or anything really!) that they can make at home inspired by Rodin,” said Newman. 

Besides hosting guest artists, the galleries provide a crucial platform for senior studio art majors. Throughout the spring semester, each of these students usually hosts a portfolio show and reception. “My final exhibition reception ended three hours before we received the email to leave Davidson. I could sort of feel the tension build each hour before I showed, because it felt like my show was on the cusp of not happening,” said Ella Sams ‘20. For five students, losing the opportunity to present their work on campus became a reality. 

“We hope that the seniors who were unable to show their work due to the closure will be able to show at least one piece during whatever kind of commencement ceremony will be planned. Those students are updating their websites and Instagram accounts, relying on digital [and] virtual platforms to showcase their work,” Newman said. According to Sams, video exhibitions are also a possibility.