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Art Behind the Art

Hamilton, Ohio – There’s an art to hanging art.

“My job is to make everybody look good,” said Cathy Mayhugh, Fitton Center Director of Exhibitions. “I want (artists) to feel like the Fitton Center is collaborating with them to display their art the way they want and in a way that shows it off as well as possible.”

Mayhugh shared some of her thoughts on creating an exhibition during a recent stroll through the Fitton Center’s 8th Biennial Member Show running through July 1. Gallery hours are from noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and noon to 5 p.m. on Fridays.

“Usually, I start with artworks that have to be in a certain space to exist safely or to be lit a certain way,” Mayhugh said. “I find those pieces first and then build around them. It’s very much like Tetris.”

For example, in the current member show, Roscoe Wilson’s sculpture Cracked Mountain needed significant floor space. His work and its connection to nature – “this sculpture represents the exploitation of the mountainous landscape of West Virginia to extract coal as a source of energy,” Wilson wrote - led her to include a lot of other landscape art in the room.

The member show is an invitational, as compared to a competitive, juried show. Which also plays into its overall design.

“This is a more community-oriented show and that informs some of how we put it together,” Mayhugh said. “There are instructors and students, there are spouses, family members, grandmother and grandson together. That all goes into it.

“We give the artists a chance to interact with the art - and with the public - in a way they maybe haven’t had a chance to do before. It’s exciting to see your own work in a legitimate gallery. There aren’t a lot of opportunities like that, especially for some less experienced artists. We try to make that special for them.”

Participating artists were invited to submit narratives along with their artworks. As visitors move room to room through the galleries, those stories appear on the wall near the piece. Brief artist biographies reside in a gallery guest book at the entrance to the show, and are availble via QR code. “Visitors who want to delve deeper into the artists’ motivations and the meanings behind their artmaking methods can find it here in the gallery if they choose,” Mayhugh said.

Fitton Center teachers who have art on display have QR codes alongside their art, linking visitors to their classes listed in the current Fitton Center Education Brochure.

“It thrills me there are so many teaching artists as part of this show,” Mayhugh said. “Teachers are the ones who help inspire people in our community - some who are our members - to create their own work, to explore their own talent. They give creative people the tools and techniques to grow as artists. We want our guests to have the chance to work with some of those teaching artists themselves.” The next gallery exhibition is Cut Fire Fuse, running July 30 to Sept. 9. With an emphasis on hand-cut paper, built and fired figures and collaborative printmaking, this show merges long-standing stories with contemporary visons. Fitton Center member Pamela Hignite of Liberty, Indiana, and Sarah Nguyen of Columbia, Missouri, are among the featured artists. A group printmaking exhibition curated by Andrew Au and Jennifer Purdum of FUSE Press rounds out the show. Au and Purdum are both faculty at Miami University Regionals.

Cut Fire Fuse officially opens 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, as part of the Fitton Center 2022-23 Season Launch event.

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.

Building Community Excellence through the Arts and Culture

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