by Melanie Zuercher
NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – With the opening of what’s essentially a new gallery in Bethel College’s Luyken Fine Arts Center, gallery coordinator Rachel Epp Buller figured why not try something new?
So she invited Wichita sculptor Christopher Gulick to do a residency in the gallery. The result proved popular with both students and visitors and benefited the Regier Art Gallery in even more concrete ways.
Gulick specializes in “kinetic art.” His sculptures frequently move, whether they are free-standing or suspended as mobiles, and they often invite viewers to interact with them.
Gulick’s exhibit, “In the Studio LIVE, Part 2,” was in the gallery from Oct. 31-Dec. 5. For three weeks, Nov. 3-21, Gulick himself was in the gallery, too, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. five days a week.
He set up a model version of his studio, including a workbench with supplies such as metal rods, wire and sheet metal, a computer for internet access and music via Spotify, and some décor items from the real thing.
He also visited with anyone who stopped by to look at the pieces he had brought with him, and asked those who were willing to look through copies of Interior Design in which he had sketched ideas for sculptures, and mark ones they liked.
Then throughout his residency, Gulick worked on some of the ideas from those “sketchbooks.”
At the artist reception Nov. 20, there was a silent, sealed-bid auction on the pieces Gulick had created during his three weeks working in the Regier Gallery.
“Chris advocated for a sealed-bid format particularly so that students could bid on artwork and not feel intimidated,” said Epp Buller, assistant professor of visual art and design at Bethel. “Several students came away with winning bids.
“Chris generously donated all proceeds from the sealed auction to the gallery – which totaled over $1,500. Thanks to some matching funds provided by two donors, it resulted in over $2,500 for the Regier Art Gallery. This will greatly aid us as we seek to bring in a diverse range of artists to show in the space.”
When Gulick was asked why he wasn’t keeping the proceeds from the sale of his own work, Epp Buller added, “he said that he received free studio space here for a month and had a wealth of conversations with gallery visitors that will inform his sculpture process for months to come.” Gulick does much of his work on commission.
“Chris was a fantastic resource for classes this fall,” Epp Buller said. “He loved engaging with students and other visitors to talk through processes and ideas.
“Seeing him work in the gallery Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, also reinforced for students that art, too, is a ‘job’ that requires intense time and dedication.”
Other viewers also appreciated having an artist on-site, Epp Buller said.
“We’ve heard the repeated question from visitors: ‘When will you do this kind of gallery residency again?’ We got the clear sense that the general public really enjoyed the chance to see how artwork is made and to talk with the artist about it in person.”
The former Fine Arts Center Gallery underwent extensive renovation over the summer of 2014 and reopened in the fall with a new name that honors Bethel Professor Emeritus of Art Robert W. Regier.
Gulick’s was the third exhibit in the new space and the last one of the fall semester. Kansas City painter Debra Payne will open the spring semester gallery season Jan. 30 with “Behind the Scenes.”
And before that, printmaker Johanna Mueller, Austin, Texas, will be on campus for a short residency as Greer Visiting Artist, with a public lecture Jan. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium.
Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2014-15 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2014-15. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.