Much to the surprise of returning students and faculty members, long-time staff member Linda Tesner has been laid off and will no longer serve as Director of Lewis & Clark College’s Hoffman Gallery. For the past 20 years, Tesner has been responsible for scheduling, coordinating and curating shows by student, faculty and professional artists.
In a statement sent to all current faculty members on Dec. 6, Bruce Suttmeier, the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, explained that the LC art department has big plans for the Hoffman Gallery despite Tesner’s sudden termination.
“We are seeking a more student-centered gallery experience, and we plan to have a faculty member lead that process,” Suttmeier said. “The Art department will be more involved, and students will be more engaged in a creative and dynamic gallery space.”
Suttmeier elaborated on the goals of these big changes to the gallery in a statement via email.
“We have two main goals for the changing Hoffman Gallery: better integrating the director into the art department and better serving students with programming that engages and expands the audience for shows,” Suttmeier said. “With the help of the art faculty, I have asked a group of representatives from the faculty, staff, and students to develop this mission and chart what it will take to succeed.”
Contrary to Suttmeier’s statements, Tesner said that the gallery has emphasized student and faculty work for years.
“I have no idea what this shift in the Hoffman Gallery’s focus will entail,” Tesner said. “I have always been in favor of student and faculty focused programming, which is what the history of the gallery’s exhibition schedule reflects.”
According to Associate Professor of Art History and Department Chair Matthew Johnston, these changes have potential to strengthen the college’s relationship with local neighborhoods and schools.
“The main goal driving changes to the Hoffman Gallery is to increase student attendance but also to make the space serve the college community more directly,” Johnston said. “There’s a desire to use the gallery to connect Lewis & Clark more strongly with the local neighborhood, and there’s a desire for more to be done not just for the art department but for different departments around the college.”
A committee will be formed specifically for planning events in the gallery and creating an effective model for future planning. This committee will include faculty members from Watzek Library, the art department and other academic departments in addition to several student representatives.
For students who appreciate art, the new focus on student and faculty led projects presents a unique opportunity for campus-wide recognition of artistic talent. Samantha Sanford ’21, a studio art major, is generally supportive of the gallery’s new focus but has several doubts regarding the diversity of exhibitions.
“I think that it’d be really cool to see more student artwork displayed in the public eye, but I also think that it’s important for art students to be exposed to what’s going on outside of the Lewis & Clark bubble,” Sanford said.
The Hoffman Gallery aims to be an accessible cultural resource, bringing both local and international art to campus. In past years, the space has hosted countless works of art from globally-acclaimed artists such as Kehinde Wiley, Sue Coe, Leon Golub and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Professional artists and art-owning institutions typically lend different works of art to galleries; curators of art galleries are the ones responsible for negotiating, securing and finalizing these loans.
“I think that this level of loans will be very hard to secure with a part-time faculty member and students running the gallery,” Tesner said. “Lenders look to the curator to know museum or gallery standards and to adhere to them.”
For the remainder of her time at LC, Tesner will continue to work on previously scheduled exhibitions for the Hoffman Gallery and will serve as a consultant on senior theses within the art department. She will officially vacate her position at the end of the 2018-2019 academic year.
Edited February 20, 2019 at 9:38 PM.