Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

My Gig at the Gund Gallery

Christopher Paludi
May 5, 2017

Even though I’m not artistically talented myself — I think I’m more of a prose guy — growing up in Los Angeles provided manifold opportunities to visit museums and develop a humble respect and an excitable verve for the visual. So, as soon as I arrived at Kenyon, I applied to be a Gund Gallery associate, thinking it would be a cool way to learn about art, engage with my creative side and check “work at an art gallery” off my bucket list. 

Nestled between Cromwell Cottage and Olin Library, the Gallery is a window to the rest of the world, displaying the work of artists from Mexico to the Middle East. Although many of us start out with zero museum experience, associates become experts in the exhibitions the Gallery hosts, able to engage visitors by answering questions and guiding questioners to find their own answers. We work in teams, each team specializing in a different aspect of the Gallery. During my first year as an associate, I worked on the operations and visitor experience team, which means that we plan many Gallery events and help ensure that guests have a good time and learn something from their visit. I love being a part of this team because we work closely with community members, whether they are coming to the Gallery or we are bringing the Gallery to them, like we did with the “Off the Hill” student pop-up show in nearby Mount Vernon.

While the Gallery is only five years old, I’m continually impressed by the educative and social roles it plays in the community: kids who have had their art funding cut at school can come and learn from experts; professors can use exhibitions to enrich the material being taught in a class; students can be figuratively transported off the Hill and into other worlds. This year, my professors have incorporated Gallery exhibitions into their curricula, using photography in my English class to demonstrate intentional representation to incorporating the “Zapatista” exhibition in my Spanish class as a way of viewing pressing cultural concerns in parts of Latin America.

You see, the Gallery isn’t just a place where paintings hang on walls; it’s a community hub, a center for education and engagement. Whether we’re filling the Community Foundation Theater to watch debates and election night coverage during the presidential campaign, coordinating with Adelante to throw a Día de los Muertos celebration or demonstrating that words can pack a punch with a spoken-word poetry night in a boxing ring, the Gallery actively draws together students and the broader campus community.

A packed house for an October debate-watching party at the Gallery.

The Gallery also can be a source of more light-hearted fun, especially at our weekly “PB&J Tuesday.” Featuring dozens of different peanut butters (and allergy-safe spreads), preserves and a weekly special ingredient like crumbled cookies or fresh blueberries, all Kenyon community members are invited to partake. A frequent attendee myself, I love watching the line of people waiting to make a sandwich stretch all the way down the stairs, everyone chatting and delighting in the simple satisfaction of PB&J on a paper plate.             

My fellow associates and I enjoy a weekly staff-only "Tuesday Tea."

But the highlight of the entire year is when we send off our senior art majors with a big, professional-grade exhibition of their work. It’s been pretty cool to watch my peers have their work curated into a technically impressive and visually dynamic exposition of their talent as they display their passion projects for all to see. And helping the seniors hang up their art and put the finishing touches on their Kenyon careers inspired me to write this post and reflect on how my first year at the Gallery has already changed me.

Helping install explanatory text on a Gallery wall.

Gund isn’t like most galleries, and working here isn’t like most jobs. Consistent exposure to art and a focus on drawing the community together has strengthened my empathy and broadened my social awareness, and collaborating with such talented people has been the humbling experience I needed to learn from both my job and my classes. Ultimately, the best part about my first year as an associate is the knowledge that I probably can look forward to three more years.

Check out the Gund Gallery on Instagram and Twitter.