This month we’re spotlighting the Thorne Sagendorph Art Gallery on the campus of Keene State College in downtown Keene New Hampshire. We spoke to Thorne director Brian Wallace to learn more about the gallery. Here’s what he had to say:
Currently on exhibit at the Thorne is a show of Mark Hogancamp’s work. Hogancamp is the subject of a nationally released feature film, Welcome to Marwen, in theaters now! The exhibit, Mark Hogancamp: Women of Marwencol and Other Possible Histories, features photographs and photo-series by an upstate New York artist who, as a mode of recovery from a violent assault and as an art practice, customizes and arranges 1/6 scale figures in miniature settings of his own design to tell an ongoing, looping, personal, epic story of conflict, loyalty, love, loss, and stockings. Hogancamp’s works address fundamental dynamics of narrative, fantasy, and fiction; the visual/formal elements of staging, composition, and point of view; and the personal, political, and iconographical aspects of war, gender, and empire.
The Thorne Sagendorph Art Gallery is both a community and a Keene State College campus resource. It’s a gallery that concentrates on building interest in and access to visual arts. It does this with the support and interest of both campus and community audiences in mind.
In the 50’s, people from the community realized that our region lacked a visual arts venue, and they approached the college with an offer. The college responded with interest and financial support. The collection and programming of the Thorne began in the Keene State College library with some shows and events, and it grew from there. Now it has a beautiful building of its own right on campus, and a permanent collection of art.
There has always been a permanent collection at the Thorne because there has always been an interest in balancing continuity and change in the organization. The collection also serves its purpose in educational goals of the college by hosting pieces that students can study and learn from.
The audiences and the regional culture has helped define the sorts of art and specific artists that are presented and explored in depth at the Thorne. There are opportunities for local artists to show work and share their stories, but we bring artists from outside the region for audiences in the region, as well. It is a very direct and embodied way to bring in the outside world - imagery, personalities, ideas - that we are not directly familiar with here in New Hampshire. I think this is a great service to our audience.
Part of what the Thorne seeks to do is to foster an understanding of arts and culture in the region. We do that by taking an unusual look at loacl art and artists and by putting a local spin on artists from outside the region. In developing programs and curating exhibits the Thorne listens carefully to educators and collectors and people on the commercial side of the fine arts to hear what the community is interested in learning about.
And whatever my or the Thorne’s vision might be, the future of art and culture in New Hampshire will be much more diverse, and harder to define than one might imagine. The more we can do to have ongoing contact with lots of different people, and glean from them what they're interested in and what they value, and at the same time impart knowledge and familiarity to them of global and digital arts and ideas, the more informed people will be and the more in common people will have.
The Thorne has collaborated with on- and off-campus organizations of all different kinds. I've tried to guide the Thorne towards a greater interaction with other long standing and new entities in the community, at some point co presenting with all the region's cultural entities. The next stage is to find legitimate ways to partner with some of the other cultural institutions in the greater Monadnock area. We're feeling our way towards a working relationship with the MacDowell Colony, presenting work created or inspired by residencies which is part of McDowell's story, work that potentially could be part of our permanent collection.
Our collaboration with the Colonial Theatre during our Marwencol exhibit was a great example of our community collaborations. There is both a nationally released commercial film and a documentary about the artist we are currently presenting, Mark Hogancamp. We were able to help get both to the Colonial and partner to keep ticket costs for the documentary at a minimum to get a strong audience for this film and we encouraged audiences to come see the exhibit.
Collaborations are a great way to magnify our results. We're doing the work. If we collaborate we can do the work for a much larger audience, more people will reap the benefits of that work, and as a responsive community-driven organization, we’ll be exposed to more perspectives and feedback on the work that we’re doing. This is also a way that more and more artists are working - it’s important to be engaged in the creative and greater economy as well as being engaged in what is most meaningful to our community.
There are numerous people involved in the creation of any artwork, and we're letting that model spread across everything we do.
According to our values - that everyone deserves access to the arts - the Thorne is free admission. Anyone can come in at no cost. That's important because it removes one of the most common barriers to accessing the arts. The Thorne strives to be approachable, friendly, and yet also, to present art in a sophisticated way.
If we're doing our job right, both “approachable” and “sophisticated” art experiences can exist together under our roof.
Our work is important because while it’s not our job to heal society's problems, we can be part of acknowledging, communicating, and opening insights to those problems and figuring out strategies we all might be able to engage in to overcome them. Art plays a key role in this process, and the Thorne hopes to enable that.
The Thorne is open Saturday & Sunday 12-5 while the college is on break this month and next. When school resumes January 23, hours expand to Wednesday, Thursday 12-7; Friday, Saturday, Sunday 12-5.