Behind the Scenes: The Making of ‘Still Here’

So often exhibitions just seem to appear.  Especially here at our Stamp Gallery, you may see us taking things de-installing one Tuesday and then our next opening is the following Thursday.  While we do work very quickly, there is a whole team and world that exists behind the scenes that goes into planning, installing, and hosting every exhibition in any art gallery.  As the Graduate Assistant for the Stamp Gallery, I thought I’d take this chance, the first day of our most recent exhibition Still Here: Art on HIV/AIDS, to pull back the curtain a little and talk about the planning, the installation, and what went into making an idea come alive.


How did you all come to the idea for the topic of the exhibition?

Exhibition ideas come from all sorts of places, sometimes people email us with their ideas or come by the gallery and speak to either myself of the Gallery director.  In this case, this exhibition was the idea of one of our friends in MICA (Multicultural Involvement Community Advocacy). Collin was interested in bringing the NAMES Project Foundation AIDS Memorial Quilt to campus and encouraging the conversation of a global epidemic that has touched millions of lives over multiple generations.  At the start of the fall semester (yes that early!) we sat down to discuss what the message we would want to impart. . Especially as a gallery that focuses primarily on contemporary art, how would we bring a public project such as the Memorial Quilt (begun in 1987) into the present for our student body and public who visit us.


Where does the art come from/ how are artists chosen to be featured?


Antonius-Tín Bui’s (they/them) Not Sorry for the Trouble is a series of traditional cut paper forms that have been re-imagined to confront Asian American Pacific Islander issues.

We have a few different ways for choosing the art and artists that go into the exhibition and for this specific show we used a variety as well.  Towards the beginning of September we placed a few artist call-for-entries in local artist forums. The Stamp Gallery focuses on emerging and mid-career level artists, particularly in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas.  Three of our artists, Antonious-Tin Bui, Lucas Rougeux, and John Paradiso, were selected via the submission and selection process and are local. Occasionally, there may also be artists that we know or have been put in contact with that have a particular association with the exhibition topic.  This was how our fourth artist, Shan Kelley, was chosen despite being a Canadian-based artist.  

You all install your own work?  How does that go?

This might be my favorite part about working at the Gallery!  Myself, our director, and our undergraduate docents handle the art, rearrange the gallery, and stage lighting


Shan Kelley’s Self Portrait III was inspired to cultivate a personal, artistic, and politicized voice within the context of disease and adversity.

ourselves for each and every exhibition.  For this show, we had a little over a week, not counting the weekend, to deinstall our previous exhibition and install this one. Depending on the previous show it can be a little more involved.  Before the opening of our first exhibition of the semester, the gallery was a bright, eye-catching red and we had to patch, prime, and paint the walls back to their neutral white color. That was time-consuming.  Still Here was a relatively easy install given the mixed-media displayed; none of the pieces were oddly shaped or excessively heavy.  Nevertheless, how things are installed get pretty creative: Antonious’ Not Sorry For Your Trouble pieces are particularly delicate traditional paper cutouts and had to be installed in a way that wouldn’t hurt or detract from the art.  Shan Kelley’s Self-Portrait III is also very delicate and actually mounted using rare Earth metal magnets.  Install always keeps you on your toes.

So, the art is chosen and displayed, what happens now?

Now we start planning the next exhibition!  Well, not exactly. While this show is up we have a few different programs planned to facilitate conversation and awareness around the subject matter.  Especially working with MICA for this exhibit, we hope to involve organizations on campus, bring guest speakers, host artist talks, and have class tours of the space.  The Gallery also has its semester-long programs including biweekly Sketch Nights, regular Gallery Meditation lunch breaks, and weekly the weekly radio show, Art Hour, on UMD’s very own WMUC.  We will start planning our next exhibition shortly, though, and that will be a student-submitted show that runs through winter break.


I hope these provided a little more insight to what goes on at the Stamp Gallery.  We are a pretty unique gallery that tries to tune-in to what our campus and community are thinking and talking about.  The Gallery is open 6 days a week and Still Here: Art on HIV/AIDS will be running through Saturday, December 7th. Stop by to check out the pieces I spoke about a little and feel free to chat with myself or any of our wonderful docents who have been as involved with this project as I have.  All of our programs are free and available to the public, unless otherwise posted, and we always update our Instagram, Facebook, and webpage with upcoming events. So come visit and stay awhile!


Can’t wait to see you,


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