Erika Salus ’19 & Jillian McLuhan ’20
“Shadows Searching for Light: The Learning Experience of Being a Studio Assistant for Three Large-Scale Projects”
Erika Salus ’19
Major/Minor: Studio art, Peace and Justice Studies
Hometown: Hackettstown, NJ
Jillian McLuhan ’20
Major: Studio art
Hometown: Hughesville, PA
Project Advisor: Angela Fraleigh
Describe your project.
ES: This summer, Jillian McLuhan and I worked as student assistants with Angela Fraleigh on three large-scale exhibitions. Her body of work highlights women of art history who have been overshadowed or marginalized. She is interested in how cultural beliefs form and she asserts that the images we continuously see form imbalances in power dynamics, such as gender, race, economy, and so on. In response, Ms. Fraleigh often creates feminist utopias, placing figures in imaginative, abstract spaces to facilitate new perspectives and ask how we value women in art and beyond. The exhibitions are taking place at the Hopper House in Nyack, New York; Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Reading Public Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania.
JM: Erika and I worked as studio assistants to Angela Fraleigh. We helped her to research, advise, and create parts for her three upcoming gallery shows. This involved quite a bit of reading for the topics of interest to Ms. Fraleigh; calling companies to set up studio visits; and creating pieces that would contribute to the backgrounds of her paintings. We accompanied her to the galleries where she would show; to meetings with curators; and participated in a photoshoot that would assist in references for her paintings.
How did your project come about?
ES: Ms. Fraleigh came to Jillian and I with the idea. The proposal was a continuation of a SOAR project she had worked on with two other students last summer.
JM: Ms. Fraleigh approached Erika and I about assisting her toward the end of the spring semester. She pitched us the idea and we were excited to accept.
What was the best part about working with your faculty mentor? What valuable insights did she bring to your project?
ES: Aside from Ms. Fraleigh being a very talented artist, she invited Jillian and I to enter her world to shadow her during everyday life. This is an experience we would have never gotten if it weren’t for SOAR.
JM: The best part about working alongside Ms. Fraleigh was that we were working with someone directly in a field we could pursue after college. Ms. Fraleigh is someone who is active in her field and has current information and advice. She was able to give us amazing opportunities to network, problem solve, and see what a career in the art field requires. I wouldn’t have been able to have experiences like the ones I had working with her in the classroom and that’s the best thing a college can do for its students.
What was your biggest obstacle?
ES: The biggest obstacle for me was fabric dyeing—I’m sure Jillian and I would agree on this. We spent a very long time trying different natural dyeing techniques; some of them worked and some did not. We even experienced some of our efforts having to be thrown away! In the end, we ended up scrapping the fabric dyeing idea as a whole.
JM: My biggest obstacle was working on an undeterminable schedule. Ms. Fraleigh seems to be the busiest person I know and she has to make last-minute decisions frequently. I like to plan ahead and have a schedule so that I know what to expect and how to prepare myself. This was difficult for me, but I was able to adapt to being on my toes all the time.
What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?
ES: My biggest takeaway was getting a real-life experience of a career as an artist. I am currently a senior and I graduate in the spring, so this all felt so real to me. I learned that being an artist is not only about the art making, but it is about being a researcher, knowing how to market yourself, and managing a life as well, even when the line between work and life is so blurred.
JM: My biggest takeaway was the experience of working in my field and being put in real-life educational experiences. This allowed me to gain new skills that I only acquired from doing this project, building a stronger relationship with my advisor and networking through her.
What was the result of your project?
ES: The SOAR project was preparation for Ms. Fraleigh’s work, so we could only go so far with our work. We were able to assist in research and prepare canvases for her to begin to paint. From there, she will be completing her paintings and showing them in the exhibitions.
JM: The result is one where there isn’t much resolution, ironically enough. We weren’t working toward an end goal other than progressing the project further.
Overall, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? Why should other students take advantage of the SOAR program at Moravian College?
ES: I feel extremely grateful to have been awarded the opportunity to be a part of the SOAR program not only once, but twice. Each time, I was able to learn and experience more than I ever would in a classroom or studio. I encourage other students to take advantage of this one-on-one (or two) mentorship from a professor.
JM: I feel honored to have the opportunity to research with my advisor in my field. I’m so fortunate to have been chosen by the SOAR Committee because I learned skills during my project that I wouldn’t have in the classroom. I think students should get involved with the SOAR program because the direction of your project can really be modified by you, even if it’s not necessarily your project. Everyone is very flexible, professional, and accommodating. The SOAR program pays you for your research which isn’t just rewarding, but lowers the chance of a student shutting down the idea of applying because they need to work over the summer. SOAR provides housing, if needed, and can supply a budget for your project. Research is something that should be valued and SOAR validates the drive to learn more. Plus, the community of researchers grows together and supports each other.