UI collection of art graduate pieces finds a new physical and digital home

The School of Art Thesis Rental Gallery recently began documenting the works in their collection into an online database as well as moved to a new physical location.


Katina Zentz

The Thesis Rental Gallery, a collection of works by graduate students, is seen in the Old Museum of Art on Monday, December 3, 2018.

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

With around 6,000 pieces of artwork created by UI art graduates in the collection, some dating back to the 1930s, the Thesis Rental Gallery tells the university’s art history.

In May, the Thesis Rental Gallery moved to the Old Museum of Art on the west side of campus, a much more central location compared to their former space in Oakdale. Beginning fall semester, the gallery is being moved to an online database as well.

The move to digital will allow for less wear and tear on the collection, Alice Phillips, curator of the Office of Visual Materials, said. Before the physical and digital move, visitors would have to look through each individual piece to find what they were looking for. Through moving the gallery online, people can view pieces before they visit, she said.

The gallery is self-sustaining and the funds from the rental fees go toward preservation and repairing the pieces, Phillips said. With the online database, they won’t pay as much to make repairs and can put more funds into preserving the pieces they have.

The pieces of art in the gallery are rented by UI departments or faculty individually. The online database allows potential renters to find works they would like to see in person and discuss the decision with their department, she said.

“If you were to go into many offices on campus you would see work from the thesis collection,” Steve McGuire, Director of the School of Art, said. “We’ve been doing this for decades.”

The move to digital will allow people to look through the entire collection of art much easier, McGuire said. With the online database, potential renters can see the work without having to look through each individual physical piece.

They recently finished documenting the 3D works of art into the online database, Matthew Solinger, Thesis Rental Gallery assistant, said. Those pieces are now available for people to look at online.

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The online database will allow renters to look through the works while in their office, making it easier to visualize where they would potentially put the piece, Solinger said. It will make looking for a piece simpler for everyone.

Before being moved to the Old Museum of Art, the gallery was housed in a location on the Oakdale campus, Phillips said. In the old storage space, the pieces were tightly crammed onto racks in humid conditions. The new storage space allows for the pieces to be better cared for and is a climate controlled area, Phillips said.

“It’s a much better, more accessible storage space than we used to have. It’s all on racks, so you can go look at it and just pull it out and look at it and say ‘I want that one’,” Solinger said of the new storage area for the gallery.

The gallery serves as a way to keep art from the past so we can see what artists were working on and then relate it to what’s being worked on now, Solinger said. It serves as a record of the history of what the School of Art has been doing, he said.

The School of Art is able to showcase what their students produce through the gallery collection, McGuire said. The gallery also shows the history of learning over the decades, he said.

“I think the importance of having a rental gallery here is to share the collection and the history of the school of art and art history with the campus,” Phillips said.