Student Spotlight: MFA Graduate student brings together variety of art forms in “adaptations” art gallery

Spencer Wilkins is a 2nd-year MFA student in the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa. He is organizing a gallery called “adaptations” that will feature the works of 9 different artists including Wilkins specializing in 6 different genres from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 in the Levitt Gallery of Art Building West.


Contributed photo from Spencer Wilkins.

Vaishnavi Kolluru, Arts Reporter

Spencer Wilkins unconventional path to writing is what inspired him to create a multi-disciplinary art gallery titled “adaptations,” which will be featured from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 in the Levitt Gallery of Art Building West.

Wilkins is a second-year Master of Fine Arts student in the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa. He graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Massachusetts, with an English major and a concentration in creative writing before enrolling in the program.

“This is a gallery where artists across a diverse smattering of mediums respond to the same one-word prompt,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins will present with eight other artists at the gallery. These artists are Robyn Abrams, Elio Baseman, Marko Capoferri, Chase Croft, Amanda Hadlock, Julia Haney, K Irving, and Yuchen Liu. The artistic pieces in the gallery range among diverse and niche artistic modes such as rapping, illustration, and claymation.

Wilkins explored many forms of art before focusing on writing. He began with color grading film as a child, and he tried his hand at composing tunes and writing songs before discovering writing.

“So, I think artistically, I always enjoyed variants,” Wilkins said.

This unconventional path to writing has equipped Wilkins with the inclination to organize the gallery.

The original source of inspiration for this gallery was an experiment of Wilkins’s with his own writing in spring 2022. He created an animated version of one of his essays to challenge himself to do something outside his area of specialization.

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“The draft that I turned in, it was called “adaptations,’” Wilkins said. “And it was about how people were able to compartmentalize grief and terror and joy in one moment.”

However, Wilkins wasn’t done this piece. He felt that the idea had the potential to be turned into something even more multi-faceted and stunning.

“The idea of adaptation is general enough that I think I can pitch it out to a lot of different people,” Wilkins said. “Just with the same very loose, general prompt, I wanted to see what people would come back to me with.”

The artists dedicated several arduous months to recruiting, creating, compiling, and organizing the gallery. One of Wilkins’s chief motivations to organize this gallery is to provide much-needed feedback to fellow artists.

“Art is this weird, very nebulous world where you don’t know if you’re doing well or poorly a lot of the time,” Wilkins said. “So, if I can give a little bit of recognition to the people that I love, that’s a no-brainer.”

Wilkins also highlights the importance of participating in experimental events like these —be it as a contributor or spectator — for cultivating ease with different forms of expression.

“I really love the idea of letting people’s creativity just funnel into different mediums and reestablishing how important it is to gain inspiration from different sources,” Wilkins said.

“I find it really fulfilling to be able to go out there and just try a bunch of new things, experience life and all kinds of different joys of different modes of creation.”