by Meryl Phair ’21
The first Five-College Art Conference (FCAC) organized by Mount Holyoke College Art Society was held on Saturday, April 14th. The FCAC brought together students, artists and professionals in a conversation about the arts. In keeping with the mission of the MHC Art Society “to build a warm and welcoming, inclusive and supportive community for all art-lovers,” FCAC also provided a friendly atmosphere for meeting colleagues, and for sharing ideas about the arts through thoughtful discussion.
“The thought of putting together an event like this actually popped up in my head when I was in high school. It wasn’t fully formed yet, just a seed of an idea, a goal, a dream, ” said Yuchen (Angel) Xiang ’20, Art Society Co-Chair and FCAC Principle Organizer.
“Coming into Mount Holyoke with the thought of majoring in International Relations, I accidentally took an art history class,” continues Xiang. “Ever since then, I couldn’t lie to myself about my true passion. I love the arts and especially the stories behind them. I wanted a space where I could hear from professionals, where art-lovers like me could share thoughts and learn from each other through refreshing discussions, and where the arts had a voice. However, I couldn’t find any accessible opportunities around this area. So, I decided to create one myself. I decided to create one for those who share the same thoughts with me.”
The theme of the conference was Identity in the Arts. It was composed of three-panel discussions including Identity in the Making of Art which featured professional artists, Identity in Museum Objects lead by professors from different disciplines and Identity as a Student in the Arts with student museum workers as well as student artists. The panels followed an interview format by members of Art Society with time for Q&A from the audience.
As the first Art Conference held at Mount Holyoke, Art Society has been working tirelessly on this project since the beginning of the spring semester. “I talked to the UMass History Club for potential collaborating relations in October and touched upon the idea of creating a conference which I hope by next year the five colleges can help organize together. From there I started talking to professors in seeking advice and drafted the proposal at the end of the fall semester. Officially, I proposed it to the board and reached out to people in January. Art Society began the thorough organizing process after that,” said Xiang.
The first panel, "Identity in the making of art," featured guest speakers Samuel Ace, Eunjung Park, and Jacob Rhoads. The second panel of "Identity in Museum Objects," included guest speakers Gina Siepel, Spencer Smith, and Bettina Bergmann. Lunch was included followed by a final panel discussion of "Student Presentation," with student speakers Juliana Cordero, Relyn Myrthil, Mary Kate McTeigue, and Jen Villa.
“Lucky me that I’ve got Art and Art History professors and the Art Society Board as a team,” said Xiang. ” I am so grateful and honored to have met each one of them. They’re super supportive, super smart. They’re just…wonderful creatures. Coming to meetings with professors and Art Society members always makes my day. The seed finally sprouted in the sun of South Hadley. I believe that it will grow healthily and happily!”
Xiang’s story shows how her passion for the connections that art fosters between people allowed her dream to become a reality. The plethora of creativity and ideas both the speakers and students [brought forth was] inspiring!!