By Anastasia Skliarova
After months of fundraising, renovating and organizing, The Rabbit Gallery reopened for the fifth time on Thursday, May 14. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the crowd that attended this opening night was welcomed with open arms into Appleton’s own pop-up gallery space at 502 W. College Ave.
Smiles covered the faces of the student team that had put so much time and energy into making this Lawrence tradition a reality. Visitors were encouraged to enjoy the assortment of drinks and treats provided—this gallery opening was a feast for many of the senses.
While walking around the gallery, I was struck by how calming the ambiance was: no part of the space felt cluttered, live guitar music filled the room, and the art was diverse and fascinating. In short, The Rabbit Gallery and its opening night felt very well prepared, yet simultaneously organic.
Senior Adriane Melchert, acting director of The Rabbit Gallery, detailed the gallery’s history and mission. Five years ago, Coordinator of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program and Lecturer of Economics Gary Vaughan and Frederick R. Layton Professor of Art and Associate Professor of Art Rob Neilson collaborated to create The Rabbit Gallery. The alliance of these professors and their departments allowed for a new Lawrence tradition to blossom.
This partnership of Lawrence’s academic departments has encouraged teamwork in its students. “Every spring, a group of art-interested individuals work together, with the patient guidance of our faculty advisors, to delegate the host of responsibilities that come with running a solvent business operation,” said Melchert.
The team of students who make the gallery possible is comprised of acting and assistant directors. They “orchestrate many vital moving pieces initiated by the other students. Together they work to balance the budget, schedule events, publicize the gallery, design the interior of the space, organize volunteers to help the board renovate and finally, finesse the ending aesthetic.”
According to Melchert, the mission of The Rabbit Gallery from its inception remains the same today—“to provide experience in the gallery setting for the student board members, as well as another outlet for artists to show their work in a public setting outside Lawrence.”
Junior Ethan Perushek, director of curation, shared his favorite part of the gallery’s development. “I loved the curatorial process, no question,” he responded. “Seeing all of the amazing work that was sent to us was truly incredible, and being able to create a show formed from mine and my partners’ brains and ideas was something I enjoyed immensely. I can’t thank all the people who constantly helped make this place great.”
The theme for the exhibit this year was “Lacuna,” which can be defined as “an unfilled space or interval; a gap,” “a missing portion in a book or manuscript,” or “a cavity or depression, especially in bone.”
Although the works varied greatly in terms of subject and medium, they all played with the notion of an absence. Some pieces expressed the theme of “lacuna” through intricacies of visual space and literal gaps; others dealt with it in terms of metaphorical intervals, through nostalgia or other such markers of time.
There were a few pieces that were so comical they made me laugh out loud. Certain works made me think of childhood and joyful colors, while others felt more somber and allowed me to think more critically about certain social traditions in which I participate. I found the entire art exhibit to be thought-provoking and was excited to discuss my reactions to particular pieces with those around me.
I was also impressed with the entrepreneurial efforts of The Rabbit Gallery, which go beyond facilitating art sales. Students are also selling T-shirts, shot glasses, stickers and buttons, all emblazoned with the charming bunny logo. In addition, there are catalogs for sale that display the 2015 exhibition and include the artists’ biographies and inspirations—a beautiful memento of this year’s curated works.
In addition to regular gallery hours, The Rabbit Gallery will also be hosting several special events that are open to the community and feature Lawrentians’ many forms of artistry. Poetry night will take place on Thursday, May 21, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will also be an “Art in the Dark” event taking place on May 29, from 10 p.m. to midnight, which promises to shed light, pun intended, on an entirely new gallery viewing experience.
Other upcoming events include performances from the musicians of SOL Studios on May 30, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., as well as an evening of alternative plays from Greyfell Theatre on June 4, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Rabbit Gallery will be open until Friday, June 12, and its regular business hours are 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.