On Saturday, Nov. 19, about 20 Columbia students from a wide range of backgrounds gathered for an afternoon of intense gallery-hopping. It was the last in a series of "Art Bus" tours started up this fall by the CU Arts Initiative.
Every week, beginning Oct. 17, groups of Columbia students have been spending their Saturday afternoons exploring New York City galleries under the guidance of the University's own art experts, including Gareth James, chair of the Visual Arts Division, as well as several graduate students at the School of the Arts (SOA).
Ashmina Ranjit served as docent for the Nov. 19 tour. A SOA M.F.A. candidate, Ranjit focused on her area of study: contemporary South and East Asian art, particularly pieces that explore women's experiences and perspectives.
Of the hundreds of galleries to choose from, time and geography restricted Ranjit to just four: Plum Blossoms Gallery (555 West 25th St.), to see the work of Chinese female artists Wu Shaoxinang and Jian Shuo; Ceres Gallery (547 W. 27th St.), to see the group show by 10 artists in the Asian American Women Artists Alliance; Bose Pacia (508 W. 26th St.), to view pieces by Indian artist Zarina Hashmi; and Sundaram Tagore Gallery (137 Greene St.), to contemplate works by another Indian female artist, Sohan Quari.
Ranjit's whirlwind tour included some non-art students who'd never been to a gallery before -- some had not even been to Chelsea or Soho. Ranjit said she hoped she'd been successful at providing the kind of "short and quick introduction" that would give them the confidence to explore the city's gallery scene on their own one day.
A few students admitted they did not appreciate all of the pieces Ranjit showed them. Tanuja Gengiah, who studies at the Mailman School of Public Health, said she judged the pieces largely on the basis of aesthetics -- on whether she "liked the way they looked."
For art students, by contrast, Ranjit's tour provided an opportunity to expand their knowledge of the international art scene. Miwako Tezuka, a graduate student in art history, said she'd been taking the Art Bus tours to gain a wider exposure to the city's best artists, as recommended by other art students.
The organizers hope to repeat the event series next fall. Meantime, students can keep visiting galleries on their own. At least one member of the Nov. 18 expedition is already planning to do just that. Li Tang, SIPA '07, declared he would go gallery-hopping again, "by myself or with a friend."