Maggie Reid, Staff Writer
Carolynne Whitefeather always knew she wanted to be an artist. She recalls knowing this as young as five years old when she painted the underside of her house because she saw pictures of artists painting ceilings during the renaissance.
“I was always happiest doing art,” Whitefeather said. “I was never happy with numbers or writing; I was happiest when working with a visual language in someway. We are lucky if we know ourselves when we are young because then we can choose what we want to do.”
She has been the director of the Edith Langley Barrett Art Gallery since 2001 as well as the artist in residence. While she will still be the artist in residence, she will be retiring as the director this year.
She described it as being bittersweet, as she will miss the students most of all.
“I’m retiring due to medical reasons,” Whitefeather said. “I cannot keep up with the pace anymore. I’m going to miss working with the students. It was like working with art majors but not, as they were majoring in something else. We get to do more. They are wonderful, but I won’t lose touch with them, as we have created our own social and alumni group.”
Having an art gallery on campus is important, according to Whitefeather, because art was one of the first forms of communication.
“Visual language is one-third of literacy,” Whitefeather said. “To not have art and not teach it is to be providing illiteracy, basically. How you choose to engage is based on what you want to do. Since we don’t have a fine arts major here we try to make the most of the gallery. Recently, we have been teaching students watercolor. They learn to read and work and see the truth in art, and that is a fulfillment of the human education process.”
As director, Whitefeather’s duties entailed maintaining and caring for the art collection, developing exhibits, developing special events inside and outside the gallery, student employment, helping students arrive at the ability to produce and provide exhibits.
“The exhibits are not just a one-time thing,” Whitefeather said. “We have a program that provides for annual, bi-annual, triannual and one time exhibits all built into a three year plan. It rotates, and we try to show artists from the central New York area, New York and the national and international level. I plan the collections, the students’ do work for the public relations, marketing, exhibit design and installation. Sometimes they are working on things that will happen this year and sometimes in years to come. We make sure to engage students in their majors by letting them do work within them. It’s a combination of things that I do, but what also the students do such as deciding and planning. It is a student developed gallery in many ways.”
Whitefeather recalled her proudest moment as director.
“Being allowed to create a program that engages and belongs to the students, and moving the art gallery from non-functioning to functioning,” Whitefeather said. “The credit goes to the students for making that happen. We have something unique, the students are trusted to work with the collection.”
While Whitefeather does not know who the new director is going to be, she is confident that they will hire someone who will “advance the art gallery and carry on what we have.”