Rice Students Turn Billboards Into Works Of Art

April 2, 2009

Rice University students are making the arts accessible to Texans this spring by creating billboards featuring their original works and hosting an open studio April 22. Each of the five billboards measures 11 feet by 23 feet and will go up today in locations in and around College Station.
Though there is a long tradition of artists making dramatic visual statements in the space that’s usually reserved for advertising, it is rare for such an opportunity to be made available to students, said international artist and Rice professor Christopher Sperandio.
Lamar Outdoor Advertising donated the billboard space when Sperandio approached the company with the idea. He then secured Meredith Goldsmith, curatorial associate at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, to jury and select pieces for the student billboard project.
“The range of artwork that Rice University students are making is impressive, and my selections reflect that range,” Goldsmith said. “This billboard project was a unique opportunity for the artists to stretch their subject matter and styles for a venue that audiences experience in motion. I am sure the students’ images will delight and challenge their unsuspecting audience of drivers, as banal familiar landmarks are transformed into works of art.”
The student billboard project exemplifies the reinvigoration of the Visual and Dramatic Arts Program at Rice, said Sperandio, assistant professor of visual and dramatic arts and head of the Studio Department.
“Billboards are just part of the changes,” Sperandio said, noting that the faculty has revised the studio program curriculum. “You can expect some exciting artworks to flow out of our program. Visual Art 2.0 is here – a critically minded, student-focused, boutique arts program perfect for artist/scholars who want to take advantage of the interdisciplinary nature of Rice and work in an expanded cultural field.”
The senior art exhibition will underscore those changes April 22 during an open studio night in Sewall Hall. The exhibition, which is supported by an anonymous one-time gift, will showcase installation and video art as well as traditional painting, drawing, printmaking and photography. Samples of the billboard art will also be shown.
For the first time, Rice is producing a catalog of the artworks, and 5,000 copies will be distributed as an insert in the April 17 issue of the Rice Thresher, the student newspaper. This oversized, full-color tabloid will feature reproductions and statements by the artists.
“Visual Arts is a crucial, if undervalued, field of study,” Sperandio said. “All of this activity – the billboards, the studio show, the production of a catalog of student works – is an effort to reboot Visual Arts at Rice. Through these efforts we are encouraging students to use their studio time to research ways to integrate their studies.”
The April 22 exhibition kicks off at 6 p.m. with a film screening and reception for undergraduate works at the Rice Media Center, then continues in Sewall Hall for the 8 p.m. open studio reception for senior works and an after-party with music and dancing in the sculpture courtyard behind Sewall.  


InstantNewsWestu Staff

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