Random Gallery Spotlight: Dominican University’s O’Connor Gallery

Carrie McGath

The artist, Young Cho, with her work and a visitor. Photos: Vicky Yen of Stubborn Stone Productions

Angela Bryant, the Director of Exhibitions at Dominican University’s O’Connor Art Gallery, spoke to me in an interview about the significance of this River Forest, Illinois space in the realm of contemporary art. Its current exhibition, Fictional Landscapes, is a recommended show by NewCity Art, an accolade among many about the exhibition and about O’Connor Art Gallery in general, a space that should be on all Chicago art-lovers to-go-to lists.

The significant commute from the city to the campus is now being made even easier for Chicago visitors. Bryant said, “We have been given permission to utilize the Dominican shuttle service that will pick up O’Connor guests from the Harlem green line station and bring them to the gallery.  Hopefully, this added incentive will motivate more visitors to see for themselves how great O’Connor Gallery is.”

The gallery is located in Lewis Hall on the Dominican University campus, and its proximity to classrooms and studios keeps the contemporary art exhibited close to students and faculty. “Students literally have to walk through the gallery in order to get to the life-drawing classroom and the computer lab where the graphic design classes are held.  I think it’s wonderful that students get to encounter the artwork in such a personal way on a regular basis.”

Bryant received her Master of Fine Arts in visual art from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where parts of the school are attached to the museum, so she understands the immeasurable importance of students and faculty being close to artwork. “One of my fondest memories, having attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was traveling through the Art Institute Museum in order to get to a classroom located in the Columbus building.” So now, as the Director of Exhibitions at O’Connor Gallery, she makes sure this proximity is utilized to the best of her ability.

A visitor with work by Amy Honchell. Photos: Vicky Yen of Stubborn Stone Productions

She says she is “striving to exhibit artwork that is relevant to their growth as students and artists.” Being an artist herself, her curatorial practice is all the more continually on point. “I am quite passionate about exhibiting work that is fresh and I think it’s easier to detect when you are striving to do that in [your] own studio practice.” In addition to directing the exhibitions at O’Connor, Bryant also has her own gallery, Abryant Gallery. According to its website, Abryant Gallery is “a virtual manifestation of a contemporary art gallery that specializes in showcasing emerging artists working in various traditional and non-traditional media.”

Although these are two different galleries, they speak to one another in a sense. Bryant said, “Abryant Gallery is a rotating contemporary art gallery for new and emerging artists, and O’Connor Gallery is usually reserved for more mid-career and established artists.  What I am essentially doing at O’Connor is [combining] the two.  By pairing artists who have been out of graduate school for 3-5 years with artists have been producing for over 20 years, I hope to create a dynamic program that is both fresh and sophisticated.”

Work by Cho. Photos: Vicky Yen of Stubborn Stone Productions

O’Connor Gallery has a minimum of three curated shows per year while it is also the site of student shows and senior thesis exhibitions. The gallery is located on the Dominican University campus at 7900 West Division on the fourth floor of Lewis Hall and is open to the public. Fictional Landscapes, featuring the work of Amy Honchell and Young Cho, is open through October 26th. The next exhibit, Cosmic Commentaries, opens with a reception on November 2, 2011 from 4:00-7:00 p.m.