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The Shepherd Union Building is a hub for Weber State University student activity, with many different venues for social interaction. The Shepherd Union Art Gallery is one of these venues where students can come and reflect upon other students’ works and open a dialogue with other students. The gallery not only gives opportunity to students to view works of art, but gives artists opportunities to show their work.
Bill Fruth, Shepherd Union Building director, said that seven or eight years ago when he and his committee were dreaming about what a renovated union building would look like, one of the ideas that stood out to them was having an art gallery space. He said they wanted a space “for students and the campus community to show their work.”
The art gallery is located next to the Shepherd Union Fireplace Lounge, right next to the bridge to the Student Services Building. Fruth said he is very happy with the location, because it is at a crossroads but still has the privacy a gallery should have. He said people still have to make an effort to go in and enjoy the work, and that it is important to have the gallery, even with another gallery just across campus in the art building.
“It was very deliberate that it was in the union,” Fruth said. “I don’t think you can have too much gallery space on a campus. So we are very proud and fortunate to have it here.”
Caril Jennings, marketing director for the performing arts department, described Fruth as being passionate about having the gallery in the union building. She agreed that it is a great resource.
Jennings used to own an art gallery in Ogden, and has just this year requested to do three shows in the Shepherd Union Art Gallery. She said it was a great opportunity for her to continue some of her favorite shows she used to do at her own gallery. Through these shows, Jennings met Rachel Rigley, a junior in the fine arts department.
Rigley just finished a solo show in the Shepherd Union Art Gallery, which she set up through Jennings.
“I was showing my artwork to my boss, and she thought it was really good,” Rigley said. “I was telling her how I would really like to show it and asked her if she knew anyone I could talk to. She knew Caril Jennings and (said) I could talk to her.”
Rigley said she put off talking to Jennings because she wasn’t sure how to go about doing that and had never tried to get her art into a show before. When she did finally meet with Jennings, she was told everything was booked.
“She came to talk to me,” Jennings said, “and I told her, ‘I’m sorry I don’t have a gallery.’”
After just speaking with Rigley, Jennings asked to see her portfolio. Rigley said that after she’d shown her some pieces, Jennings became emotional and essentially squeezed another show into the allotted time she had scheduled in the art gallery.
“Honestly, even though getting a solo exhibition is a big honor, having someone react that powerfully to my artwork is the biggest honor,” Rigley said.
Rigley’s work was on display in the Shepherd Union Art Gallery for a week. She said the experience was surreal and that she was very grateful for the chance to do a solo exhibition at her level. She said the reviews she got from her show were mixed, especially in reaction to the pieces where Rigley used pieces of her hair in the work.
Rigley and Jennings both said there is a power to art and its ability to move people, making the gallery in the union so important.
“That’s the power of art,” Rigley said. “It can communicate, it can make you feel like you’re not alone, and it can change your whole way of thinking, your whole way of looking at things. Not a lot of other things can do that.”
Jennings and Fruth both said the gallery is a great space for students, faculty and community members to view WSU artwork and shows.