view a photography exhibition in the main gallery of the Robert
B. Menschel Media Center.
Describing the somewhat mysterious
and indefinable nature of the creative process, author E.L.
Doctrow compares the art of writing a novel to driving a
car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights,
he says, but you can make the whole trip that way.
On some level, parts of the creative process for nearly
any art form may require darkness, where ideas can safely
be developed before being exposed to the worlds light.
For artists whose medium is photography, darkness is even
more essentialquite literally necessary to the creation
and development of their work. Theres
something truly magical about it, says Gary Hesse
G92, associate director of Light Work and the Community
Darkrooms at the new Robert B. Menschel Media Center, especially
when youre working in black and white and can actually
watch a photo develop in front of your eyes.
Gary Hesse G92, left, and Jeffrey Hoone of Light Work
and the Community Darkrooms check out some photography prints
Magical might also be used to describe the transformation
of the former Watson Theater Complex on Waverly Avenue into the
renovated home of Light Work and its programming affiliate, the
Community Darkrooms, which have shared space since 1973. The new
media center was dedicated in May 2001, following six years of planning
and nearly two years of design and construction. It is also the
home for UUTV, a student-run television station; WJPZ, a student-run
radio station; the Food Works grocery store; and Watson Theater,
a 250-seat lecture hall.
One of the nations
preeminent nonprofit arts organizations, Light Work was created
to support emerging and under-recognized visual artists working
in photography and related media through exhibitions, artists
residencies, grants to local photographers, special projects, and
Contact Sheet, a publication that is distributed five times
a year. The Community Darkrooms is a state-of-the-art public access
photography facility that provides Syracuse University students
and Central New York residents with access to the equipment and
materials needed to produce black-and-white and color photographs,
learn new photographic skills, experiment with digital photography,
and use high-end digital output services. Next year, Community
Darkrooms celebrates its 30th anniversary, Hesse says. In
all that time, its programs have remained true to the initial spirit
of gathering together a community of people interested in photography
to share ideas, share work, and create new work.
facility doubles Light Works space to more than 10,000 square
feet and houses a new main gallery, expanded color and black-and-white
darkrooms, a digital imaging lab, a collection storage area, and
space and equipment for preparing exhibitions and publications.
The center also includes two darkrooms and a computer lab for the
exclusive use of photographers participating in Light Works
artist-in-residence program. Three separate galleries are integrated
into the lab facility, including one that allows for multimedia
presentations and features Internet connections and a 42-inch plasma
display screen to further integrate traditional and electronic presentations.
The Menschel Media Center adds yet another dimension to our
co-curricular program for SU students with interests in radio, television,
photography, and computer imaging, says Barry L. Wells, senior
vice president and dean of student affairs. Were excited
about the expanded opportunities students have to interact with
faculty and pursue knowledge beyond the classroom. Opportunities
like these define the rich educational experience at Syracuse and
support the Academic Plan.
Alter 03 prints a photo using the 42-inch
archival digital printer.
was made possible with a $2 million naming gift from longtime Light
Work supporter and Syracuse University Trustee Robert B. Menschel
51, H91. The University contributed the balance of the
$3.2 million renovation cost and managed the design and construction.
We have a long and tremendously beneficial relationship with
Robert Menschel, says Jeffrey Hoone, director of Light Work
and the Community Darkrooms. In the early 80s, Menschel provided
a grant that allowed Light Work to hire a second staff member. He
later funded the Robert B. Menschel Photography Gallery in the Schine
Student Center, a main exhibition space for Light Work. That
space gave us more visibility, Hoone says. Menschels
ongoing support has enabled us to move forward from his first gift.
This new space is a result of his continued generosity and his vision.
The Light Work staff is goal-oriented and shares a strong commitment
with Menschel to quality and maximizing resources, Hoone says. His
love for the University plays a key role in our relationship. He
has a deep attachment to the University, and a big part of that
is always trying to make SU better.
Community Darkrooms lab manager Vern Burnett, second from
right, meets with a group in the Macintosh digital lab.
In forming his
vision for the center, Menschel enlisted the help of his friend,
prominent New York City-based architect Richard Meier, who contributed
design concepts for the glass-block exterior and full-height entrance
doors. Syracuse architect Mike Wolniak 78 incorporated those
concepts into a design that Hoone describes as an elegant
combination of form and function. Menschel also encouraged
Light Work staff to solicit renowned artist Sol LeWitt 49
for a contribution to the project, resulting in a gift of one of
his celebrated wall drawings, which has been installed in the centers
to the lab facility, which is open to members of the SU community,
the general public, and Light Work artists-in-residence, include
a 10-station Macintosh digital lab with high-end scanners and a
42-inch archival digital printer. The photography lab features areas
for black-and-white film developing and separate facilities for
making black-and-white and color prints, including a 30-inch color
processor. A classroom and studio space are also available, as well
as a large work area for viewing and finishing prints. We
like to think about the range of artists, Hesse says, from
traditional photographers to those working with technology. The
medium is constantly changing and expanding. We think about that
in the work we exhibit and publish, and the spaces we create for
artists to work in.
The center blends form and function in its design.
black-and-white darkroom is just one example of the facilitys
many improvements and represents the organizations commitment
to supporting visual artists working in photography and digital
media. Here, people can work in photography the way they have
for the past 150 years, Hesse says. Even though this
is how photography has existed since its beginnings, black-and-white
photography is still a standard, and may be the most popular thing
we do here. Thats a strong reminder to us that, although we
always want to look to the future and think about what artists are
doing with technology, we never want to lose sight of where photography
A wall drawing by artist Sol LeWitt 49 is on display
in the centers main foyer.
This work area provides photographers with space to put
the finishing touches to their prints, mat and frame them,
and prepare them for exhibition.
There is simply no other place like Light Work, says
photographer Tony Gleaton, a three-time artist-in-residence at Light
Work. If you didnt know anything about the organization,
youd be surprised that its all held together by a small
but highly motivated number of people. They are there simply to
serve the artist. You come to Syracuse, they greet you and make
sure you are settled. Then they hand you the keys to the place and
encourage you to feel no boundaries.
returned to Light Work this past spring with his exhibition Tengo
Casi 500 Añoswhich features portraits depicting
Africas legacy in Mexico, Central America, and South Americais
impressed with the centers improvements. Everything
is beautiful and top notch, he says. Yet the core of
the placethe heart of Jeff Hoone and his merry men and womenhas
stayed true. It is always a pleasure to be involved with them. They
make you a part of the family, and for that I feel lucky. Plus they
work so damned hard. It is motivating.
are wonderful, says London-based photographer Max Kandhola.
High-end computers, professional digital printers, the design
and planning of the black-and-white darkroom facility and color
printingits a place that welcomes all who want to participate
in photography and the arts. The theater space provides opportunities
for discussion and debate for students, professors, professionals,
amateurs, and local community members. Thats what Light Work
and the Community Darkrooms are all aboutproviding an environment
for exploration of ideas, passion, communication, and expression.
participated in the artist-in-residence program in 1996, and was
invited to return this year. Light Work has been a major factor
in the distribution and visibility of my photographic work,
he says. It is a community of people who are generous in providing
assistance toward the artists objectives. The students who
work at the darkroom are always on hand to talk about the work and
their own photographic studies. Theres a constant flow of
different people using the facilities and exchanging ideas.
He also values Light Works international reputation. Theyve
invited many artists from England and Europe to participate in their
programs, with great success, he says. Contact Sheet
is recognized by all major photographic publishers, curators, galleries,
Photographers examine prints in the black-and-white darkroom.
During his sophomore year, Matt Carvette 03 stepped up to
the position of general manager for UUTV, the nations largest
student-run college television station. In this role, he oversees
all the stations departments, including production, promotions,
and operations. We have three types of programming,
Carvette says of the station, which broadcasts on Time Warner Channel
10 in Syracuse and worldwide at uutv.syr.edu.
Theres news, featuring campus and local news five nights
a week; entertainment, including game shows and sketch comedy; and
sports, covering SU football, basketball, and other college athletics.
of UUTV staff members are enrolled in the Newhouse School, but Carvette
says the opportunity to gain experience at the station is open to
all SU students. They serve as producers, directors, and editors;
work with cameras, sound, lighting, and graphics; or handle aspects
of promotions or programming. We have about 250 student employees
who come and go throughout the year, he says. And theyre
from just about every school and college at the University.
lost studio space in the facilitys renovation, Carvette and
his staff arent complaining. Our new space is so much
cleaner, newer, and nicer, he says. Overall, were
very happy with the changes.
02, originally from New York City, moved to Syracuse as a
high school freshman, when her father took a position as a professor
of illustration at the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA).
Shes volunteered at Light Work and the Community Darkrooms
ever since, in exchange for use of the facilities. I used
to be a dancer, but when I was injured I looked for another creative
outlet and became interested in photography, she says.
Last May, Thompson
graduated from VPA with a degree in art photography, and she plans
a move to London this fall. I love the art scene there,
she says. Through Light Work, I met many visiting artists
from London, and Gary Hesse set me up with people to contact. My
own work changed a lot because of Light Work. I learned how to run
everything during my years there and began doing a lot of digital
work. The new facility is outstanding, although I thought it was
amazing before. Were lucky to have such wonderful support
in Syracuse, and the chance to meet famous artists. Working along
with the visiting and local artists is so helpful to students. Theres
always someone looking over your shoulder, giving you tips. Its
a real community and a wonderful place to learn.
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