Art on the go: Roving gallery gets rolling

Wheaton Professor Kelley GoffAssistant Professor of Art and Art History Kelly Goff has let loose an unusual brainchild on campus. He’s calling it the Mobile Small Works Gallery.

“The gallery is like a cross between a dessert cart and a sculpture pedestal with a Plexiglass vitrine [display case] on top,” Goff says. “It has chunky tires to help increase its all-campus roving capabilities. The seed of this idea was an itch to share the exciting things we are doing in studio art with the Wheaton community at large. I imagined a mobile art gallery that is capable of traversing our campus, showing up in academic spaces, dining halls, and sports events.”

The first gallery, one of several he plans to launch, is called NOMAD 1. The roving mini-galleries will be curated by students and faculty members. The current gallery features student works, but he envisions a whole fleet of wheeled exhibits bringing art to unexpected nooks all over the campus. The possibilities are enormous: Goff is hatching plans to use the spaces to display small objects from the Wheaton Permanent Collection, and to serve as satellite exhibition spaces for the Beard and Weil Galleries.

“I had seen small works galleries on art school campuses like at Rhode Island School of Design, where I did my graduate work. Part of the charm of small works galleries is that they can be regarded officially despite their diminutive size,” he says. “I wanted a way to show small sculptures and objects at Wheaton. But in the spirit of connectedness, I decided that this gallery should be mobile. I wanted it to be more agile than a display case, to be able to show up in unexpected or traditionally underserved locations. A sculpture stand with big wheels seemed to be the answer.”

Where’s the Mobile Small Works Gallery?

As a visual artist who enjoys sculpture, Goff constructed the first roving exhibit case himself, down to the Plexiglass case. The cart measures about two feet by three feet at its base and can house sculptures up to two feet tall. The first gallery was launched on October 31, and wheeled from Mars Arts and Humanities to the Mars Center for Science and Technology, where it was left in the Diana Davis Spencer ’60 Café.

In true Wheaton style, the project has become an interdepartmental collaboration. Goff worked with Assistant Professor of Computer Science Tom Armstrong to create a GPS tracking system that will allow people to find the location of the wandering exhibits simply by checking in with the Art and Art History department’s Facebook pages and Tumblr.

Goff, who grew up in Curaçao in the Caribbean, comes to Wheaton as a new tenure-track professor, having earned his M.F.A. in sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design. He works with a vast array of media, including woodworking, metal fabrication, mold making, casting, painting and drawing. This fall he taught “Spatial Dynamics” and “Drawing 1.” He will teach “Sculpture 1” in the spring.

Goff says that one of the things that drew him to Wheaton is the school’s emphasis on interdisciplinary connections. “I often imagine the role of the visual artist as researcher of the world: a person who carefully considers their environment, passes it through some kind of filter, and shares the result,” he says. “The sharing of our visual work is especially critical as an instigator of conversation. I see so much potential for visual art to serve as a cross-disciplinary pollinator.”

Photo by Keith Nordstrom