Last week, three artists from the exhibition “Past as Present: Capturing and Archiving the Female Experience” headlined its opening reception. The event offered the pleasures one would expect from a FotoFocus-affiliated production: astonishing art, tasty refreshments, and a lively panel discussion featuring the artists themselves. But there was one twist. The event didn’t occur at the Contemporary Arts Center or a similar venue. Instead, it took place in the heart of the University of Cincinnati’s Clifton campus, at the DAAP Reed Gallery.
FotoFocus has cultivated a rich relationship with higher education, even if that relationship sometimes gets overlooked. “Consistently, since the first Biennial in 2012,” says FotoFocus Executive Director Mary Ellen Goeke, “we’ve tried to partner with the universities in the region.”
That partnership has produced wonderful results. This year’s Biennial boasts not just 80-plus locations (and 450-plus artists) but exhibitions at nine local universities, including Xavier University, Northern Kentucky University, and Miami University. According to Kate Bonansinga, the UC professor who curated “Past as Present,” FotoFocus’s substantial support makes these exhibitions possible. More than 150 UC students listened to last week’s panel discussion, and, says Bonansinga, “It would not have existed without FotoFocus’s help.” (“Past as Present,” which pairs the work of three Ohio-based artists with other artists who are internationally known, runs through December 2. The Reed Gallery’s hours are Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it is free to the public. )