Self-Identity gallery blends student expression and community involvement

Lauryn Bolz

Editor’s Note: Emily Writebol works for the Rocky Mountain Student Corporation, which is the parent company of The Collegian.

The Self-Identity gallery opened April 19 in Old Town’s Art Lab while supporting local charity Project Self-Sufficiency. The semi-annual, one-night-only event gave students and community members a chance to appreciate art and support a good cause.

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The Art Lab was packed with gallery-goers and the artists themselves, flanked by friends and family and ready to talk about their work. Art lined the space as visitors sampled the artistic wares and mingled with one another, sparking discussion and interest in the process.

Self-Identity is the brainchild of Saxon Martinez, a student who is graduating in the spring. Martinez found his passion in sculpture after getting his associate degree in biomedical sciences and serving in the military. His art business, Saxon Art and Design, founded and continues to run the semi-annual show.

The idea for the student gallery started when Martinez spoke to other members of the CSU art community.

“I suggested having a show and inviting all of the concentrations, and then nobody got back to me,” Martinez said.

Martinez realized the only way he was going to get this show together was to do it himself. Out of this, the first Self-Identity exhibition was born. He invited all concentrations to apply, even ones that are not traditionally shown together.

“There’s more need for artists than just making art.” Saxon Martinez, owner of Saxon Art and Design

Emily Writebol, a senior art major with a focus in graphic design, worked with Martinez in the past to create posters advertising calls for entries as well as other art shows. For this show, Saxon encouraged her to submit her own works.

“Sometimes I feel like I’ve had studio artists or colleagues be a little snooty,” Writebol said. “‘Well, that’s a practical art, you’re just a graphic designer.’ I think it’s cool to see (graphic design) in a gallery. It was actually really exciting.”

The show was not only an opportunity for self-expression but one for promoting and supporting a local nonprofit group. One of Martinez’ main goals for Saxon Art and Design was to impact the local community through the artists.

“With these shows, the most important thing to do is to create a positive impact on the community, because the community is the one who is coming through our doors and the community members are the ones buying art and experiencing the art,” Martinez said. “Saxon Art and Design, as far as curating shows goes, was going to do that. I wanted to find local artists, get a show going, but also find a non-profit in the area, and make sure the artists are giving back to the community.”

The event’s proceeds were donated to Project Self-Sufficiency which helps low-income single parents become economically independent while still maintaining a healthy family.

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“Art is a medium that brings people together,” said Diane Ellsworth, the event coordinator for Project Self-Sufficiency. “Saxon and the artists were able to share their pieces and also support the community by exposing the attendees to a nonprofit that they might not have heard of before.”

Martinez says he feels a special connection to Project Self-Sufficiency.

“There’s more need for artists than just making art,” Martinez said. ”Project Self-Sufficiency is one that is very near-and-dear to me, because I am a parent. They have a scholarship for single parents continuing their education, and they help coach you through it find the resources that you need.”

Writebol agrees that using a public space like the Art Lab as a gathering spot for the community was not only a good way to get messages across, but also fun.

“Because the weather was so nice, we’d go outside for a few moments to get some air,” she said. “People would be walking by like ‘Oh, what’s happening in there?’ We could let them in like, ‘It’s a free show, go on inside!’ and have people come in who didn’t set out to go to an art show that night. We let them challenge themselves or see something they hadn’t seen before.”

Fifteen percent of all art sales made at the event went to Project Self-Sufficiency as well as 100% of the proceeds from a silent auction for one of Martinez’ pieces.

Lauryn Bolz and Graham Shapley can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @LaurynBolz and @ShapleyGraham.