When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down CalArts’ in-person operations (and the world) in March 2020, then-student Benjamin Gordon was determined to finish his Art MFA program.
“I felt there was a lot of momentum behind my art practice,” he said during a telephone interview with 24700. “I didn’t want to take a leave of absence.”
When Gordon found out that the Fall 2020 semester would be conducted online as well, he began to scan listings for commercial real estate to set up a studio and to stage his MFA 2 thesis. In September and October, he scouted locations and was able to negotiate a six-month lease starting Dec. 1, 2020, at 7713 Melrose Ave., which formerly housed the AA|LA gallery.
Once in the space, Gordon offered his MFA 2 cohort the use of the space to showcase their thesis exhibitions as well. “I wanted a close to an on-campus exhibition as possible,” he said, referencing the D-301 Gallery space at CalArts. “[The exhibitions] ran Saturday to Saturday just like it would be if we were on campus.”
Seven MFA 2 students exhibited their works at 7313 Melrose, with one flying in from New York to install their thesis show.
The 7313 Melrose Ave. cohort are:
- Benjamin S. Gordon: Sticks & (March 13-20, 2021)
- Fía Benitez: Root Rot (March 22-26, 2021)
- Eleanor Francis: The Ladder is Always There (March 29–April 3, 2021)
- Danielle Trent: Creatures of the District (April 5-9, 2021)
- Richard Nam: Epics of 2020 Conflagrations (April 11-17, 2021)
- Aidan Romick: Lotusland (April 18-24, 2021)
- Ruoyi Shi: Three or More Fish (April 26–May 1, 2021)
Because of COVID restrictions and county health guidlines, the exhibitions were kept on the downlow and were open by invitation-only. Gordon said there could only be six people total in the gallery during the start of the run of exhibtions in March. By the time the last exhibition was mounted, 12 people were allowed in the gallery at the same time.
During the run of exhibitions, several Art faculty members and many of Gordon’s CalArts peers set their appointment times to see the art shows.
“Staging during the pandemic wasn’t all bad,” he said. “I could focus without distractions, but it was also difficult to build community.
“[7313 Melrose] allowed my cohort to connect and bring us together, creating some semblance of community.”