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Student artists at ASU exhibit their work with the help of a professor in a Downtown Phoenix gallery

From digitally structured paintings to Google Earth Images, MFA students have the opportunity to exhibit their art at Step Gallery

Step Gallery in downtown Phoenix featuring artwork by Travis Rice pictured on Friday, Feb. 24th, 2017.
Step Gallery in downtown Phoenix featuring artwork by Travis Rice pictured on Friday, Feb. 24th, 2017.

Students pursuing a Master's of Fine Arts at ASU have valuable resources at their fingertips, including access to a studio space in Downtown Phoenix and the opportunity to display their thesis work in the gallery. 

Attaining a Master's of Fine Arts (MFA) from ASU is a three-year long process of creating an idea and presenting it to a committee. 

Travis Rice and Molly Koehn are two students in the MFA program set to exhibit their work with the help of gallery director Grant Vetter at Step Gallery, which is part of the renovated Grant Street Studios building in Downtown Phoenix.

Travis Rice is an ASU student who transferred from Rhode Island School of Design. He wanted to travel west to be close to Los Angeles.

“ASU was the one school, out of those I was accepted into, that essentially came through with some additional funding and that sort of solidified my choice,” Rice said.

His MFA thesis exhibition "Fodderland" was featured at Step Gallery last month. The exhibition, largely influenced by the Southwest, consisted of drawings, digitally structured paintings and sculptures. Each piece has careful planning and does not result from a simple burst of inspiration.

“I will sit at the computer and probably plan approximately 10 pieces at a time,” Rice said.

The director of the gallery that displayed Rice's work, Grant Vetter, has curated shows besides ASU-related projects at his own gallery in Tempe, Fine Art Complex 1101. Vetter is also a teacher for senior projects and gallery exhibition classes at ASU. 

Rice said students consider Vetter's work at ASU a greatly valued resource.

“Since his arrival at ASU he has been an absolute promoter and supporter of ASU artists and wants us all to succeed," Rice said of Vetter.

Vetter operates Step Gallery for Master's of Fine Arts, Bachelor's of Fine Arts, and ASU clubs, and handles the exhibition proposals the gallery receives.

A master's student currently displaying thesis work at Step Gallery is Molly Koehn.  "The Physical Features of a Place" is inspired by the diminishing natural settings developing into artificial ones. Her exhibit will include handwoven sculptures, drawings and Google Earth images.

Koehn and Rice have shown their art at Step Gallery before. Rice has featured his work titled “2 Conversations” with Rachel Goodwin.

“It’s a great space," Koehn said of Step Gallery. "I love the semi-industrial look of it.”

To set up her gallery, Koehn said she first figures out the layout by moving her work around to different places.

“It is important to get a good flow in the gallery — each piece needs its own breathing room,” Koehn said.

She said she came to ASU because of the multiple perspectives offered by the variety of staff, and the resources from Vetter are a valuable benefit, as well. Similar to Travis Rice, the funding and program was the reason to attend ASU.

Koehn said, “It was also important that I could get funding and not go into debt by attending ASU.”

“The show is putting on now is just amazing. She makes incredible work," Vetter said of Koehn. 

The opening reception of “The Physical Features of a Place” is March 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. It will run March 2 to March 11. 

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