In 2006, we decided to try something new at the Kinsey Institute: a contemporary art show featuring works submitted by artists from across the country.
We sent out a call to art schools and organizations across the nation, and were pleased when entries arrived not only from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Kentucky, but also from Florida, Texas, Montana and California. Our juror was Betsy Stirratt, director of the School of Fine Arts Gallery (now the Grunwald Gallery of Art), who selected 38 of the 82 submitted artworks for the exhibition in the Kinsey Institute Gallery. Artists from as far away as San Francisco came to Bloomington for the opening reception.
The following year, the number of accepted pieces more than doubled to 80 works, requiring us to use the hallway outside the Kinsey gallery for additional exhibition space. As we had done the year before, we titled the exhibition The Kinsey Institute Juried Erotic Art Show, to make sure that the artists submitting their work realized that we were looking for artworks that contributed to the institute’s mission to advance sexual health and knowledge worldwide. In 2008, we removed “Erotic” from the title and instructed artists that we were looking for art that addressed a range of themes — sex, sexuality, gender identity, reproduction and the human body.
When 400 people turned up for that year’s opening reception, it was clear we needed to find another home for the increasingly popular exhibition. Fortunately, we were able to relocate to the Grunwald Gallery, a larger space that was available during the summer. This year is our seventh in this venue in the heart of the IU campus, surrounded by the IU Art Museum, Lilly Library, IU Auditorium and IU Cinema.
The move made it possible to accept more works and exhibit a wider range of pieces. Nearly 900 works of art were submitted for the 2015 exhibition by 415 artists from the United States, Canada, Brazil, China, England, Scotland, Israel, Australia and the Netherlands. Works by 86 artists were accepted by the jury.
We can now accept videos, which are projected on the wall or shown on high-definition monitors. This year’s show features a short film, “Safe Word,” by Todd Lillethun (writer/director) and Josef Steiff (producer), which is well worth spending 15 minutes in the gallery’s small back room known as “the Bomb Shelter”. The Grunwald Gallery can also accommodate large artworks, such as this year’s untitled sculpture by Bloomington artist Melanie Pennington, a 500-pound wood phallus with a rabbit fur saddle (the artist has given gallery visitors permission to mount up for photo ops).
As the organizers of the show, Kinsey Institute associate curator Garry Milius and I have always enjoyed meeting the wonderfully creative people who enter their artworks in this exhibition.
The Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show continues through July 11 at the Grunwald Gallery, open noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. More information about the pieces is available online.