(EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is a part of the Sun-Gazette's ongoing "Taking Care" series, which looks behind the scenes at the art of curating.)
"I love my work," said Rose DiRocco-Hodges, gallery director of the Lycoming College and Eagles Mere Art Galleries. It's a phrase I expect to hear again and again in the coming weeks as I speak with other local curators. After all, what's not to love? "It's always different every week," DiRocco-Hodges continued. "It's never boring. There's always a new artist, a new show, a new customer or gallery visitor."
DiRocco-Hodges loves her work so much, in fact, that she curates two galleries year-round. "It actually works out very well because the Eagles Mere Gallery is only open in the summer months. So when the Lycoming College Gallery closes, I come to Eagles Mere and run the gallery for the summer."
DiRocco-Hodges has been the gallery director of the Lycoming College Gallery for 13 years and has managed the Eagles Mere Gallery for the past five. With a combined 18 years of experience, DiRocco-Hodges knows a thing or two about the art of curating.
Born and raised in Long Island, N.Y., DiRocco-Hodges moved to Williamsport to attend Lycoming College. After taking a job in the art department and becoming involved in the daily operation of the Lycoming College Gallery, she was offered the job of gallery director.
"I became really interested in the gallery and in putting together the shows there every month," DiRocco-Hodges said. "I kind of took over and got really involved in the work. When they offered me the job of gallery director, I jumped at the opportunity."
After working in the Lycoming Gallery for a number of years, DiRocco met several key players in the local art community. One of those was artist Terry Wild, who approached DiRocco-Hodges with an idea.
"Five years ago, Terry told me he was opening an art gallery in Eagles Mere and asked if I wanted to be the gallery's director," DiRocco-Hodges said. "Of course, I agreed right away."
DiRocco-Hodges said curating the two galleries is very different. The Lycoming Gallery is a college gallery and, as such, its goals are primarily academic, whereas the Eagles Mere Gallery, which attracts a greater number of private buyers, has more commercial aims.
With the Lycoming College Gallery, the curating process starts as a collaborative effort among the members of the art department. "We meet as a department right after the end of the academic year and discuss the gallery shows for the upcoming year. We critique different artists, review their work and decide which will become an exhibition," DiRocco-Hodges explained. "Once the artist is chosen, I take over. I work with the artist, getting the work into the gallery, setting it up, advertising for the exhibitions and so on."
According to DiRocco-Hodges, choosing the art is often a matter of achieving variety from one exhibition to the next. "We try to vary every show," DiRocco-Hodges said. "We'll have a photographer, a painter, a sculptor, and so on. Really, the gallery is intended to benefit our students. So we pick work that allows our students to see a variety of artists, mediums and techniques for producing art. That's a big factor in our decision-making process."
A major part of any curator's job is deciding where and how each artwork will be displayed in the gallery. This choice is often constrained by gallery space and other, more subjective considerations.
"Depending on what the art looks like, I'll group things according to design, or form, or color," DiRocco-Hodges said. "Sometimes we'll mix it up. It's all about what looks good to the eye. Typically, we'll stand the pieces against the wall and then move them around until the arrangement is pleasing to the eye."
DiRocco-Hodges sometimes collaborates with the artist in arranging his or her work in the gallery. "I send every artist a gallery layout so they have an idea of how many pieces to send," she said. "I receive the work two weeks before the show and it takes us anywhere from a couple of days to a week to set up a show. A lot of times, the artist will say 'do what looks best to you.' Basically, they leave it up to me. Others will come in and want their work arranged in a very specific way. So it can be a joint effort, too, depending on the artist."
The Eagles Mere Gallery's curating approach is very different from the College Gallery's approach. For one thing, DiRocco-Hodges doesn't have to decide which artists will be exhibited.
"The Eagles Mere Gallery is a co-op of 11 different local artists," DiRocco-Hodges explained. "When Terry [Wild] started the gallery, he spoke with a number of Williamsport artists to see if they'd be interested in showing their work in Eagles Mere and they absolutely were. Those 11 artists pay a monthly fee to have their work exhibited and the gallery takes a 20 percent commission, which is how we stay open."
As a cooperative of artists, the Eagles Mere Gallery boasts a range of mediums and styles, which showcases the versatility and talent of several local artists, including Theresa Crowley-Spitler, Fred Gilmour, Jule Hanford, Crissy McGinnis, Patricia Neely, Tom Patten, Jackie, Thomas, Roger Shipley and Terry Wild.
"None of the art overlaps," DiRocco-Hodges said. "We try not to have two of any one medium. We have one photographer, one watercolorist, one fabric artist, one pastel artist, one guitar maker, one furniture maker, one ceramicist, one painter-drawer, one sculptor and one jeweler."
DiRocco-Hodges said her approach to curating the Eagles Mere space is straightforward compared to the choices she has to make when curating the College Gallery. "The Eagles Mere Gallery is a very condensed space and each artist has his or her own space within it," DiRocco-Hodges said. "When a picture, painting or photo is bought, then I'll put up another by the same artist in its place. If I sell out of an artist's work, I'll call them up and ask them to bring in more work. They like getting that call. It's what every artist wants to hear."
Despite the differences in their collections and intended audiences, both of DiRocco's galleries play an integral role in the local art scene.
"Both galleries are smaller compared to others in town, but I think each gallery, no matter how big, plays an important part in the art scene of Williamsport," DiRocco-Hodges said. "Every gallery contributes to making art interesting and accessible to the public. They all contribute to raising the profile of our local art scene."
For more information about the Lycoming College Gallery, visit lycom ing.edu/art/currentgall eryshows.html. For information about the Eagles Mere Art Gallery, visit www.eaglesmereartgallery.com.