Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer

At midnight on April 10, the website for the first-ever virtual Yale School of Art MFA Open Studios will go live, allowing visitors to view work by MFA students and virtually enter their workspaces. Open Studios will run through April 11.

The Open Studios website will feature work by students studying in departments of painting and printmaking, graphic design, photography and sculpture, as well as information about students participating in the event. Visitors can attend drop-in hours hosted by students in specific studios along with other virtual events throughout the two-day event. The School of Art public events calendar contains a developing schedule of events.

“It was kind of a matter of finding a way to present the students’ work in a manner that they wanted it to be presented in that public way, but also keeping to the ethos of Open Studios, which is very organic, and grassroots and student-led,” said Lindsey Mancini, a communications associate at the Yale School of Art and one of the Open Studio’s main organizers.

This virtual Open Studios comes after much discussion between Art School faculty and students about the best way to recreate the annual event, which is typically held in person. After considering using their own public Art School website and other platforms on which to host Open Studios, the school’s faculty decided to use Artlogic —  a web platform that Mancini said has become popular for museums and galleries to display art virtually — for the event.

“It very much recreates the idea of a white cube in a virtual space,” Mancini said. “It just kind of presents the work and lets it speak for itself, which we knew our students were very interested in doing.”

After choosing the platform, Mancini said she turned to figuring out how to get all the students’ work up on the site. Ideally, she said every student would be allowed to manage their own presence on the platform. But because Artlogic limits the number of logins to a given site, Mancini has had to work with each student individually to build out their portion of the site.

Like in past years, participation in this year’s Open Studios is optional for MFA students. Students who choose to participate have the opportunity to tailor their involvement according to their artistic needs. For example, some students will have custom viewing rooms for their art linked on the website, while others may feature a representative image along with basic background information about themselves. 

This year, 60-70 percent of the Art School’s students will participate in Open Studios, and a third of them will offer Zoom drop-in hours.

“We really want students to engage in a way that feels comfortable to them and that best represents their work and their process,” said Sarah Stevens-Morling, the assistant dean for communications and digital media at the Art School and an organizer of the virtual Open Studios.

In addition to viewing artists’ work on the website, Open Studios attendees will have the opportunity to virtually watch students work in their studios by clicking a “Live on Zoom” link during the event. Other students will offer online studio visits by appointment.

Emma Safir ART ’21, who is studying painting, will be showcasing her work on the website and offering drop-in hours. She said offering these visits virtually has its upsides.

“I think it’s great that I get to keep my personal space mine,” Safir said. “When I’m tired, when it’s done, I just turn off Zoom. So, I have a kind of privacy that I wouldn’t have been afforded if it had been in person.”

But Safir added that showing her work online means losing out on the “phenomenological experience” of experiencing artwork in person.

On the back side of Safir’s paintings are painted colors, created so that their shadows reflect light. “In person, it looks like they’re emanating light from the back and radiating light from the front,” Safir said. But this effect is lost when her works are viewed as two-dimensional photos online.

Safir noted that some students may have chosen to abstain from participating in Open Studios because their work heavily relies on the phenomenological experience of viewing art, citing in particular the example of performance-based works.

Like Safir, Mancini emphasized that virtual drop-in hours allow students to retain their privacy and attend to their studios as “sacred spaces,” which is not always the case in in-person studio visits.

According to Mancini, hosting Open Studios online will make the event more accessible and encourage viewers from beyond New York City — the home of many past Open Studios visitors — to connect with MFA students.

The online platform will also allow students to leave their work on display for longer than in an in-person event. Because the Art School will continue to pay for the Artlogic website for the next year, graduates and students alike can share their Open Studios page link when applying for art programs or jobs in the future.

Annie Radillo | annie.radillo@yale.edu