‘Quiet Exhibition’ is breaking the clout barrier for student artists at USC

The free event gives students a chance to showcase their talents and latest works, regardless of their major, social status or financial constraints.

Entrance to the Roski School of Art and Design building.

USC students Bo Kim and Zifei Zhang are co-curating a student art show at the School of Cinematic Arts gallery Friday in an attempt to challenge elitism in the arts community.

“Quiet Exhibition” has no theme, no specific medium highlighted and no requirements for prior experience. The curators say that instead of limiting the work with additional parameters, they want to create a space without boundaries and give all artists a chance to showcase their talent.

“‘Quiet’ is meant to be a space where you do not feel like there’s any barriers. It’s a completely open door exhibit,” said Zhang. “We want to ensure that whoever is out there who feels like their work doesn’t deserve to be seen or that they don’t have enough clout for their art to be exhibited, that is not true.”

The show was initially conceptualized by Kim during their curatorial apprenticeship at the Getty and was inspired by the struggles some students have had with applying to the Roski School of Art and Design student galleries.

“Coming back [from my apprenticeship] I was talking with friends about how it’s kind of hard to show work around campus,” Kim said. “While I was at the gallery, my coworkers told me that it’s actually not as hard as you think to start a curatorial practice. If you have a show, there’s always someone that wants to show their work.”

To have their art showcased by the Roski school galleries, students must be art and design majors, work with a full-time faculty mentor and file an application that includes a written component and samples of their work. After submitting this application, students will be “selected through a competitive process” and “awarded an exhibition based on the merits of their proposal as well as the strength of their past work,” according to the Roski website.

This selectivity extends to the world outside of USC as well, which can be discouraging for any students or new artists who don’t know how to break into the industry, according to Zhang.

“It’s very difficult to get into art shows without having clout or having connections already,” Zhang said. “You have to be a certain level of popularity or have a certain level of people knowing your name in order for you to get recognition.”

At “Quiet,” which was named after the introverted nature of the curators, every single student who applied will have their work shown. On Friday, roughly 15 to 20 students will be able to get their work into the world without having to jump through any of these hoops.

Marissa Ding, a sophomore majoring in health promotion and disease prevention, is one of the artists whose work will be showcased at the event. She says her photography focuses on the pressures to assimilate in white American culture.

“I wanted to submit because I haven’t had my work exhibited in any sort of exhibition before,” Ding said. “I really was intrigued by just the general atmosphere [of ‘Quiet’].”

The show’s welcoming environment attracted more applicants than Kim or Zhang ever expected, they said, and because of this the artists’ work will now be split into two shows, with “Quiet Spring” set for sometime after winter break.

“This fall show is going to be more traditional. There’s a lot more paintings and photos. And then the spring show is a lot more technology based, so there’s more video pieces and installations,” Kim said.

“Quiet” will be held from 6-8 p.m. in the School of Cinematic Arts Gallery Friday. Admission is free and open to all.