Marks Art Center offers students opportunities
by Lauren Mewshaw
Surrounded by a sculpture garden and partially hidden by a wall, the Walter N. Marks Center for the Arts at College of the Desert appears at first glance to be an art collector’s home, rather than a gallery that welcomes student involvement.
Located at the northwest corner of COD, the Marks Art Center is removed from the center of campus and is unfamiliar to many students who are not taking art classes.
However, the art center was created with students in mind. There, students can attend events, view exhibits, learn gallery management and show and sell their artwork.
“No, I have no idea about it,” said COD student Amy Graves when asked if she had visited the Marks Art Center. Graves, a returning student to COD, said she had graduated several months before the center opened.
“A lot of students don’t really know that we have our gallery, Marks Center, on campus, which is sad,” said COD student Junko Kobayashi, whose photographs are currently displayed on the Garrow Gallery Wall at the COD library.
While there are several places on campus where students can view art, including the art department and the COD library, the Marks Art Center is “a unique space,” according to gallery student worker Torsten Kerr. At the center, students can view work from both students and professional artists, Kerr explained.
The gallery also lets students who are taking the gallery display management course at COD to set up the exhibits and prepare for events.
Art Gallery Director Dr. Lisa Soccio said she hopes the Marks Art Center is “an accessible point of entry, especially for folks who are not already artists.”
Soccio, who divides her time between running the gallery and teaching courses in art history and gallery management at COD, said she takes classes on tours through the gallery.
The Marks Art Center is now in its eighth year. The center’s building was originally a foundry where metals were melted for sculptures. The foundry closed in the 1990s and later opened as the college’s art gallery in the spring of 2003.
Graves said she wished the center had been open when she was studying at COD previously. At the time, she was taking classes in watercolor and photography.
“I had a few photographs I was proud of,” Graves said. “I wish I could have had them out there.”
This semester, the Marks Art Gallery presented six exhibitions.
Artists included adjunct faculty members as well as artists from out of the area. The final show, which is on display until May 26, is the annual COD Student Scholarship Exhibition.
Showcasing the work of a number of students, the student exhibition features paintings, photographs, and sculptures—some of which are for sale.
“I thought it was awesome to see everybody thrilled with my work, and I was eventually notified that I did receive the scholarship—that was pretty awesome too!” said COD student Lazaro Sanchez, who is one of the recipients of the $1,000 portfolio scholarship.
“Preparing for the continually changing exhibits is one of the most interesting parts of working at the gallery,” Kerr said.
Even when his job is less than glamorous—Kerr recounted the time he had to fill and paint approximately 500 nail holes after an exhibit of 300 photos was taken down—he said that he loves seeing students excited about the art.
“I like to know that the Marks Art Center provides a welcoming and comfortable place for anyone and everyone to . . . experience art, to interact with art, and to interact with each other,” Soccio said.