“To see the accomplishment that the students have when they finally complete their exhibitions, is one of the most gratifying things,” she says.
“So to see the ‘ah-ha!’ moment and them saying ‘It’s hard work but I can do it,’ makes me happy. Really happy.”
Grucella runs and maintains three gallery spaces at the University of Arizona School of Art: The Joseph Gross Gallery, The Lionel Rombach Gallery and the Graduate Gallery. She also teaches a class in gallery management, where students learn the practical, technical skills needed to position themselves as prepared for the field.
One of the students she works with, printmaking artist and MFA candidate Abigail Felber, says that having a public gallery space as a laboratory has helped her learn how to see her own work from a totally different point of view: that of the audience.
“I think having that gallery space to show in helps me because I’ve actually only ever done one other very formal show,” she says. “And instead of just saying ok I’ve got it up in my studio space, how can I present it in a way that other people are going to see it and it’s not just going to be me looking at it, you know, day after day, and trying to figure out how it will look best in the gallery years from now.”
Another MFA candidate, photographer Dianna Pizzitelli, appreciates the value of the gallery, as well as the perspective that Grucella brings to her learning.
“Almost right away we had her (Grucella) in the studio and she sort of critiqued the work that we had made so far so she sort of gave us her opinions on what we were doing – what we were actually saying compared to what we were saying it was saying.”
According to Pitzzitelli, Grucella encourages artists to make their work and the messages it conveys more complete and coherent – and more effective in achieving the artist’s original goal.
Decades of Exhibitions
As early as 1957, the UA had a small art space called the Educational Gallery dedicated to displaying faculty and student work. In 1977, the gallery changed locations and was renamed the 101 Gallery. The most recent change came when, in 1978, a gift from chemical engineering professor Joseph F. Gross established the new gallery space in memory of his father, Joseph Gross, Sr.
Built in 1993, the Joseph Gross Gallery stands today as a key element of the UA Fine Arts complex, and a place where experienced artists and budding creative professionals can test themselves and their work.
“I like being able to put emerging artists, contemporary artists and professional artists in touch with our students,” says Grucella. “So any time there’s a chance for that interactivity, I really push for it.”
Right next door to the Joseph Gross Gallery is the Lionel Rombach Gallery, a space for fine arts students to display the work they are producing as they go through the program.
“I’m a big believer in the gallery space,” says Pizzitelli, “but having the Rombach Gallery is just a really good way to test out installations, because you really don't know how something is going to turn out until it’s there.”
A Test of Artistic Connectivity
Exhibitions at the Lionel Rombach gallery change every 9 days – a very fast turnaround. Anyone wishing to exhibit their work, must work hard and fast to take advantage of the opportunity.
Grucella puts out a call for exhibition proposals two weeks prior to the fall semester, and makes her plan for the year based on what she receives.
“Faculty can present classes, and graduate students can put together shows,” she says, “like Deanna and Abby who just completed theirs.”
And for Abby, that gallery experience has been an invaluable part of her education.
“Showing in a gallery, it’s important for me to feel connected to the community and to feel like I’m a part of that community,” she says. “If I can connect that much more with people, just through my artwork, then I’ll be set.”