The May Gallery hosts the first annual exhibition of photographs by the faculty of Bill Barrett
The expo ran from Feb. 18 to March 11 and was open to all current and former faculty, according to Aaron AuBuchon.
For 23 years Bill Barrett curated and coordinated Webster’s May Gallery at Sverdrup Hall. His creation, the May Gallery, is the only photographic exhibition space of its kind within a few hours radius.
Each year, the May Gallery hosts graduating exhibitions, exhibitions for non-graduating Webster students, exhibitions for high school students to show off their photography, displays work by world-renowned photographers, and coordinates faculty exhibitions – l most recent event that the May Gallery held on February 18.
After the recent passing of Barrett, who was Webster’s professor of photography for nearly three decades, the May Gallery continues with the help of Webster’s faculty and students.
Aaron AuBuchon, Associate Dean of the School of Communications, played a lead role in planning the Gallery’s recent exhibition, “The Bill Barrett Faculty of Photography Annual Exhibition”. He and other photography teachers worked together to ensure that Museum events would continue.
“The most recent show was a real collaboration of many people to achieve success,” AuBuchon said. “For Webster, just having a gallery like this on campus, having that kind of prestige, is on a list of wonderful things Webster does…to contribute to the artistic and cultural community of St. Luis.”
For the exhibition, AuBuchon designed posters, set up the virtual exhibition and helped with communication between participants and other organizers.
“I was really impressed with this Dean [Eric] Rothenbuhler has been so handy. I mean he did as much as I think I did to prepare him,” AuBuchon said. “Thanks to Tom Barkman in particular. He really put the [exhibition] together. We wouldn’t have had a physical show without him. Thanks to everyone on the show itself for doing their job.
According to AuBuchon, Barkman, who is an assistant professor of photography for Webster, worked to publicize the event and obtain the photographic images, which included printing them. He also hung them on the first floor of Sverdrup.
AuBuchon said that while he and Rothenbuler are happy to be part of the driving force behind May Gallery at the moment, videography is their forte. Eventually, he hopes that the administrative role for the planning of the May Gallery will be fulfilled by the faculty of photography.
“I’ll be involved in the planning for as long as they need an administrator’s hand. My field of activity is parallel to photography, I mean, cameras are cameras. But I’m not a still photographer and I don’t know this world,” AuBuchon said. “So we don’t really know who’s going to run [the Gallery] at this point, because in many ways it will require a full-time person, and I don’t think anyone is ready to discuss that yet, because it ultimately means replacing Bill.
The exhibition’s opening reception was held on February 18 and is scheduled to be on display until March 11. This particular exhibit was open to submissions from anyone who had ever been employed in Webster’s photography department, not just those who had taught in the past year. .
“After Bill died, we opened [the exhibition] support for everyone who has ever taught in the photo program because we wanted it to be a legacy show that reminds people of all the people who had come under Bill’s wing,” AuBuchon said.
Over the two decades Barrett oversaw the May Gallery, he built its reputation as a unique opportunity for the university, alumni and community.
“The May Gallery is a real gallery, it’s not just a place to show student work. A person can say that they have exhibited works in an internationally renowned gallery once they get out of here,” AuBuchon said. “They can say they participated in an exhibition at the May Gallery in St. Louis.”
AuBuchon, who worked with Barrett for 15 years, said he finds inspiration in continuing Barrett’s legacy from memories of Barrett’s passion for working with students.
“Bill made the May Gallery work in part because there was a range of students involved, so we have to engage with the students,” AuBuchon said. “Part of what I consider planning for the May Gallery is all about meeting students in the photo program as a whole and asking if they can help.”
Students help understand the logistics of May Gallery exhibitions, such as which photographic pieces will make the cut. AuBuchon said work is always judged and approved by multiple parties before being exhibited at the May Gallery, and in senior exhibitions, graduate students have to make decisions about what their peers’ work is displayed.
The May Gallery was previously in the second floor West Wing hallway at Sverdrup, but is currently being moved to another space in the building due to hallway renovations. Along with the location change, the May Gallery is also expected to be renamed.
“The May Gallery is more of an entity than a physical space. We are changing the name of the gallery but it will still be the Webster University Photo Gallery. I think he’ll always have a stamp of Bill on him because he can’t help but do that,” AuBuchon said. “It wasn’t because it was his job, it was because it was his passion. He has seen commitment over 23 years of nights and weekends. If you’ve ever been here on a weekend near a show, there’s Bill in the hallway with rules and nails and all the gear for a May Gallery show.
The May Gallery and its new organizers will continue to host exhibitions on a virtual platform while renovations are being completed in Sverdrup’s West Wing. The May Gallery will temporarily close this month and reopen when its new physical space is complete.
While there are currently no formal plans on who will take over responsibility for Barrett, AuBuchon said a set of faculty and staff will constantly work together to maintain the May Gallery for the time being.
AuBuchon also encourages anyone who knew or had a class with Barrett to feel welcome to stop by the Barrett memorial outside his Sverdrup office. Everyone is free to write a message or leave a memory in their commemorative book outside the office.