CELEBRATE! profile: Alaina Pineda '09
Alaina Pineda ’09 saw a disconnect between the campus community and the university’s art collection, and the art history major wanted to convey her passion for artwork by “unmasking the problems of the art collection in a scholarly way.” Her subsequent research project, “More Than Just Stuff on the Wall,” was presented at SURF this week and is the last in a series of E-net profiles to highlight undergraduate research during CELEBRATE! 2009.
Pineda, who serves as student assistant to the art collection, felt it was important to develop a hands-on project that had the ability to change perceptions. She researched artists who challenged the traditional practices of viewing art and exhibitions as “decoration” and explored the role different university art collections have played.
After gaining a research foundation, Pineda invited eight students, faculty and staff across various disciplines to view Elon’s art collection and arrange their own “guerrilla” exhibitions on campus that would be hard to ignore.
Artwork was featured in nontraditional places such as a women’s restroom in Spence Pavilion and was promoted through videos and fliers that urged people to go see the temporary exhibitions. The exhibition was also displayed during College Coffee on April 21, when Pineda and others involved in the project carried artwork through the crowd.
“There was a wide range of responses to the exhibitions, including honest inquiry and interest to ambivalence to general discontent,” says Pineda. “The main goal was to make people aware, so no matter the response, people were exposed to new ways of viewing art.”
Pineda credits Evan Gatti, assistant professor of art, with mentoring her throughout the course of her project. "She has been the driving force behind embedding the collection in the intellectual fabric of the university," Gatti said. "We have worked side by side these last two years and the collections are better for her involvement. Alaina’s passion for art history and the significance of visual culture across disciplines is an inspiration to all those she has worked with."
The two were a bit hesitant taking on such an abstract, challenging project, but Pineda said she feels it resulted in a very successful and collaborative experience.
“We worked as peers, with each of us acting as one half of a single art collection brain,” Pineda said. “This arrangement allowed me to follow my research wherever it took me and to ask the big questions.”
Art has always been an integral part of Pineda’s life. She focused primarily on the creation of art in her high school and early college years, yet now has seen the discipline take on a more expansive and scholarly role for her. “Art seems to have taken over my life,” admits Pineda. “I make it, study it, write about it, talk about it… perhaps even dream about it. I am really interested in how art has a voice. It is our job to explore it.”
In addition to her own presentation, Pineda said, she is eager to see the work of her peers and to witness how they channeled their passions into intellectual pursuits.
The pending graduate plans to spend her summer working for her father’s organization, Cooking with Cancer, which serves cancer patients and caretakers through quality food and ongoing research. And while she will use the time to apply to graduate schools, she remains open-minded as to what her next major endeavor will be.
“All I know is that I need to be in a creative environment working on projects that are challenging and engaging,” she says. “I imagine that could lead me in a number of directions, so I will just have to look around and see what might come my way.”
- Written by Bobby Hoppey '09