Fishladder debuts first 2018 exhibition of student art

By Arie Nienhuis | 3/19/18 12:17am

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GVL / Courtesy - gvsu.edu & Jenna Pewarchie Lowres

For 15 years, Grand Valley State University's art publication Fishladder has served as a collection of some of the best art created by GVSU students. Released once a year, Fishladder highlights work from several branches of art, such as painting, creative writing and everything in between. 

Jenna Pewarchie is one of the many artists and writers chosen for this new edition. Her work, “Mended,” is a series of portraits torn apart and sewn back together. 

“I remember opening the email and seeing 'congratulations' and thought I was reading it wrong,” Pewarchie said via email. “It is the best feeling in the world to get acknowledged for all the time and passion that you put into the work, so it is very gratifying.”

Pewarchie sees photography as a method to create a different world through her work. She experiences a distinct sense of freedom when working alone and with her peers.

“I noticed an openness to expressing those emotions, questions, interests, desires and fears in a way that wouldn’t be possible, or as accurate, in a different medium,” Pewarchie said. “I am very influenced by my surrounding friends and family that always accepted my work and encouraged me to keep creating.”

In particular, Fishladder gives the GVSU community the chance to see works of art that represent the university’s entire art community. Joel Zwart, curator of exhibitions at GVSU, believes that Fishladder’s universality is one of its strongest aspects.

“Fishladder is an artistic publication that is working with a large number of students, and they’re soliciting works for their publications and highlighting works that are in the publication,” Zwart said. “The second way that it differs from a lot of our students’ shows is that it has creative writing in it.”

The fact that Fishladder also exists as an ongoing publication is a clear highlight, especially for the creative writing side of the series.

“It’s a great way from bringing attention to the organization itself,” Zwart said. “We don’t do a lot of creative writing, so putting up creative writing samples is a great way of elevating that form of art.”

As for getting involved with the art scene at GVSU, Fishladder has always stood out as a unique opportunity for students. 

“Fishladder does a call for entries every year, so I would say reach out to them and see when they’re planning their call for entries,” Zwart said. “Get involved; (write) something this summer. Draw something this summer. Work on something in the intention of submitting it to Fishladder.”

Pewarchie also shared her advice for young artists looking to expand their horizons and range of opportunities.

“No matter where (you) are within your art form, just keep practicing it whenever you can,” Pewarchie said. “I submitted multiple styles of writing and photography to different publications and got denied every time, but I didn’t let it stop me.”

Selections from Fishladder will be on display in the Kirkhof Center from now until June 22. The latest edition of the Fishladder publication will be released soon.

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