Kitao is a student run art gallery space on campus named after beloved retired Art History professor, Kaori Kitao. In the Fall 2019 semester, one of my closest friends and I took over as co-presidents of the Kitao Gallery. I went from being semi-invested in this extracurricular activity to taking on a leadership role and being involved in everything. Unsure of what extracurricular activities will look like due to COVID-19, I’ve been thinking a lot about how Kitao can continue programming events in the near future. There are a lot of unknowns, but I know that we will keep doing our best to keep Kitao and the arts alive during these turbulent times. Until we know more, here are some things I miss about Kitao:
1. The space: We are very lucky to be one of the clubs on campus that have our own space. Kitao Gallery is located behind the tennis court, near the Women’s Resource Center and Olde Club. Kitao members have special card access to get into the space, so I always feel an ounce of power. Being able to have our own space for meetings and events is super nice and we get to decorate it however we like.
2. Brainstorming ideas with the team and making them happen: Kitao members meet every Sunday at 5pm to plan for future events and shows. It actually takes a decent amount of effort to try to come up with something new and exciting that people will show up for. The process of a putting on a show typically goes somewhat like this:
We think of an idea.
Someone makes a flyer and we advertise our call for art.
We sign up for shifts for artists to drop off their art.
Someone makes a flyer and we advertise the day of the show.
Kitao members install the art and all the labels.
We buy lots of snacks and decorations if needed.
We set up the food and space for opening.
It takes about a month or so to put everything together so that people have time to sign up and submit art, and also because we are busy people. When the pieces start coming together and we get to enjoy the day of the show, it’s really rewarding!
3. When people come to the shows: There is no better feeling than watching people trickle into a show after we spend hours brainstorming, planning, and installing the art. Our most successful show in Spring 2020 was the Black History Month Art Show. Not only did students come, a few staff and faculty came as well! I love the feeling of excitement whenever I hear the door creak open, revealing new faces eager to check out the art.
4. Packed workshops: Some of the most popular workshops Kitao has hosted include making earrings and embroidery. It’s always a good time when the space is packed with people at all the tables and also some people sitting on the floor, where we have pillows. Watching people having fun and making something that they are proud of is very rewarding, even if we have to stay later to clean up. These workshops are a good way to do arts and crafts without feeling like you have to be a practicing artist to participate. I miss just hanging out with friends for hours on a Friday night at Kitao and leaving with something we made.
5. Buying snacks and setting them up: One of my absolute favorite things to do for Kitao is buying a lot of really great snacks and beverages from Trader Joe’s to have at the art shows. I love going with my friend and co-president, Sarah, and we will browse around to get a few different types of cheeses, fruit, and critically acclaimed Trader Joe’s snacks (dark chocolate peanut butter cups, pita chips, hummus, salsa, guac, and dunkers, to name a few). We take refreshments very seriously at Kitao, so we even got a cheese board and cheese knives to make sure we can present our offerings in the most appealing way. My favorite part of setting up a show is making sure our cheese spread and snacks are laid out and that guests eat the food. I, of course, miss continuously nibbling on the snacks throughout the night and taking the leftovers home with me.
Kitao is always looking for new members to join! If you are interested in getting involved or seeing more of what we do, check us out on Instagram @kitao.gallery