Studio Art student gains breadth of experience with Cleveland-based arts triennial

Zelda Thayer-Hansen (they/them) logged over 170 hours this summer working with FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art.

FRONT is a free, public contemporary art exhibition comprised of artist commissions, performances, films, and public programs that takes place across Cleveland, Akron, and Oberlin, Ohio every three years. FRONT’s mission is to develop a strong, vibrant creative community and stimulate positive change in Ohio cities through the arts. 

Thayer-Hansen, an Honors Tutorial College Studio Art Major and a Cutler Scholar, worked with FRONT as a part of their degree service internship requirement. They learned about the triennial through Jennie Klein, associate director and graduate director in the School of Art + Design and professor of art history.

“I’m from Cleveland, I grew up in the arts scene and it’s super important to me,” Thayer-Hansen said.

They said their first project with FRONT allowed them to work with a creative duo from Tel Aviv, whose installations were supported by the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

“We got to help them cut out these huge, life-size portraits of Cleveland-based artists that were photographed in their style,” they said. “We learned how to literally paste them up on walls. We were working on that, sometimes, six [or] eight hours a day.”

Student assistants stand in front of mural artwork


On another project, Thayer-Hansen was able to work with Abigail DeVille, an award-winning artist known for her sculptures and installations that focus on marginalized voices. 

“She really brought me in as a second studio hand,” Thayer-Hansen said about the role where early-career artists can collaborate on works and help run day-to-day operations. “She listened to what I was suggesting, and I was really helping set up stuff. It was really amazing, and it felt like I was an extra artist getting to help her … That was probably my favorite part.”

Through FRONT, Thayer-Hansen also had the opportunity to help organize events and attend networking opportunities. 

“Just getting to do simple tasks for artists was really amazing and it makes me want to work in another artist's studio,” they said. “This just inspires me more to become a paid studio hand for a professional artists or work on an apprenticeship.”

As for the future and after working for FRONT, Thayer-Hansen is inspired to learn about grant writing, fellowships and apprenticeships, as well as exploring possible artist residencies and other ways to support their art.

“I definitely didn’t expect how different each week would be,” they said. “Learning how to communicate with my boss and asking for different projects was really great. [I was] advocating for what I wanted to get out of this internship.”

Thayer-Hansen encouraged students to ask for help in finding learning experiences outside of Ohio University and stressed how these opportunities can build independence and confidence in art and in life.

“We’re at a university that wants to support you and help you learn outside of school,” they said. 

September 14, 2022
Emma Skidmore BSJ ‘23