Libraries are a common place for students working on group projects to meet up as well as work on their homework. Every month, different art is displayed on the art wall located inside the John C. Hitt Library at the University of Central Florida but for two months, the art displayed is from visual artists who work right on campus during the Hidden Artists annual exhibit.
The artists behind these several pieces are not the ones found by the Visual Arts building but are instead inside of financial aid offices and classrooms lecturing among other places on campus. They call themselves “hidden artists” and are a part of the art world although many would not know this since it is not their main career.
About seven years ago, Judy Bragg Pardo, from Student Development and Enrollment Services, saw a watercolor painting by Diane Colvin Reitz from Student Financial Assistance on the University’s website. Pardo asked Reitz if she was an artist and had an idea of wanting to display their art for months until she told Reitz that they should get a group together and exhibit their artwork in the library.
“During our first UCF exhibition, a lot of people exhibited their art for the first time. It was like a safe stepping stone for many of the artists and since then, many have exhibited elsewhere,” Pardo said.
Several years later it has become an annual event where several artists’ work are now displayed for the first two months of the Fall semester. Each art piece is from a current faculty or staff member showing different forms of visual art which they are either familiar with or different mediums they explore with which expands their creativity. These art pieces range from photography to digital illustration and even jewelry.
Pardo said that this event always brings the UCF community together and shows the creativity that many faculty and staff members bring into their workplace on a daily basis. Generally, about 12 artists exhibit their art but they are open to anyone who wants to show their art.
Pam Williams Gruen, Financial Aid Assistance, is one of the hidden artists who is displaying her art for the first time in the Hidden Artists exhibition. Her jewelry art can be seen inside of the display cases. About seven years ago, her friend got her art lessons working with wire and she has been making wire jewelry ever since along with things she finds such as interesting bottle caps and pieces she picked up while traveling in Asheville, North Carolina.
She has not displayed her art in many places before and loves that students she works with have recognized her name in the display cases.
“It’s fun and really cool. I like this. To be known for something else. It’s great to be known as the person who does your financial aid but it’s a way different thing to be known as someone who does cool stuff like this,” Gruen said.
Gruen said she has always enjoyed art and performance and said she cannot wait to do it again next year and will tell her faculty friends so they can enjoy this great opportunity as well.
Another hidden artist is Meredith Malkin, from Counseling and Psychological Services, who is an expressive arts therapist. Since she was a teenager, she has looked to art as a form of healing starting around the time when her grandmother was diagnosed with dementia and connected with her through art.
With her art piece titled “Let It Go”, she expresses the struggle of not knowing what direction to take. When creating this piece, she said she didn’t know what direction it was going in and wasn’t focused on the final product and was really trying to be aware of the process.
Inside of the art piece, it states “Creativity is like a bird in a uni-cycle. You don’t think it’s possible until you trust the process and one day manage to draw it.”
She said it’s kind of trusting the process that the art will find a way to go where it needs to go. Malkin said that as long as Prado has the Hidden Artists exhibition running, she will be displaying her art.
“It’s been such an incredible experience being able to express a passion of mine,” Malkin said.
The group of artists meet twice annually for lunch meetings discussing the future exhibition which always happens during August. Generally, the reception is held during September after faculty is settled into the new school year with live music by Aaron Lingelbach, food and beverages and a time where everyone can come and talk to the several artists displaying their art.
The Art Wall and two display cases feature the talents of: Pamela Williams Gruen, Dawn M. Herrod, Jacqui Johnson, Simona Loh, Meredith Malkin, Russ Muller, Fiona Murphy, Judy Bragg Pardo, Brian Pate, Diane Colvin Reitz, M.C. Santana, and Tina Tran.
Photo by Chelsea Santiago