FGCU will stage exhibits to highlight the work of aspiring university talent. Photo courtesy of Florida Gulf Coast University Art Galleries.
As director for Florida Gulf Coast University’s Wasmer Art Gallery and ArtLab Gallery, John Loscuito knows the complexities and nuances of artwork―form, composition, intention and medium―his instincts structuring exhibits that encourage gallery viewers of every background to appreciate and understand what they’re seeing in the exhibit.
But he also knows how to get the most from the artists. “There’s a lot of great work being made out there … and it’s a two-way street,” he says. “We want them [artists] to engage with students, faculty and the public, so they have to have quality work and quality personalities.”
Loscuito (said Lo-shoo-tow) will plan gallery showings a year out, incorporating local, regional and national artists. Each year he’ll embark on studio visits to meet artists and view their exhibitions. Personal contact is critical, not only to assess the quality of the work, but to assess the ability of the artist “to engage with … students, the faculty and the community,” he says. He’s tapped the Rauschenberg Residency program, for example, seeking artists visiting the famed modernist Robert Rauschenberg’s house on Captiva. The program hosted by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation brings together some of the world’s best and most innovative artists, writers, dancers and filmmakers. “We are really open to possibilities,” he adds.
Accumulating Interiors: Tyanna Buie and Vanessa DIaz collaboration was featured at FGCU in 2016. Photo fourtesy of Florida Gulf Coast University Art Galleries.
During a trip to Tallahassee with FGCU gallery coordinator Anica Sturdivant about a year ago, for example, the pair made five studio visits. “Going up there,” Loscuito says, “I anticipated there would be a couple of artists that would be a good fit for us. But we ended up seeing the work of [ceramic sculptor] Barbara Balzer, by chance, at one of the galleries we were going to see a different artist. That was a happy surprise. [Fabric/paper artist] Linda Hall was someone that we did anticipate that we would enjoy her work, and then we found out that Barbara and Linda knew each other but had never shown together but always wanted to.”
This is another way in which Loscuito finds artists—serendipitously. “I try to stay open to what might happen,” he says. “It’s rare my preconceived notions actually pan out. I might have some ideas, like it would be great if we did this, this or this, but it will turn out that their work doesn’t look as good in person, they’re really difficult to work with, they’re just not a good fit, or whatever the case it is, it just wasn’t what I expected. But then something usually comes about.
“Those comparative moments where you spend a few days meeting with different artists, some feel so much better than others: their studio practice, how they engage with you, their content, all of it is like night and day. It’s important as a curator to have that level and breadth of engagement so that you can understand what the good fit is between you and the artist you are seeing.”
Barbara Balzer's The Three Graces Continue Their Search for Mirth is part of a Wasmer Art Gallery exhibit opening Oct. 12. 27x41x8. Photo courtesy of Barbara Balzer.
FGCU’s ArtLab gallery began in the library about 20 years ago; 10 years ago the subsequent main gallery was constructed due to the increased enrollment in the art department. Loscuito arrived with undergrad/grad degrees in fine arts and a graduate degree in business administration, along with seven years as the registrar and collections manager for the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University in Milwaukee. When he looked for director’s positions nationwide, he was scooped up by FGCU―so he and his wife, Nicole D’Amico, a ceramic artist, moved from the snowy winters of Wisconsin to the subtropical climate of Southwest Florida. “We want work that is a process of creation, sometimes new work, work that’s made for FGCU art galleries, or in relation to another artist they are showing with,” Loscuito says.
Written by freelance writer Paula Michele Bolado, a frequent contributor to TOTI Media and a professional educator in Southwest Florida.