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Laura J. Brownlie
Laura J. Brownlie

NU student intern helps launch Student Culture Expo

by jmaloni
Mon, Dec 5th 2011 12:50 pm

About 45 minutes into Thursday's Student Culture Expo, Kaitlin Slowe hurried across the Castellani Art Museum's main gallery to seek the counsel of event organizer Laura J. Brownlie.

"A woman just asked about buying one of my paintings, and I have no idea what to tell her," Slowe, a freshman from LeRoy, remarked with an equal amount of effervescence and nervousness.

"Don't worry about it right now. Ask for her number and you and I will talk about it later," replied Brownlie with the composure of a public relations professional twice her age.

"I'm just so excited," Slowe remarked. "I wasn't planning on selling anything. I didn't even think I was that good."

Helping Niagara University students earn some extra pocket change wasn't Brownlie's top priority when she conceived the first-ever Student Culture Expo. Nor, she admits, was providing her peers with a creative outlet.

As the CAM's public relations and involvement intern, Brownlie's primary motive for creating the event was simply to get students into the museum.

"The Castellani does a wonderful job of attracting non-students to the gallery, but the primary focus of my internship has been to try to get more of our own students to visit the museum," she said. "I really believe in making NU students more aware of this museum and how it can be used as a resource."

Sometime in August, Brownlie got the idea that the best way to encourage NU students to patronize the 21-year-old museum was to put the artwork of their classmates on display.

"If the students feel like they're involved, then they're more likely to be interested," Brownlie reasoned.

By mid-October, the Basom, N.Y., native began posting flyers and circulating emails to determine how many students, if any, would be interested in exhibiting their art in the renowned museum. There were no restrictions on what could be entered. There would be no formal judging.

The response that Brownlie received from her guerrilla marketing was surprising, if not impressive. Nineteen NU students jumped at the chance to display their wares at a non-juried event.

Among the participants were Will French, Class of 2013, and Flanigen Morris, '15, who collaborated on the largest of the event's 30 exhibits, "2BR02B."

"This museum is set up so that any person can walk in, look at something and be able to understand it or interpret it in their own way, and that's what we were going for here," commented Morris.

"The piece pretty much symbolizes the stereotypical view of college life," added French. "It's made up of empty boxes of booze and cereal, and all of the faces are Niagara students."

Bethany Zakrzewski, a sophomore biology/French major who was showcasing three works of art, was among those hoping that the Student Culture Expo would develop into an anchor of the Castellani's programming.

"I wish we had this kind of event more often," she said. "A lot of students can't get any of their artwork out there other than through the campus' literary magazine, but that has somewhat limited visibility."

Brownlie, who has three semesters remaining as an undergraduate, cannot guarantee that the event will become a longstanding Niagara tradition but it appears safe that the Student Culture Expo will return in 2012.

"I can't promise that it will be here after I graduate, but it will definitely be back next year," Brownlie said. "I am hoping to turn it into a regular event that happens on campus!"

Susan J. Clements, the Castellani's coordinator of community relations, agrees.

"This is something that we're definitely planning to repeat," she confirmed. "It's great for the students and we've been really pleased with the turnout."

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