Sky Deitch ’23 remembers quite clearly the moment they first fell in love with art.
Deitch was in kindergarten, and each member of their class was handed a wooden board, paint, and brushes. In a hallway lined with butcher paper, the students were given the freedom to splatter paint. Chaos ensued as the children scampered through the hallway spreading paint all over their boards, and each other. The result was a mural made from the children’s painted boards, which was displayed outside, above the elementary school’s community garden.
“That’s Portland,” Deitch, who grew up in the Oregon city, says with a laugh. Through gallery curation, Deitch has merged their passions of social change, environmental studies, and the arts. “Art is the most important mechanism for bringing people together. I think that because art is a form of self-expression and communal expression, there’s no limit to what a community can do together with art.”
Deitch, a media, culture, and the arts major, is preparing to unveil The Lounge, a community art exhibit housed in the Traina Center for the Arts, which opens March 13. The project is Deitch’s capstone project and culminates a year-and-a-half of work. The gallery features works by roughly 40 artists, including 35 Clark students and five Worcester residents.
Deitch sees The Lounge as a bridge connecting artists to audiences, functioning as both a gallery and a cozy space for community members to hang out and chat.
“I want to make art accessible with this project. The best way to do that is to have fun events, music, and fill the space with life,” Deitch says.
The Lounge will feature sculptures, paintings, mixed-media pieces, and tactile works, including a wire lampshade in the shape of an octopus, a Super 8 film, a three-headed body pillow, and an enormous wooden sculpture resembling a surreal dinner scene that’s made of a repurposed coffee table and suspended from the ceiling. Much of the artwork is touchable or movable, and some pieces, like the body pillow and a bean bag chair, are functional cushions on which visitors can lounge.
“My goal with this space is that people feel like they are provoked to think something, or engage with something, or meet someone and talk about art in a way that feels true to them and comfortable,” Deitch says.
Deitch asked each of the artists to provide notes that give context to their creations. Some of the notes pose questions for the viewer, while others explain the thought process behind their piece. Deitch hopes that the creator notes will encourage audience members to engage more intimately with the art and delineate the experience from that of a typical art gallery, which can feel isolating.
“I think a lot of people feel there’s a perceived threshold of information you need to have to effectively engage with the work in museums and gallery spaces,” Deitch says. “That’s something I’m trying to obliterate and tear down. Everybody is allowed to have fun with it.”
Deitch enjoys infusing fun in the community, something they’ve done as an orientation coordinator and executive board member of the Pub Entertainment Committee, a club that hires professional live music acts to perform at Clark. They incorporated event-planning skills while creating The Lounge and encourage visitors to strike up conversations with each other.
Deitch first explored curatorial work during Gallery Culture and Practice in their first year at Clark.
“In March 2020 when the class went online, I was thinking a lot about how we adorn our spaces, especially in times of isolation,” says Deitch, who was inspired to continue their curatorial journey that summer with a virtual internship at the Worcester Art Museum.
“It was really unorthodox. I didn’t go to the museum once, since it wasn’t open to the public,” Deitch recalls. “I learned a lot about curatorial affairs especially as they pertain to a museum that houses over 12,000 objects.”
While interning, Deitch completed two research projects: one that focused on mapmaking as a tool for colonialism in New England, and the other on implicit bias and racism in curatorial affairs.
During the class Contemporary Directions with Toby Sisson in 2022, Deitch considered questions surrounding the future or art and museums, and how “artists are reckoning with art in the common day.”
“Something we talked about in Contemporary Directions was engaging in art forms that don’t keep the audience at an arm’s distance,” Deitch says.
Deitch used their classroom and internship experiences to shape the idea of The Lounge as a gallery that breaks some of the traditions behind curatorial practice.
“My advisor is Professor Stephen DiRado and he encourages me to think beyond the bounds of traditional space and institution,” Deitch says.
The Lounge is supported by Professor Matthew Malsky’s Media Now course. Thu Le ’25 and Bel Hammond ’23 are helping as gallery assistants.
After graduating in May, Deitch plans to take some time to travel before embarking on a career in gallery curation. The experience of shaping and presenting The Lounge has strengthened their belief in the power of art to convey individual meaning and communal ideals.
“I think it’s the most important vessel for bringing people together,” they say. “Anybody, regardless of their experience, can feel called out by some element of an art piece, and it’s really special when people come together to talk about it.”
The Lounge will run March 13 through April 6. Visitors can peruse the exhibit from 9 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday; noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday; and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. A schedule of accompanying events is on The Lounge website.