Betsy Byers Receives Inaugural “Project Space” Grant

The $10,000 award will support a solo multimedia exhibition inspired by glacier melt and climate change.
Posted on January 8th, 2021 by

Gustavus Adolphus College Associate Professor of Art & Art History Betsy Byers was recently awarded one of the inaugural “Project Space” grants through the Kolman & Pryor Gallery. Her upcoming project through the $10,000 grant will be a solo multimedia exhibition inspired by glacial loss as a result of climate change.

The grant’s goal is simple: to support artists in doing whatever work they haven’t done before that will advance their career. Byers’ proposal was for a solo, full-scale installation piece focusing on glacial melt. She’s been working on projects focusing on climate change and glacier loss for the past few years and has done collaborative multimedia projects, but never a solo multimedia project.

“I’m excited about having the opportunity to learn some things I’ve been wanting to learn for a while and having the financial support and resources a grant can provide to do that,” she says. “I’ve been wanting to work with a livestream component for a couple years, and I’ve also been really intrigued by installation-based work.”

Her current plan for the exhibition includes a large-scale installation painting of a glacier that viewers will experience alone, surrounded by blackout-curtains and lighting. She also intends to include a livestream element of either a block of ice melting, or an animation of the painting melting. Her work will also incorporate sounds, smell, and touch for a full sensory experience.

Byers captures audio for her multimedia project while on location in Ecuador.

Research for the upcoming project was conducted during a field expedition to Ecuador in June 2019. During the trip, Byers and Emily Dzieweczynski ’19 joined Gustavus geography and environmental studies professor Jeff La Frenierre as he collected data about glacial melt on Volcan Cayambe. Student researcher Bri Jol ’20 and filmmaker Evan Taylor ’12 also joined the excursion, which will be documented in an upcoming Gustavus video project.

Multisensory art has been one of Byers’ interests in recent years. “When you’re able to engage sound and smell along with sight, it just really helps to create a more intimate experience for the viewer,” Byers says. “And for me, I really want them to have this memorable moment in front of the work because I’m trying to create a sense of empathy or connection to these landscapes that we’re losing.”

Previously, Byers has been awarded a 2018 McKnight Professional Mid-Career Artist Grant and is a two-time recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant (2009 & 2015). She has also worked with former Gustavus student Dzieweczynski on Gustavus Presidential grants and National Science Foundation grants.

Byers’ grant period will run from May 2021 through May 2022 and concludes with a presentation of her work at Kolman & Pryor Gallery. The inaugural grantees were invited to apply, but the grant will be open to all Minnesota artists in future years. Besides Byers, the other 2021 recipients are James Holmberg, Kelly Jean Ohl, Jodi Reeb, and Julie Snidle.


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