If you go into the dressing rooms of what used to be the Gap in the Gallery at Market East in Center City, you’ll walk in on naked mannequins, resplendent in polka dots. The interactive art installation implicated you–the viewer–with a certain perversity.
“The students had different ideas about how to present their work,” said Chris Garvin, the dean of the college of media and communication at the University of the Arts. “They wanted the white box, the gallery. Others were totally jazzed that this was the Gap and wanted to use all the Gap stuff to hang things.”
The Gap and its neighbor, Baby Gap, left the third-floor of the Gallery months ago. It’s been empty ever since. Now, it’s chock-full with works by 90 students from the UArts, ranging from industrial product designs, urban sustainability campaigns, and installation art.
The University of the Arts is in the midst of restructuring its colleges. The College of Media and Communications is merging with the College of Art and Design, forming a single College of Art, Media, and Design.
“It’s an interesting time at the University of the Arts,” said Katherine Bennett, an assistant professor of multimedia and co-organizer of the exhibition. “We have a lot of professors in other departments who are starting to talk together, to teach classes alongside each other. Internally, we’re finding places of overlap and bringing students together to have these dialogues.”
The space was donated by the owner of the Gallery Mall, the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, which has also recently donated space to the Mural Arts Program, and to a temporary dance installation by DanceUp.
“Retail in general is changing,” said Maureen Weir, marketing director for the Gallery. “We’re taking a hard look at uses, such as the University of the Arts exhibit and the Mural Arts Program, as viable options for the future. This is something we’re just beginning to explore.”
By counting empty stores at the Gallery, it appears the mall is about 10 percent vacant. The design students will show their work until the end of May.