Org of the Week: unFramed inspires visual art lovers

ictured here an installation that members of unFramed attended in Poughkeepsie, titled “Hudson River of Bricks.” It was created by local artist Julia Whitney Barnes. Courtesy of Rachel Sipress.

President of unFramed Rachel Sipress ’21 has been passionate about art from a young age. “My next-door neighbor growing up was an artist, and she would let me play in her studio, so I really fell in love with it as a kid,” they shared. Coming to Vassar, Sipress joined unFramed, and their passion was reignited.

The pre-org focuses on providing a space for students to work and collaborate, introducing artists to campus and supporting art lovers in general. For Sipress, it presented an available creative outlet. Artists of any level, and even those who are not entirely sure whether they are an artist, are welcome and fully encouraged to take part in any activities unFramed hosts.

The organization has gone on a number of exciting outings. Last year, the group took a trip to Pioneer Works, a non-profit cultural center in Red Hook, NY. They visited an event there titled “WTF Do We Do Now, in an Age of Trump,” a convening of artists and activists who took action against the current administration. Former president of unFramed Grace Roebuck ’20 commented on the event, “This was a very powerful way to bridge Vassar with the greater NYC community.” This year, unFramed explored an exhibition in Poughkeepsie. The piece, created by local artist Julia Whitney Barnes, was titled “Hudson River of Bricks.” Sipress noted that these outings would not have been possible without the presence of the artistic community that unFramed is cultivating.

Through inviting artists to speak and by developing installations on campus, unFramed has fused art and activism. Roebuck remarked, “We brought photojournalist Elisabeth Ubbe to speak about her photojournalism on female genital mutilation, breastfeeding across cultures, periods and children being sold as Turkish co-wives.” The org also brought to campus performer, writer and theatre maker Travis Alabanza.

unFramed created an installation on campus last year to encourage conversations about the key role of the nature on Vassar’s 1,000 acres. Roebuck elaborated, “We [did] an art installation wrapping reflective sheets around trees to start a conversation on deforestation and the history and importance of Vassar’s trees.”

unFramed aims to create spaces in which artists and enthusiasts alike can discuss and cultivate their passions. Member Emma Iadanza ’22 recounted that the org has become that place for her, and that it was especially helpful to her as a first-year student. She added that unFramed has allowed her to understand how student orgs form and evolve, saying, “It helps me meet new people with other exciting ideas because so many of us want to try new things and create for our community here at Vassar. We can create and aren’t limited, and can come together with that.”

The org has a variety of ideas for future events, outings and spaces that will help enrich Vassar. Sipress shared, “We’re calling for a community art space. We want there to be an actual space on campus for the visual arts. In artist spaces you need the other people to bounce ideas off of. So that’s the dream. One of the things we’re trying to do with unFramed is open up lines of communication.” This artist space would ideally include a pottery wheel and kiln, a graphic arts tablet and shared art supplies. They also said that possible upcoming events include field trips to art museums and installations both locally and in New York City, an exhibition of student art and Bob Ross movie nights.

At the heart of unFramed lies a true love for art and a belief in the importance of a space for creators on campus. Iadanza enthused, “Art is absolutely something for everyone. You just have to find your spot in it. I think people see it as something elitist, but it really doesn’t have to be.”

Sipress shared a similar sentiment, relating, “Art matters. This is a liberal arts college, and I really think it is a tragedy that there isn’t already [a space for the visual arts]. I’m a visual learner, and it helps me to better learn when I can visually take what I’m learning in class and then put it into the universe and see it actually there. It deeply helps my understanding of the topics, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that way.”

Sipress encouraged everyone to give art a try: “Art is really fun. It’s really just super fun. Why wouldn’t you?”

Students who are interested in getting involved with unFramed can explore the organization’s Facebook page or email rsipress[at] for more information.

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