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The rise of Gallery 360

Northeastern’s Gallery 360 is now a contender among Boston’s must-see art galleries, according to campus curator Bruce Ployer.

In the six years since its inception, the gallery has made the transformation from an afterthought to a major focal point on campus, exhibiting a range of art from students to internationally known artists.

“People didn’t think about us six years ago,” said Ployer, “but they are now.”

The 1,000-square-foot gallery is located in a corridor between the Curry Student Center and Ell Hall. Its current exhibition, “Celebrity Type,” features more than a dozen iconic typewriters once owned by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, John Lennon, and Theodore Kaczynski.

The gallery hosts about 20 shows a year, according to Ployer. As its popularity grows, he vowed to keep its target audience of students intrigued by frequently showcasing new exhibits. Starting Sept. 28, the gallery will host pieces by Derek Boshier, a British artist who works with numerous media, including paintings, films and installations. Later this fall Mitch Weiss’ photographic comparative study “Sister Cities” will be on display at the gallery.

Bruce Ployer is the campus curator for Gallery 360. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Bruce Ployer is the campus curator for Gallery 360. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Ployer, who was named curator in September 2012, noted that Northeastern’s growing commitment to the arts could be attributed to President Joseph E. Aoun.

“The president is very interested in the arts,” Ployer said. “He gave us a charge very early on about what he wanted the gallery to achieve.”

That plan included showcasing a variety of medium from Northeastern students, faculty, and Boston-area artists, as well as bringing nationally and internationally renowned exhibits to campus.

One of the first hurdles was finding a space to host the exhibits. Years ago, artists exhibited their work in a room in the Curry Student Center even though it was not designed to serve as an art gallery, recalled Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Marina Macomber.

“The artists really weren’t in a space that highlighted their work,” Macomber said. “I remember the day we walked down toward the corridor and one of the senior team members had this vision of creating the art gallery in the corridor. It was hard to see at first because it was just a corridor between the two buildings.”

Over time, Macomber and her colleagues began to realize that hanging art from the corridor’s walls would make for a unique viewing experience. “Then,” she explained, “we began to say, ‘Now we have this unbelievable opportunity.’”

With its floor-to-ceiling glass walls, the gallery’s design allows passers-by to view exhibits even when the gallery is technically closed, noted Robert Grier, director of operations at the Curry Student Center. “It is the longest opened gallery in the world,” he said with a laugh. “Just because of the location and design, we never close.”

An advisory committee of students, faculty, and staff chooses the exhibits, which have ranged from an exploration of Swiss graphic design to a retrospective of Negro League Baseball.

“I look for shows that talk to the heart of the university,” Ployer said. “My goal is to not only to engage but expand students’ thinking about what art is.”

    Gallery 360 currently hosts "Celebrity Type," an exhibit featuring the typewriters of notable 20th-century figures from the collection of Los Angeles business and civic leader Steve Soboroff. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Gallery 360 currently hosts “Celebrity Type,” an exhibit featuring the typewriters of notable 20th-century figures from the collection of Los Angeles business and civic leader Steve Soboroff. Photo by Brooks Canaday.

Students also play a major role in the gallery’s day-to-day operation. Abby Daggett, a 2013 graduate, worked on co-op in the gallery last fall. Daggett, who earned a bachelor of science in psychology major with minor in art history, said the co-op was one of a few she found in the art industry that offered practical experience. She now works at a gallery in Jamaica Plain part-time and said the experience she gained at Gallery 360 equipped with her the tools necessary to work in the art industry.

“This was one of the only co-ops I could find where you had a role in the curating process and communicated with artists,” Daggett said. “It is such a hands-on experience, which is rare to find as an undergraduate.”