One of the few free student art space’s in Albuquerque is filling up surprisingly fast.

The John Sommers Gallery is in such high demand that there are no current spots available for the academic year, gallery director, Kristin Calhoun, said.

“Most other places in town have a fee associated with their space,” Calhoun said. “There is a couple in town that don’t have a fee but they are highly selective and you have to apply over a year out. Those tend to be a little inaccessible for BFA honor students.”

It is the only student-run gallery on UNM’s campus and it is primarily used for bachelor of fine arts honor thesis and master of fine arts dissertation shows, she said.

“It allows them to have a professional experience in setting up a solo show and everything that goes along with that,” Calhoun said. “Everything from making cards to how to negotiate putting up a show. It just gives them a way and a space to experience that.”

Calhoun, an MFA candidate for printmaking, said she organizes the schedule and handles the refundable deposit for gallery.

The current exhibition, Cloak and Dagger, is a collaboration between two artists James Meara and Lindsey Schmitt, she said. It is a mix of painting, drawing and printmaking.

“It’s a constant revolving collection of new works from emerging artists. So students can see what other students like them are doing in terms of art,” Calhoun said.

Meara, another MFA candidate for printmaking, said he is excited to be one of the contributing artist for the exhibition Cloak and Dagger.

“Cloak and Dagger had sort of this feeling of mystery,” Meara said. “It’s a term you hear a lot with spy movies. We were hoping our artwork has mystery but also has a sharp point to it. That people could really respond to.”

The Cloak and Dagger event is a combination of two art forms because they are similar, he said. Meara and Schnitt met in their first year as MFA candidates at UNM and have been toying with the idea of putting on a show together since.

“I think that’s one of the really interesting or great things about making artwork. Even if two people have the exact same idea their artwork is going to change because they have different experiences and likes and dislikes,” Meara said.

The John Sommers Gallery helps to bring art into the UNM community and the Albuquerque area, he said. The space allows people to see what you are working on and helps build a supportive environment.

“A lot of my work, right now, is wrestling with my spirituality,” Meara said. “I grew up in a religious household and so I am coming to terms with that upbringing and figuring out where I fit in all of that,” he said.

Graduate advisor Kat Heatherington said John Sommers is a former UNM faculty member and the gallery was named in his honor after his death.

He was also taken on the responsibilities of studio manager and master printer at the Tamarind Institute, she said.

“It certainly makes it possible for people to have access to the visual work that’s presented there,” Heatherington said. “Because it is on campus, the campus community has it available. You can come by any time and check it out.”

Collaborative exhibitions are fairly common between students either on campus or off campus, she said. Also, many students will explore painting and printmaking. There is a lot of overlap between the disciplines.

“Students like working together, co-creation is an exciting process, working with another artists allows you to bounce ideas off of them,” Heatherington said.

Lauren Marvin is a staff writer for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter