Veer Mudambi for Worcester Magazine
July 28, 2021
Eric Nichols, professor of photography at Worcester State University and native Worcesterite, has watched his city rapidly evolve from a former factory town to an artistic and cultural hub. While he’s witnessed these developments with no small amount of pride, now he wants others to see it, too. As a member of the board of directors for the Photographic Resource Center, a Cambridge-based arts nonprofit, he was instrumental in getting the organization’s flagship exhibition, “Exposure 2021,” to be held at WSU’s Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery from July 9 to Aug. 20. He sat down with Last Call to discuss his larger goal of bringing in attention traditionally held by Boston and Cambridge.
The exhibition is usually held in Cambridge at Lesley University’s College of Art and Design. This is a big change — how did it happen?
When Lesley University closed down for the academic year due to COVID, the PRC lost access to the school’s gallery. So the exhibition was planned to be purely online. Moving the exhibition to Worcester just sort of happened but worked out perfectly. It is something I have been working on for some time — to bring an exhibition out to Worcester and this is not only an exhibition but a flagship exhibition at WSU.
What’s “Exposure” all about?
“Exposure” is the PRC’s annual flagship exhibition, meant to highlight emerging photographers. Submissions are accepted from all over the U.S. and a jury selects between 10 and 15 artists who then show several pieces of their work. This has been going on for 25 years. A number of artists who have been showcased here have gone on to have successful and illustrious careers, so it’s like a “who to watch” in photography. It’s definitely an impressive exhibition to have here.
Do you think this will boost WSU’s profile a bit?
I’m hoping it will boost the profile of the gallery specifically. WSU has a really great exhibition space. One of the reasons I’ve been trying to do this is to highlight the quality of the gallery space. Our impressive gallery is often overlooked so it was a way to bring attention from out of town. Trying to get Boston area artists to take a second look at Worcester is something I’ve been working on for a while. Then once they’re here, why not check out other art spots like the JMAC or Worcester Art Museum. Or maybe some of the restaurants?
So this is part of a larger bid to draw attention to Worcester?
Yes, bringing people interested in art to Worcester could help the local art community as well as the city. I’ve been part of the Worcester art community since I was about 20 years old, and growing up in Barre, Worcester was always the nearest city. Even now it’s still got a hint of the post-industrial reputation from the ’90s.
What would you say sets the Worcester art scene apart?
Worcester is small enough that everybody kind of knows each other and large enough that it has a vibrant arts scene. In other cities, the photo scene is only the photo scene and painting is just painting. But in Worcester, it’s all the arts scene and everybody connects with each other regardless of medium. Kind of a shared community across the board. That’s proven by events like the block party from earlier this summer with events at the JMAC and ArtsWorcester. Organizations in other cities don’t always work together and talk to each other but here it’s not segregated by genre and medium.
Anything to add?
There’s a lot going on out this way and the city is still rapidly evolving and changing. People are surprised about Worcester — “oh, it’s nicer than I thought.” I’m like, “yeah, it’s not the ’90s.”