It’s not every day that an art history major mounts a gallery show as a senior project. The undertaking is a substantial one: choosing the artists and art, overseeing the framing and hanging of works without causing damage to fragile pieces, organizing the installation, acting as an envoy between all parties.
Libby Federici, who will graduate in the spring, is carrying all of this off with aplomb. And she’s done one other thing that was arguably more important than the rest: her efforts ensured the accessibility of the Salve Regina Gallery not only to the artists themselves, who come from D.C.’s Art Enables gallery and vocational arts program for artists with disabilities, but for anyone who couldn’t previously access the gallery for lack of a wheelchair ramp.
In time for the opening on December 12 of “Food for the Soul: Seven Washington Artists,” the university recently installed a permanent ramp to the building.
“The show is awesome, but it’s impermanent,” said Federici. “This is permanent, to have the building be more accessible. I was really excited about that.”
Her perseverance and maturity have impressed her professors.
"Libby’s a very special young woman,” said Nora Heimann, who chairs the art department and said that staging an exhibit is a significant time commitment and responsibility. “You discern carefully whether or not a student’s responsible or ready. And she’s responsible and ready. She’s taken a tremendous amount of initiative. Catholic has a lot to be proud of, both in Libby and the artists participating.”
To anyone who knows the Erie, Pennsylvania, native, this juxtaposition of art and service is no surprise. She comes by it honestly. Raised in a household where involvement in the arts was strongly encouraged—Federici remembers her parents taking her and her younger sister to the Sistine Chapel, among other cultural destinations, when they were girls—she grew up understanding that art is significant but not meant to be “lofty or inaccessible,” she said.
That desire to make sure that all kinds of people—the disabled, those from communities not historically represented in art or from different socioeconomic backgrounds—can take in and enjoy art was in part what motivated her to approach Art Enables, where she also volunteers, about putting on a show featuring the program’s artists.
“I’m interested in art and disability, art and gender, art and race,” said Federici. “Art and museums have a long way to go in terms of being accessible to everyone, and I would like to be a part of that.”
“Food for the Soul: Seven Washington Artists” opens December 12 at the Salve Regina Gallery. There will be a closing reception with the artists on January 24 from 4-7 pm. All are welcome to attend.