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Alum Returns to Alma Mater as New Art Gallery Director

Jennifer Frias Brings Idea of Community and Learning to College Gallery
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Editor’s Note: The exhibit dates have been expanded. It now continues through Feb. 22.

“A successful exhibition is one that empowers the viewer at many entry points,” says Jennifer Frias, the 2014 MFA art-art design alumna who returned to campus this fall to serve as art gallery director. She speaks as she sits just inside the Begovich Gallery, looking over the artwork currently on display in “A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place.”

The exhibit showcases the wide range of artwork in Cal State Fullerton’s permanent art collection, thanks to the efforts of the university’s faculty and staff from 1963 to the present. 

And Frias has plans to expand the collection with pieces that will reflect the university’s relevance and diversity. Already she has acquired works by Vietnamese-American painter and CSUF alumna Ann Phong ‘95 (MFA art-drawing, painting and printmaking), whose work is known both nationally and internationally.

The concept of expanding on the ideas brought forth in an exhibit — which changes every time a patron visits — is what drives Frias in adding related programming.

“There’s a power to you as the audience at an exhibit,” she explains. “How the exhibit engages you is really important … that’s where the programming comes in.”

Programming and education along with exhibit experience are part and parcel of what Frias, who has served as a collections assistant at the Huntington Library in San Marino, project manager/registrar at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside and associate curator at UC Riverside’s Sweeney Art Gallery. Her most recent position was as director of education and academic programs at UC Riverside ARTS.

“For me, the role of the curator extends beyond the organizer and facilitator of the exhibitions. Once an exhibition is up and running, the responsibilities thicken — curating is an art form, in itself,” explains Frias. “You function as multiple departments to justify that an exhibition could be something more than just to be seen.”

Frias has done just that for the current exhibit: The InConversation Series that “connects artists, scholars and community figures for lively discussions on art, culture and society”; and Art Pops, “pop-up” programming ranging from demonstrations to events and informative talks.

Upcoming Art Pops events include:

  • Nov. 14 — “Fakes and Forgeries” with Debra Winters, the gallery’s permanent collection visual resource specialist, who will share her research on the forged prints by Salvador Dali
  • Nov. 22 — Exhibition design discussion on the current exhibition
  • Dec. 7 — “Mike McGee: The Next Wave: The Permanent Collection, 1990s Through 2000s”

“I loved my graduate years here,” says Frias, explaining why she returned to Cal State Fullerton. “I knew when I was a student there was a lot of potential here. I know the faculty and the resources here; that there were people who contribute to contemporary art  — and I love to be able to work with them. It was certainly a draw.“

Hours for the current exhibit are: noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturday. Details about the exhibit can be found on the gallery website. To learn more about supporting the art program and the galleries on campus, contact Patricia Falzon, director of development for the College of the Arts, at 657-278-7695 or