Time was, being called “nerd” was a bad thing.
That is happily different now, says Sarah Jane, gallery and program director at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, which is home to the exhibit “Obsessed: The Art of Nerd-dom” through March 15. Admission is free.
“I think the majority of my friends are nerdier than I am,” she said, “and I mean that in a ‘my friends are cooler than I am’ kind of way.”
Jane said the rise of the internet certainly helped blossom, connecting people with common interests across geographies. Now, it’s almost mainstream — exhibitions of nerd culture fill convention halls, comic book superheroes and science fiction stories are the focus of blockbuster movies, and more.
“It has made being a nerd less of an isolating experience, and more of a community experience because you’re connecting with other people who have that shared interest,” she said.
Jane and co-curator Ginny Holladay are hoping people with shared interests find their way to the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, and the exhibit’s second site at the Port Angeles Main Library.
Holladay is on the Fine Arts Center’s programming committee, and spoke up in a meeting about what the 2020 exhibition season would look like.
“I knew of another nerdy exhibition that had happened in LA recently … and I just thought ‘you know, I bet there are nerdy artists on the (Olympic) Peninsula and in Washington who have really quality work, where the subject matter might not fit into most exhibits,” she said.
And she wasn’t surprised when they received plenty of submissions.
“My theory was that nerds are everywhere,” she said. “Once I got in touch with the right people, everyone was coming out of the woodwork.”
The exhibit features comic art, and things like Pokemon cards arranged in a collage. One work invites viewers to imagine the unique talents and abilities they have as superpowers they bring to the world. Holladay says the evolution of the idea of nerd culture has been positive over the past several years.
“I really hope people are inspired, as with any exhibit, but I hope that they’re inspired in a very personal way,” she said. “There’s something really powerful in that message, of knowing that we are capable of very intense isolation, and then knowing on the other side of that power coin, we are capable of community, and resisting the urge to isolate.”