Last Friday, the museum staff and three of our interns—Crystal Labrosse, Christina Naruszewicz, and Skylar Smith—went to Tulsa to visit a variety of art-related institutions. We began at the Pierson Gallery, where owner Linda Pierson spoke with us about her experience as an artist and gallery owner, shared her thoughts about the art scene in Tulsa and across Oklahoma, and gave the students some advice about how to pursue a career in the arts.
After the trip, I asked students to share their thoughts about the day. Skylar wrote of the Pierson Gallery:
“I liked the way the trip began at the Pierson Gallery because it illustrated how interests can change or be manipulated in a more realistic manner since Linda began painting, but was willing to make concessions in order to stay in the field she loves by working as a framer and collector.”
After visiting with Linda we continued on to the Philbrook Museum of Art, where we met with European art curator Tanya Paul to tour through “Magnificent Vision: Two Centuries of European Masterworks from the Speed Art Museum.” As curator of this traveling exhibition, Dr. Paul was responsible for designing its appearance in the Philbrook galleries, including making choices about wall color and object placement, and editing/revising the exhibition text—among other things! Dr. Paul also showed us collections storage, the library, and other behind-the-scenes areas of the Philbrook.
When I asked for the students to evaluate the trip, one question I posed to them was, “how did the trip affect the way you think about your internship experience?” Crystal, who was our summer 2011 intern, wrote back:
“I do see my internship differently, I wish I could have had more experience with curating. Listening to what [European art curator Tanya Paul] at Philbrook said about her experience with her first show really interested me and makes me want to learn more about curating.”
Answering the same question, Skylar observed,
“Since I have written proposals for the ULAE show here in the Gardiner Gallery for my internship, this trip directly related to my internship experience because it allowed me to see the way exhibitions are put together in a museum setting. … It gave me a new understanding that while the venue may change, the material being shown may change, and the process may be more complicated, each exhibition follows a similar guideline.”
“I feel like a lot of what we saw related to my experience as an intern this summer,” concluded Crystal. “Seeing how Philbrook cataloged their pieces reminded me of helping Topher start on cataloging the Harms collection.” (You can read more about Crystal’s internship experience in her blog post about it.)
Skylar: “This trip also made me appreciate the opportunity this internship is giving me. By allowing me to propose an idea for an exhibition and see it through to its completion, I will know what not only what it takes to put a show together, but if this is a career a want to pursue professionally or not.”
Our last stop was at Living Arts, a non-profit gallery and teaching space in the Tulsa arts district known as the Brady District. Less formal than either the Pierson Gallery or the Philbrook Museum, Living Arts is an example of an organization that is run by and for artists to expand the cultural and commercial opportunities for contemporary artists in Oklahoma.
When I asked the students what they’d do differently next time on an intern field trip, Skylar had a good observation to make: “If I were organizing next year’s field trip, I would go to an artist’s studio. In order to get a thoroughly rounded experience of art it may be more beneficial to see art being made. This way, the students could see art being created, collected, exhibited, and studied.”
And Crystal summed up the experience with an expression that the museum staff certainly shared! Her parting observation was, “It is nice to get out of the classroom setting and see how an art history degree might apply to the real world.”