Students as Curators: collaboration and professionalization

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the new program of student curating in the Gardiner Gallery, a partnership between the OSUMA staff and the Art History Organization. Students have enthusiastically taken up the challenge of using the permanent collection to complement and comment on the changing exhibitions in the main gallery, recognizing the potential for creativity and professionalization. This week, several more students reflect on their experience: Melissa Agnew, co-curator of “The Veil and the Woman”; and Brandon Jones, curator of “Before the Mac.”

When Melissa’s co-curator, Kimberly Morton, wrote about their exhibition, she acknowledged the value of collaboration: “It helps to have another person there; Melissa saw potential in some of the pieces that I would have otherwise overlooked.” Melissa agreed, and also expressed the value of mentorship:

“The student curating project was a great experience for me. It introduced me to the process of curating and I learned a lot. Dr. Siddons and Crystal Labrosse were great with helping me understand the process and let me make the show my own. Curating a small exhibition took a lot of work, and I now have a great deal of respect for those curators who put together large exhibitions. Dr. Siddons helped with our chat panels and made sure we learned something from the experience.”

Melissa also discovered that her learning experience became a teaching experience of its own.

“Not only did I learn a lot, but I was able to put together a show with a vision in mind. When it all came together, I was very excited that something I envisioned and worked hard on was on display to be shared with others. From going through the OSU art collection to hanging the final pieces in the gallery, it was a very rewarding experience.”

View of Brandon Jones' mini-exhibition, "Before the Mac," including Warrington Colescott's 1976 "The History of Printmaking – Senefelder."

View of Brandon Jones’ mini-exhibition, “Before the Mac,” including Warrington Colescott’s 1976 “The History of Printmaking – Senefelder.”

Brandon Jones curated “Before the Mac” to coincide with the Graphic Design Senior Portfolio exhibition, “Open Waters.” His idea for the mini-exhibition was to explore graphic art before the digital age, in contrast to the student work that, these days, is almost all computer-dependent at some point in its development.

“This opportunity, presented to me by the Art History Organization, allowed me a brief glimpse into the profession that I will pursue when I am finished with school. My show focused on the art of graphic design, and more specifically, printmaking ­ prior to the widespread use of the Mac computer. Besides the hands-on time with the works of art, I really enjoyed writing the narrative for the show, and the individual pieces.”

View of "Before the Mac," including Sam Olkinetzky's "Warm Bend Series #3," and Kaoru Kawano's "Child With Birds In Hair."

View of “Before the Mac,” including Sam Olkinetzky’s 1973 “Warm Bend Series #3,” and Kaoru Kawano’s “Child With Birds In Hair,” ca. 1960.

We are looking forward to a spring semester full of more engaging student-curated shows! Our current mini-exhibition, in conjunction with the Senior Capstone BFA show, is curated by Casey Pankey and documents a recent collaborative performance by the student organizations in Art, Art History, and Graphic Design. The first mini-exhibition of 2013 will be curated by Jonathan Lacaba, and will accompany ‘Illustrator 54.”


About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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