From April 2 through June 1, 2019, the student-curated exhibition “Intentional Exposure: Photography from the Permanent Collection,” was on view at the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art in the Malinda Berry Fischer Gallery. Part of my Spring 2019 course on the history of photography and museum studies, the exhibition prompted a series of responses from students. This week’s post includes reflections from two of the undergraduate students in the course: Tanna Newberg (Art History BA 2019) and Ariel Reimbold (Art History BA 2019).
Tanna: Museum Exhibition with Dr. Siddons has been one of my favorite courses of college. It is always refreshing to take a class in which I feel I’m attaining real-life experience and learning material that I will actually be able to apply in the future. Having the opportunity to curate Intentional Exposure was not only invaluable experience, it was also fun. Sorting through a collection of hundreds of photographs with the intent of narrowing them down to twenty or thirty that are connected through some type of theme seems like a nearly impossible task, and it could be anticipated that in a group of twelve students tension might arise. The most difficult aspect of curating this exhibition was simply that we all loved too many photos. However, the class worked very well as a team: everyone respected the opinions of others and was willing to sacrifice personal preferences. It is so unusual to be in an environment in which people want to listen to the perspectives of others and let their minds be changed.
Being on the installation team was definitely another part of curating that I enjoyed. Sheridan [Dunn] and I collaborated and utilized class input to plan the layout, figure out an order that connected the photographs, and choose pieces to capture viewers’ attention from specific sightlines. JM, the museum preparator, taught us the process behind hanging the exhibition. Sheridan definitely preferred the hammering and drilling, whereas I was very content doing the math! It was a complicated process and an amazing learning experience.
Overall, our class created an exhibition of which I am immensely proud. I have been so fortunate to be in a department that strives to teach us these applicable skills and use what we have learned. Although Intentional Exposure’s title refers to the choices that photographers make, it could also refer to the specific choices we made as curators. We worked on every aspect of the exhibition with care and precision, and I know we will all look back on it with a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Ariel: Last summer, I completed a curatorial and collections internship at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, during which I conducted research for a large reinstallation; but through this class I was able to engage with other aspects of putting a show together. The benefit of curating a show as a class, in a short period of time, is that we were all involved in the entire process. From picking out the pieces we wanted to show, deciding on a title and themes, and organizing the pieces in the gallery space, we participated in every aspect of putting together a show. This is something which internships or volunteer positions don’t typically allow; rather, one would be completing a set of tasks and likely wouldn’t learn about every single stage of the process.
I really valued this class, because in the future I would like to become a curator and work in a gallery or museum. Helping put together Intentional Exposure is something else I can add to my resume. Additionally, I was able to work on aspects which I’m particularly interested in – I enjoy writing, so I worked on the introductory essay team, and learned about this style of writing. Again, in an internship, the museum or gallery wouldn’t ask the intern to complete this task, so I was glad to have the opportunity to do so in this setting.