Hands-on learning is common practice for students in the Art + Design Department, but the opportunity to work with a gallery’s extensive collection of fine art pieces takes the learning experience to the next level. The group of students taking the department’s Museum Studies class (MST 381) has the chance to do just that, as the class partners with Springfield Art Museum for a class research project.
Jodi McCoy, University Galleries Director of Exhibitions and Museum Studies faculty, has partnered with Springfield Art Museum and its curator, Sarah Buhr for this collaborative project. The class is split into four groups, each one working as a team through each stage of the exhibition development process. “Students will not only select objects to exhibit, they will also conduct research on exhibiting objects, write label text, and other didactic text panels,” explains Jodi.
The teams participating are as follows:
Team 1: Emily Hughes, Hannah Henroid, Jenna Fallert, and Zjane Johnson
Team 2: Kevin Frey, Al Thompson, Abigail Stash, and Sarah Powell
Team 3: Cam Mahnken, Hannah Robinson, Naysa Adams, and Anna Shackelford
Team 4: Sarah Teel, Alyssa Cartier, Maddie Pohl, Lindsey VanDieren, and Rae Ann Rockwell
The projects began with each group brainstorming possible concepts and learning more about Springfield Art Museum’s collections during class time. With these ideas in mind, the class toured the museum’s vault two separate times, and the groups worked together to find art works that perfectly fit their exhibition themes. The first tour allowed the groups to polish their concepts, while the final decisions were made during the follow-up visit. Sarah Powell, a student in the class double majoring in Museum Studies and Art Illustration, explains some of the unexpected parts of the curation process, “My teammates and I are learning about the key details to developing exhibits, such as budget, gallery space, audience demographics, and design. Even just selecting which works of art are best suited for the topic of our exhibit was a bit of a challenge! There are so many aspects to consider when creating an exhibition, but it is incredibly rewarding to see our hard work slowly come together into something special.”
Visiting the museum’s permanent collection vault may seem like the most unique aspect of this project, but there is an even bigger detail to this assignment—the final projects will be juried, and the winning exhibition with be displayed in Springfield Art Museum. The panel of judges includes Jodi McCoy, Sarah Buhr (Springfield Art Museum curator), Kyle Clymore (Springfield Art Museum registrar), and Jenny Schwartzberg (Springfield Art Museum educator). “From the Museum’s side, we will be looking for a clear and concise thesis or core narrative, and then how well the selected objects support that narrative. We will also be looking for a creative approach to any design decisions and how well the decision reinforces or supports the main idea of the exhibit,” says Sarah.
Even though final projects have not been presented just yet, this experience has already proven to be memorable. “In a way, the project feels like a mini-internship because of our collaboration with the Springfield Art Museum. The project is giving me real-world experience and providing me with knowledge that will be helpful going forward in a museum career. For the group, we are trying our best to create a fun, successful exhibit given our parameters,” says Hanna Henroid, a junior studying Museum Studies and Art History. Juried selections aside, this group of students will take away more than a letter grade or the possibility of a winning title.
Final presentations will take place Wednesday, December 1, 2021. The winning exhibition will be discussed among the judges and announced within 24 hours. The winning team’s exhibition will be on show in Springfield Art Museum’s Hartman Gallery in spring 2023.