Seeing the Big Picture

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Museum Studies class takes a hands-on approach to learning how to setup an exhibit and curate collections

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On the first day of her new spring Museum Studies class, Rebecca Brienen, associate professor of art history, distributed printouts of hundreds of woodcuts, engravings, and etchings culled from the Lowe Art Museum’s vast database. “She said, ‘We have to make a show out of these,’” recalls senior public relations and art major Kimberly Chavarriaga.

On Course
Title: ARH 508: Museum Studies II, ArtLab @ The Lowe
Department:Art History, College of Arts and Sciences
Semester: Spring 2009

For the rest of the semester, Brienen guided her class through a hands-on project dubbed ArtLab @ The Lowe. The seven student curators decided everything, from which pieces to include (a total of 43) to what color to paint the gallery walls (Webster Green). They also had to become art detectives—and Google wasn’t an option.

“Nobody had researched these works,” Chavarriaga notes. “They were donations, for the most part, and had never seen the light of day.”

The resulting exhibition, Trends and Techniques: A Short History of Printmaking, runs through April 25, 2010, in the Lowe’s Richard and Shelly Bermont Focus Gallery.

Accompanied by student-composed descriptions, the visual survey highlights European masters from the 17th to 19th centuries, modern masters such as Dalí and Picasso, and—putting it all into context— student-juried submissions from a present-day UM intaglio class.

Kara Schneiderman, the Lowe’s assistant director for Collections and Exhibition Services, proposed the cooperative offering and says the students “did a phenomenal job.”

Chavarriaga adds that the experience inspired her like no other course: “To be able to bring an understanding of art to people, especially kids, is awesome!”

Sponsored by Stella M. Holmes, A.B. ’95, ArtLab @ The Lowe will continue to draw from the museum’s nearly 18,000 works to present student-curated exhibitions. Coming up: the intersection of art and politics (2010), Spanish colonial art (2011), and contemporary art from Japan (2012).

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