Friday, August 17, 2012

Outside the [Box]

Guest blogger Kendyll Gross was a 2012 participant in the Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies at Smith College. She also served as the 2012 Brown SIAMS Fellow, which offers one SIAMS student a  four-week internship in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

The Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies class of 2012 at the opening reception for Outside the [Box].Photograph by Julie Warchol.

When I was accepted into the Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies (SIAMS)program, I could wrap my mind around the weekly readings and writing assignments, the extensive traveling, and the career exploration days we would be doing. However, I could not fully grasp the concept of putting on an exhibition in only six weeks, something that usually takes years of planning and work. It was not until I set foot in the museum’s Nixon gallery for the first time that the imminence of our exhibition seemed so real. It was exciting to see the objects that we could include in our show, but it was also overwhelming knowing how much work we had to do in so little time.

Our class of fifteen was divided into three groups of five: Curatorial, Education, and Design and Public Presentation. After choosing thirty-three pieces, Curatorial was then faced with the challenge of weaving together these diverse objects into a single theme. How would we tie together a twentieth-century W. Eugene Smith photograph with an eighteenth-century French snuff box? The Master ZBM print, Pandora’s Box or An Allegory of Les Sciences qui Éclairent l'esprit de l'homme (The Sciences that Illuminate the Human Spirit),was a great inspiration for our theme. The myth of Pandora’s Box has popularized the notion of the box as an object of curiosity as it conceals its contents from the viewer. We wanted our exhibition to challenge the idea of what a box was by evoking a dialogue between objects from diverse cultures and time periods in a respectful manner. Just like Pandora, we wanted our audience to be fascinated by our boxes and to question them - to truly think outside the [box].

With our theme and object checklist established, it was time for Design and Public Presentation and Education to make the gallery come alive. Design and Public Presentation were responsible for the overall design of the show and the marketing materials, choosing a color scheme that would complement the objects, organizing the layout of the gallery, and installing the art. As a member of the Education team, I worked closely with fellow classmates to create the didactic materials for outside the [box].We did not want the labels to dominate the viewer’s experience, so we mixed a few extensive labels of varying lengths with short “tombstones” labels. We also refrained from using words and concepts that appeared too academic. An alcove within the gallery serves as a place for families to reflect upon what they see in the exhibition. It also gives them the chance to tack sticky notes on the museum’s wall while reading an adorable story about a bunny with a grand imagination. While the introductory wall text sets the tone of the exhibition, the kids’ pamphlet and audio tour serve as guides to help the audience interact with the show.

It was an honor to work with such an enthusiastic and bright group as a part of the SIAMS class of 2012. Together, we constructed an entire exhibition from scratch in six weeks, utilizing each other and our resourceful SCMA mentors for guidance and support. We truly hope that the Northampton community will enjoy our show as much as we enjoyed creating it.

Outside the [Box]is on view in the Nixon gallery until September 30, 2012. Read more about the exhibition here.

This installation shot features works by Larry Bell, Robert Rauschenberg, Marcel Duchamp, and many others. Photograph by Julie Warchol.

SCMA staff members check out works by Claes Oldenburg, Max Peckstein, and Jane Hammond. Photograph by Julie Warchol.

The Education alcove space, where visitors can create and post their own responses to the show. Photograph by Julie Warchol.

Comments

Marion Goethals

out of the [box] and SIAMS 2012

Can you imagine living and working with 16 total strangers for six summer weeks? : through sickness and health, richer and poorer, heat and cold, Lamont and Hillyer, Hubbard and hiking Mount Holyoke? Not only to live, learn, and travel together with all that it implies, but to develop a full exhibition project together in a very short time frame?

The Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies Class of 2012 was the “sure, we can do that” class; the “not a problem” class; they had together a great can-do attitude. But they had much much more than positive attitude; each one is extremely smart and deeply thoughtful. They both taught and learned from each other just as their four teachers have taught and learned from them.

But this class of strangers came together particularly to ‘protect and honor’ their boxes, the objects which you may see at the Smith College museum in their show “out of the [box]”. They united in their recognition that the objects in the show -- which originate from all around the globe and from many cultural traditions -- should be allowed to tell their own stories and not to have their heritage consumed by an overly didactic organizing theme. That intelligent respect for the boxes, and for each other, is what we mean by ‘protect and honor’.

One participant succinctly summed up the impact of the SIAMS program: “How could I explain that we didn’t do it for the final destination?” So yes, DO imagine living and working for six weeks with total strangers because quite quickly you find, as they did, a common creative purpose and become friends and colleagues.

Thanks to everyone, and to Kendyll Gross and Julie Warchol for their posts, Marion Goethals, Director, SIAMS

Corinne Bart

Taming of a Garden

Is a gallery boundless? Due to the free form aestheticism of its composition, one would guess so. Yet this characteristic is often overlooked; and by many art exhibitioners, may even be denied.

A gallery is a living collection of artistic specimens. Carefully crafted by an artist, each art piece is enveloped in its own aura. Like a seed, each piece waits for its surface to be scratched by the gallery's viewership. With more visitors, more activity, the gallery starts to come alive.

Galleries' pieces take root in their respective places. They grow, develop an aesthetic presence which, overtime, become interwoven in that of the other works.

Once established, a gallery is its own garden; a box, if you will, whose own dynamic aura interchanges with the particular environment it is suited to. But like every garden, there is a gardener. Who picks out the pieces, arranges them, has an often intuitive sense of which will grow well near what. The success of the box is dependent on this gardener, yet, need only be fed resources once it has blossomed and been enriched by the feet, breath, and energy of its visitorship.

However, the SIAMS gallery is anything but boxed by the planks of a single mind, the masonry of a set of hands. Still groomed, still intricately arranged and planted, it is not wild. But is it boundless? I would argue yes, and rightfully so.

The SIAMS participants have given way to nature of the gallery-creating process. Their exhibit holds a respect for the erection of these five pillars: Curation, Education, and Design and Public Presentation; which uphold the institution of formalized human aestheticism. With ripe and ever vigorous professionalism, depth has been given to the notion, "out of the box".

For this, I offer the utmost esteem and gratitude for Ms. Kendyll Gross and the rest of the SIAMS class of 2012.

Your work will and should be remembered. Good luck with your future endeavors, though from here they appear very bright.

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