Curator for a Day: Kyle Boyd '15 Is Among Winners of SCMA's 'Student Picks' Contest

Kyle Boyd ’15 is a biological sciences major who hasn’t taken an art class since high school. Yet, she is about to have a show debut at the Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA).

Boyd is the curator for “Breaking Waves: Exploring Water in Black-and-White Photographs,” a one-day exhibition on Friday, Nov. 7, from noon to 4 p.m. The exhibition will be held in the museum’s Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs.

How did a science student end up creating an art show with original works from the museum’s collection?

Boyd entered the Student Picks lottery, which offers any Smithie—even those without prior experience—a chance to curate a show for a day in the Cunningham Center.

Boyd is the first of six lottery winners to host a museum exhibition in 2014-15.

The others, with the dates of their shows in parentheses, are Emily Kim ’15 (December 5), Hui Yan ’17 (February 6), Samantha Page ’17 (March 6), Niyati Dave ’15 (April 3) and Yu Yan ’18 (October 2, 2015).

Boyd says she’s had her eye on the curator contest since she first entered Smith.

“In previous years, I forgot to enter,” she confessed. “This year, I really wanted to be sure to put my name in.”

The seventh annual Student Picks lottery drew entries from 182 students spanning a variety of disciplines, said Maggie Kurkoski ’12, the Brown post-baccalaureate curatorial fellow at the museum and coordinator of the program.

SCMA’s director and chief curator, Jessica Nicoll, drew the winning names last month from a bucket of more than 500 ballots. (Students can enter the lottery as many times as they like).

In addition to offering students a chance to curate a show, Kurkoski said the Student Picks program is also a way to highlight the more than 20,000 original artworks in the Cunningham Center’s collection. Among them are pieces by Paul Cézanne and Cindy Sherman.

“Works on paper are a huge part of the museum’s collection,” said Kurkoski, who is herself a former Student Picks winner. “The curator for a day gives students a chance to use the entire Cunningham Center space. It’s exciting to see what they come up with.”

While Boyd said she came up with the idea for an exhibition about water fairly quickly, finding the best way to illustrate the theme was challenging.

“I emailed my ideas to Maggie, and we narrowed it down to black-and-white photographs of water scenes,” Boyd said. “Then we met and selected about 15 pieces and where I could place them” in the second-floor space.

Museumwinner

Kyle Boyd ’15 reviews the space at the Cunningham Center at SCMA for her one day exhibit November 7. Photo by Abbie LeWarn ’17.

Boyd’s show features works by photographers such as Ansel Adam and Edward Weston that show “stunning representations of the world around us, and water in all its forms,” according to her exhibition’s Facebook page.

What has Boyd learned about organizing a museum show? One lesson is that editing is a key part of a curator’s job.

“The museum has so many pieces, but you can only display so many,” said Boyd, who is thinking about a career in science education. “Some of the images I found at the beginning were replaced with better ones I found later.”

Boyd—whose parents and younger sister will be coming from Amherst to see her show—said she was a frequent visitor to the college’s art museum before entering Smith.

“I never thought I’d be having an exhibition here,” she added, with a smile. “It’s exciting.”