Fresh Perspectives: A Space for Dialogue Round Table

Posted on June 01, 2003 by Kristin Swan

Hood Quarterly, summer 2003

Recently, Amanda Potter '02, Student Programming Assistant at the Hood, sat down with this year's Hood senior interns to discuss A Space for Dialogue: Fresh Perspectives on the Permanent Collection from Dartmouth's Students. Now in its second year, this innovative project allows students to create their own micro-exhibitions for the Hood's entrance lobby. The students are responsible for every aspect of the curatorial process: selecting objects, researching them, writing labels and a brochure, making installation decisions, and giving a public gallery talk.

The installations are as varied as the students who conceive of them—Paula Bigboy '03, Curatorial Intern, looked at the consumption of beauty and identity; Mercedes Duff '03, Curatorial Intern, selected works on the construction of black identity; Jourdan Abel '03, Education Intern, entitled her installation "Spinning a Story: Manipulations of Motherhood by Women Artists"; Joe Ackley '03, Curatorial Intern, explored the relationship between the viewer and depictions of the male body in terms of homoerotic discourse. Kate Reibel '03, Public Relations Intern, and Chris Chan '03, Classical Coin Intern, discuss their forthcoming installations in the following conversation.

The work involved in each installation is significant, especially considering that the interns also carry a full course load as well as their regular intern projects. It is a challenging experience, but as the interns' statements reveal, it is also extremely rewarding.

AMANDA: What did you learn about museum work through the Space for Dialogue program that you didn't know before?

JOE: I learned a lot about the logistics involved, like what frames go with what wall colors. It was also a challenge to strike a balance between honoring the objects I chose and adding my own interpretation to the perspectives of scholars.

JOURDAN: I picked four objects and it was almost overwhelming in terms of the amount of stuff I had to do. I can't imagine being a curator and having to keep track of thirty or one hundred objects and labels and where they all go!

PAULA: It's really a collaborative process. Most people never realize that it takes the hard work of many different people to create something so great. Between conceptualization and realization there are a hundred tasks to be completed—object selection, research, writing, editing, writing again. And then of course there's that whole "getting it up on the wall" thing. I'm just thankful I had so many wonderful people to help me!

MERCEDES: I gained a real appreciation for the pressures of museum deadlines. My exhibition was so small—you'd think that it would be relatively easy to pull off. But with time constraints and space limitations, it can be a challenge to pick objects with strong connections. I gained a much more thorough understanding of the exhibition process, and infinitely more experience than any lesson taught in a classroom.

AMANDA: Kate and Chris, you're still in the early stages of your projects. Could you describe how you're going about creating your installations?

KATE: I'm working on applying the theories of the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and the idea of "decisive moment" to several images of urban life from the permanent collection. Derrick Cartwright took me to see an object that the Hood is just in the process of acquiring and I also met with Kathy Hart, Curator of Academic Programming, who knows the collections inside and out. Everyone I've worked with has been really helpful in clarifying my vision. It's really calming, because it's an overwhelming task to search through the 65,000 objects in Dartmouth's collections—you have no idea where to start!

CHRIS: I'm still in the process of choosing my objects, but I want to compare the different treatments of landscape in Japanese woodblock prints and in depictions of Italy from the Romantic period.

AMANDA: That's a pretty different direction from your classical coin internship. I'm curious—how did you arrive at such a cross-disciplinary topic?

CHRIS: I view the exhibition as a chance to combine my classics major with some outside interests. I've gone through the database and made a short checklist of works that interest me. Once I see the objects themselves, I'll see if they will support my basic thesis, and only then will I make my final selections. I think it's pretty amazing that we have access to all these objects, and that we have been given such freedom to develop our ideas.

AMANDA: What will you take away from this experience?

PAULA: It's been incredibly helpful. I am doing my graduate school interviews this term and I got to bring slides of my Space for Dialogue installation. I was able to say, "This is an exhibition that I did." In my most recent interview, the response was, "You're a lot farther along than most people are at this stage—these are the kinds of things that make you an ideal candidate for this program."

JOE: I'm not positive that I'll be pursuing a museum career, but this experience certainly has encouraged me to do so. I've had a very fun time doing this. It's engaged me, and it's kept me occupied and interested.

JOURDAN: I can look at my installation and say, "I made that!" When I walk by the door and people are looking at it, I run—the security staff must think I'm crazy—but I run inside and stand real close and try to hear what they're saying. When I watch people take my brochure, I think, "That's right . . . I made that too!" This is an amazing opportunity and we're very grateful to have it.

A Space for Dialogue: Fresh Perspectives on the Permanent Collection from Dartmouth's Students is made possible through the generous support of the Class of 1948. On behalf of the fourteen undergraduates who have created installations and brochures as part of this program since 2001, we thank these alumni for their interest in and commitment to the museum.

Read more stories about A Space for Dialogue.

Written June 01, 2003 by Kristin Swan