Carnegie Museum of Art

  • Presenting my research to the Education Department staff at the end of the semester

     

    Finding “Museum Joy” at the 57th Carnegie International

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art – Spring 2019

    "The whole room is filled with joy!” was just one of thousands of comments made by visitors to the Carnegie Museum of Art’s 57th Carnegie International. As an intern at the museum this semester, I was tasked with reading and analyzing these comments as reported by Gallery Ambassadors, who were present in the museum’s galleries to provide clarification and conversation for museum visitors. Evaluating these comments gave me a better understanding of how visitors’ experiences reflected engagement with the artwork, education, and positive change.

    The artists whose work I focused on most closely were Alex da Corte, Art Labor, Jessi Reaves, Post Commodity, and Tacita Dean. Each of these exhibits provided museum visitors with the opportunity to immerse themselves in artwork: one visitor to Alex Da Corte’s Rubber Pencil Devil stated that they “like[d] it because you really get drawn into it,” and another expressed that “I needed to get lost in some art today, and this did that for me.” Other works, especially Art Labor’s, enabled visitors to learn something new: few visitors were familiar with Vietnamese coffee culture, and more than one visitor stated that they “had no idea Vietnam had such a huge coffee industry.” Visitors to Jessi Reaves’ works expressed joy at being able to touch and sit on the art, and many who experienced local jazz musicians interpreting Post Commodity’s work had not previously seen art and music combined. Finally, much of the artwork sparked emotion in visitors, with many feeling nostalgic from Alex da Corte’s references to Mr. Rogers and others recalling their own experiences in Vietnam after experiencing Art Labor’s Vietnamese hammock cafè. While certain visitor comments reflected frustration with the exhibition’s use of The Guide instead of wall labels, and others revealed hesitation to engage with contemporary art, the vast majority of visitors seemed to like this year’s International better than any other exhibition they had experienced previously. Above all, these visitor comments serve demonstrate that the Carnegie International succeeded in embodying curator Ingrid Schaffner’s vision of sparking “museum joy” in the exhibition’s visitors.

    Prior to completing this internship, I had considered pursuing a career in museum education. Now, I’m more confident that this is the right career path for me, and I have a better understanding of how art can be used to inspire education and engagement for a wide range of museum visitors.

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Annie Abernathy visiting Kahlil Robert Irving’s sculpture in Paintings Storage at the Carnegie Museum of Art

     

    Visualizing Research at the Carnegie Museum of Art

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art – Spring 2019

    The visual is always an art historian’s first resource, and it is difficult to understand an artist’s practice without seeing their artwork firsthand. However, this semester, I researched thirty artists, basing much of my understanding on written source material alone. 

    In my internship at the Carnegie Museum of Art this spring, I conducted preliminary research for an upcoming exhibition concerning art and economic inequality. I had the privilege of working with Eric Crosby, Acting Co-Director and Senior Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, and Hannah Turpin, curatorial assistant for Modern and Contemporary Art and Photography. In my research, I found many descriptions of artist’s work and photographs, but these can’t compare with seeing the work in person. With every review of an artist’s gallery show, I became frustrated that I didn’t have the same personal experience of the work. This pattern became especially disheartening with sculptures.

    Kahlil Robert Irving was a turning point in the semester. He is a sculptor who uses clay to think about black identity and the history of ceramics. He uses molds of nineteenth-century forms to reference European fetishization of porcelain. Next to these vases, he piles ceramic fast-food containers, soda bottles, and newspapers. In reading about his artistic practice, I felt that I needed to view one of his intricate sculptures in the round to get a sense of its layers of meaning. This time, I got lucky. The Carnegie Museum of Art had recently acquired a work by Kahlil Robert Irving, and I had the incredibly special opportunity to visit it as part of my research. 

    Rachel Delphia, the curator of Decorative Arts & Design, and Elizabeth Tufts-Brown, one of the museum’s registrars, took me to see the sculpture in Painting Storage. In my research before this visit, I was able to get an overall sense of what his sculptures were like, but in person, I saw the fine cracks in the porcelain and the shimmer of the glaze. I was also able to gain a better understanding of his process of making these art pieces as Rachel Delphia explained to me the different firing temperatures of the clay and the technique that Irving used to transfer photographic elements onto the sculpture. 

    Because of this visit to storage, I was able to better describe Irving’s artistic practice. It also made me more aware of the challenging process of exhibition-making and research. Oftentimes, you don’t necessarily have access to a work of art when making curatorial decisions, so when you do, it makes you that much more aware of the physical and material demands of art. In storage, the objectness of the art is more clear, separated from its vulnerability and timelessness in a gallery space-- making visible the multiple iterations of art as it moves from space to space.

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    • Academic Interns
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    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Interactive Art: A gateway to the Abstract

    Museum Studies intern at Carnegie Museum of Art – Fall 2018

    This fall I’ve had the privilege of working under Marilyn Russell, the Curator of Education at the Carnegie Museum of Art, and Sally Cao, the Curatorial and Education Program Manager, during the Carnegie International 2018. I was tasked with analyzing and attempting to quantify Gallery ambassador surveys from the exhibits and helping to build a picture of how the ambassadors can assist the guests and enhance the visitor experience. While there are many examples of how they do this, what caught me the most was the passing comments of the visitors which were recorded by the ambassadors.

    What stood out to me is just how much people from all ages had to say about the pieces. The art Labor piece focuses on consumerism and the effects it has on other countries. It uses Vietnamese coffee as an example, as the coffee industry has largely changed the agricultural landscape in that country for the purpose of the product being sold in other countries. The comments from the art labor exhibit range everywhere from “Where can I get coffee like this?” to “It’s like eco-gentrification” and everything in between. Although some of these comments miss the point, but perhaps that’s not the point. In analyzing art or anything else, one has to risk the chance of being wrong. Of course, this isn’t a definitive comment, but when I compare the volume of comments on the surveys along with the comments I’ve observed while wondering the exhibits myself, I’ve found that the amount of comments directed at interactive exhibits greatly surpass those at non-interactive exhibits. This might vary base on the demographic of the visitors. In any event, what follows those statements from what I’ve observed is engagement with the ambassador. This turns the idle comments into a deeper form of understanding including more abstract ideas. It’s my belief that the increase of comfort levels with art using this kind of interaction is the bridge to having the confidence to speak on the feelings one gets from interacting with art that is less physical.

    Ultimately, I feel very privileged to have been able to work under people like Ms. Russell and Ms. Cao and work with their insight and experience to better understand how the guests interact with the museum and seeing how the museum also effects the guest and corresponding community as it opens their minds in various ways and to various topics which they otherwise might not be interacting with. I of course include myself apart of that latter category and attribute my better understanding of the museum’s important place in the community to this internship position and to the insights of the ambassadors and guests with whom I’ve spent time

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
    Photography: Bryan Conley, Carnegie Museum of Art
     

    Finding Detail in Dimension

    Author: Erin Patrick, Inside the Carnegie International 57th edition, 2018 Student - Fall 2018

    Artist Rachel Rose challenged students to explore the theme of “Depth and Durability” at a recent Tam O’Shanter Drawing Session hosted by the Carnegie Museum of Art, asking everyone to participate in an interval drawing exercise. We began with Rose sharing her struggles as a young artist attending Yale University, and the influence of professor Robert Reed, who inspired the session’s theme. Rose put forward the idea that art can be done in any time frame and with layers of depth. Her idea was a session based off an exercise routine with varying time constraints and focuses.

    After Rose’s introduction, the group moved to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Minerals where we were each given the opportunity to select a gem and draw it repeatedly for different intervals of time. Rose started with short intervals, increasing to ten minutes, and then back down to thirty seconds.  The process required a great deal of focus yet let us expand and express our relationship with the objects. Although slightly anxiety provoking, the task proved to be a great exercise in mental endurance and flexibility. How can you complete a drawing of a three-dimensional object in thirty seconds?   How does your interpretation of an object change between thirty seconds versus ten minutes?  Rachel’s process made us think through the dimensions of the object, which was reflected in the evolution of our drawings. Students’ works varied in texture, shape, size, and value throughout the process. 

    After the session, Rose allowed time for debriefing. We were encouraged to share our art and discuss how the time intervals affected our expression. The Tam O’Shanter session was a challenge in the best way possible:  we were allowed to let our creative process free, just as Rose has in her upcoming work in the Carnegie International, 57th Edition, 2018.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Undergraduate Work
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  • Museum guest poses with work of art

    Museum guest poses with work of art.

     

    First Impressions: Attracting Museum Visitors Through Effective Web Design and Usability

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art – Spring 2018

    For many people visiting museums in the contemporary world, the first point of contact with a museum and its collections is not within the walls of the museum complex itself, but through the museum’s online presence. An individual’s decision on whether or not a museum is worth visiting is informed not only through word of mouth and reputation, but through Google (or any other search engine of choice). Review sites such Yelp and social media presence via platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are relevant to this discussion. Even more significantly, however, is the museum’s portrayal of itself on the official website. 

    In Spring 2018, I was a Museum Studies intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art, focusing on the museum’s online presence and improving outreach to audiences. Because cmoa.org website is likely the first platform on which museum goers are going to experience the Carnegie Museum of Art, it is crucial that the website constructs an image of the Carnegie Museum of Art that is both accurate and enticing. While this may seem like an obvious and overly simple goal, it is difficult to sustain a consist pubic image in a very active programming environment.  Because events and exhibitions come and go on a day-to-day basis, online representation must also reflect and synchronize with the series of events.

    Achieving accuracy and synchronicity with programming is related to another difficult goal—the intuitive usability of the website for visitors. Usability must anticipate the impulses and cognitive patterns of online visitors. This means that a good website must reflect the associations that most people—literally the majority—form in their mind, anticipating their online “desire paths.” This is difficult because a wide variety of people will have personal preferences for which website layouts are the most intuitive.   

    In my job I helped the museum website’s usability to potential guests—hopefully transforming them into actual guests.  I had to assure that the dates posted for upcoming events were correct.  Meanwhile I had to make sure that past events did not linger on the website crowding out the upcoming events.

    I learned that it is important for a museum’s website to appear as though it is cared for. In the minds of online users, this appearance and usability reflects the amount of care that is put into the museums actual collections and programming.  For many audiences the online presence and real-life presentations of museums are one and the same.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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  • Entry to Copy + Paste.

     

    Copy + Paste: Evaluating Visitor Participation in the Hall of Architecture

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art – Spring 2018

    Before I began my internship with the Heinz Architectural Center, I knew very little about the Hall of Architecture. I had walked through it a dozen times without realizing what a marvel the collection was. In my time spent as an intern working on Copy + Paste: Hall of Architecture, I gained an in-depth understanding of this gallery as well as an inside look at the efforts being made to enhance visitor participation and education.

    My main responsibility was to digitalize the daily surveys obtained by gallery ambassadors who also directed the HACLabs. After attending a few of the weekly meetings with the education department, I was given the opportunity to create my own surveys to replace the versions they had been using. This was particularly exciting to me because my background in the sciences had prepared me for designing new methods of data collection for data analysis.

    The surveys I designed were intended to give us a better understanding of what visitors were getting out of the HACLabs. For example, we wanted to know if participating in a plaster casting workshop would help patrons understand how casts in the Hall of Architecture were made-- or if it missed the mark entirely. The questions I crafted were meant to collect this information as well as that of the visitor’s experience. I also created a visitor survey for the Plaster Re-Cast app, in order to gauge visitors’ opinions about it and understand how it can be improved.

    The data evaluation is ongoing, but I am happy to have had a part in it. This experience has given me the opportunity to use skills I have gained from my college courses, while also providing me with a new understanding of the efforts that go into shaping visitor experience in a museum.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
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    Version one of Mariko, Station 20

     

    Exploring Tōkaidō Road through Japanese Woodblock Prints

    Authors: Zoe Creamer and Alec Story

    Museum Studies Intern at Special Collections, University Library System - Spring 2018 and Special Topics: Museum Studies student - Spring 2018

    On March 31 2018, the Carnegie Museum of Art opened Hiroshige’s Tōkaidō Road to the public. It is the museum’s first exhibition of the Hōeidō edition of the Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō in 25 years. This frequently-requested series of Japanese prints was introduced with ample information and enthusiasm during an opening lecture given by University of Pittsburgh professor and Japan Studies Coordinator Brenda Jordan, titled “A City of Consumption: The Woodblock Print Industry in Edo, Japan.” In her lecture, Dr. Jordan discussed the collaborative process of woodblock printmaking, as well as the timeless nature of Hiroshige’s Tōkaidō Road series.

    Just like any other Japanese woodblock print series, The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō required the collaboration of several skilled craftsmen in order to create a finalized print. This process began with the designer of the original image, who is usually the most well-known of the collaborators, drawing the intended design onto paper. After the designer is the woodblock carver, whose role is to whittle the base of a wooden block according to the drawn image; and then the printer, who inks the woodblocks and presses the prints. Finally, there were others who financially supported and distributed the works. In Utagawa Hiroshige’s case, the finished works were sold along the Tōkaidō road to collectors and travelers alike, either as souvenirs or as fine art to be displayed in one’s home.

    The Hōeidō edition was so immensely popular in its time that while many contemporary series produced around 8,000 copies, Hiroshige’s Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō was printed a staggering 20,000 times. This popularity was largely due to the timeless aesthetic of landscape prints compared to contemporary prints of popular subjects, such as those depicting courtesans or actors.

    When entering into the Hiroshige exhibit itself, visitors are invited “to follow in the footsteps of a 19th century traveler” and “proceed from Edo to Kyoto.” On the gallery walls are the Tōkaidō road prints themselves, some of which are duplicates that might easily be overlooked. Though woodblock prints are usually all printed from the same blocks, each print is unique due to variations in color, brightness, and quality from one printing to the next. One such print, the 20th station of the Tōkaidō, Mariko, is riddled with differences between prints. Immediately apparent is the difference in color between the two on display, but upon closer inspection, there is a spelling mistake corrected in the later printings; 丸子(Maruko) became 鞠子 (Mariko). The subject of the 20th station print is a Mariko teahouse known for its tororo jiru, a yam paste, for which the establishment remains famous to this day. The teahouse, or ochaya, also offered female entertainers, known as geisha, who, according to Japanese folk music, made it a necessary stop for traveling men. Looking to the background of the print, there stands the “Fuji of Mariko,” which references an aspect of Japan’s shared cultural knowledge that Hiroshige did not hesitate to draw upon throughout many of his works.

    The gallery also includes many elements other than the prints themselves allowing visitors to interact with and appreciate the culture of Japan. A 19th century-style board game set in the middle of the gallery attracts the attention of wanderers from the path (such as ourselves). Players can roll a die and advance along spaces that represent stops along the Tōkaidō Road in the style of Monopoly. Some spaces even listed happenings, such as delays crossing a river, adding a fun interactive element to the show which no doubt will interest many younger visitors to the exhibition. In addition to the game are two carved woodblocks, akin to those used in the printmaking process, open for visitors to touch. This tactile element offers a tangible peek into the creation of a woodblock print, as well as making the exhibit more accessible for those who are not sighted.

    Japanese woodblock prints are among the most recognizable works of art, yet the history of this medium is not often told. Our experiences in talking with Akemi May, curator of the exhibition, and listening to Dr. Jordan’s lecture, educated us in the printmaking process as well as printmaking’s historical context, enabling us to appreciate these prints for far more than just their aesthetic qualities.

    We encourage everyone, young or old, to venture into the world of Japanese printmaking by exploring the exhibit before it closes on July 22!

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
  • Volunteers and community members collaborating to bring representation to Wikipedia

    Volunteers and community members collaborating to bring representation to Wikipedia

     

    Collaboration is Critical: Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon 2018

    Museum Studies Intern at the Carnegie Museum of Art - Spring 2018

    For five years, Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon events have been held all over the world by groups of independent volunteers and activists. However, despite being the largest general reference source on the Internet, Wikipedia still lacks gender diversity in editors and articles. The goal of the Art+Feminism campaign is simple: fix this problem by having more people of diverse gender identities contribute their voices to Wikipedia and by training them to create and edit articles on women, gender, feminism, and the arts. 

    This spring, I had the privilege of doing an internship working under Hannah Turpin, Curatorial Assistant of Modern/Contemporary Art and Photography at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Part of my role was to help research and plan for Pittsburgh’s 2018 Edit-a-thon. On March 25, 2018, all of our hard work culminated in the event held in the Hall of Sculpture at the Carnegie Museum of Art. 

    Preparing thirty-four artist research folders for the event in the months leading up to it was intense. But this task was secondary to the energizing collaboration between local arts organizations, long-time Wikipedia editors, and, most importantly, the community. 

    In total, we had eighteen editors who collectively edited eighteen existing articles. In the process we added over 8,000 words, and created six entirely new Wikipedia articles. Some of this work involved fixing Deana Lawson’s article to save it from being deleted; expanding on articles for Betsy Damon, Machiko Hasegawa and Winifred Lutz; and creating entirely new entries for artists like Carol Ann Carter, Alisha Wormsley, and Jane Haskell. 

    These impressive numbers were as important as the individual stories and connections that were made along the way. Many of the editors became invested in the artists they wrote about and the articles they edited. Some editors came to the event with specific artists in mind that they wanted to work with, while others came to learn how to edit Wikipedia, in the process becoming experts on artists who they might never had heard of otherwise. One editor asked me for help in finding an artist that they might be able to connect with. I handed them one artist folder on a whim; and, coincidentally, the editor discovered a personal connection. Not only had the editor and the artist attended the same college at the same time, but they also had made similar artworks depicting the same exact spot from the North Side of Pittsburgh. 

    This coincidence proved to me that even if this event by itself made a relatively small addition to Wikipedia, putting any effort into sharing knowledge and creating spaces for underrepresented people can make a big impact on an individual level.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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    Tracing the Influence of William Henry Fox Talbot: Thoughts on a Guided Tour at the Carnegie Museum of Art

    Author: Krystle Stricklin

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

    In early February 2018, a group of Pitt graduate students and faculty spent the afternoon talking all things Talbot with curator Dan Leers, during a special tour of the Carnegie Museum of Art exhibition, William Henry Fox Talbot and the Promise of Photography. Organized by Leers, the show brought together more than 30 works by British photographer William Henry Fox Talbot (1800 – 1877), making this the largest collection of Talbot photographs displayed in the US in the last 15 years. During the tour, Leers discussed his vision for the show, highlighting key moments from Talbot’s long career, as well as the difficulties in displaying such fragile objects. 

    Talbot’s influence on the development of paper-based photography is undeniable, with his patented “calotype” process serving as a forerunner to the darkroom techniques that many photographers still use today. At the time, daguerreotypes reigned supreme, but required photographers to spend hours laboriously treating and polishing copper plates, and allowed for only a single image per plate.

    However, Talbot’s calotype process allowed for multiple prints and shorter exposure times, which in turn expanded the potential subject matter. One point that Leers highlighted in his talk, was the incredible range of subjects that Talbot tackled in the early years of his photographic practice. After reducing his exposure times from a few hours to just a few minutes or even seconds, Talbot set out to photograph the world around him, in an almost encyclopedic fashion.

    The photographs on display offer a broad sampling of Talbot’s interests, from landscape scenes, street views, and family portraits to pictures of ceramic bowls and glass vases, classical busts, botanical specimens, and even his mother’s treasured lace collection. He photographed the things and places that had captured his fascination early on as a young Oxford student, where he cultivated a passion for the arts, sciences, and the classics. As Leers reminded us, it was Talbot’s unceasing pursuit of knowledge and his role as a “gentleman scientist” that led to his innovations in photography – innovations that can be traced from this early moment in photography’s history through to today.

    For those who missed the show, which closed in February, do not fret. The exhibition was accompanied by a wonderful catalogue available online or through the Carnegie Museum of Art gift store, with brilliant reproductions of Talbot’s works, an introductory essay by Leers, and detailed captions by noted photo-historian and Talbot expert, Larry Schaaf. With Leers at the helm of the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Department of Photography, I have no doubt that we can expect more exciting exhibits to come, rousing more dialogues about the varied and far-reaching promises of photography.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Graduate Work
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    Koyo Kouoh and Jennifer Josten at the public lecture

     

    Students collaborate on 'Dig Where You Stand' exhibit for 57th Carnegie International

    Author: Rebecca Giordano

    PhD Student in History of Art and Architecture

    As a student in HAA professor Jennifer Josten’s Contemporary Art on/and Display graduate seminar I have had the pleasure of attending several events and seminars with Koyo Kouoh, exhibition-maker and founding artistic director of RAW Material Company, a contemporary arts space in Dakar, Senegal. Kouoh is participating in the 57th edition of the Carnegie International, set to open in October 2018, by mounting an intervention in the museum based on its permanent collection and the history of the International. During her ten-day residency in Pittsburgh we have had the opportunity to hear about Kouoh’s practice from a variety of perspectives. In a public brown bag lunch discussion, organized in collaboration with the Pitt Global Studies Center’s Creative Pedagogies Initiative, Kouoh emphasized RAW Material Company’s education programming including the evolution and emergence of RAW Académie. This program is an intensive 8-week artist-led workshop centered around different themes for recent graduates interested in developing an understanding of art practice as a system of thinking. Kouoh and her collaborators identified a need for critical development and professional growth for artists and cultural producers who are in that vulnerable place right after graduation and trying to find their footing. RAW Académie aims to remedy those gaps and draws artists, critics, and curators from around the world and from Dakar to foster new networks and cross-cultural dialogues.

    Our conversations continued after lunch in our class meeting with an emphasis on Kouoh’s exhibitions both in Senegal and around the world. Hearing from Kouoh firsthand about her practice and specifics about the different manifestations of her core concerns­—what she calls an “obsession with digesting colonialism”—provided interesting case studies for thinking about how display with its colonial histories, baggage, and expectations can be reimagined to press forms beyond colonial thinking. Insisting that art is a system for thinking in and of itself, Kouoh figured the making of an exhibition as a way of producing new knowledge through display and dialogue. Kouoh’s dedication to providing art a space in civil society came through clearly. Rooted in Dakar’s love of discourse, RAW provides a place for the public to have critical discussions about visual art and actively positions art as a part of political and civic life.

    In a public lecture and conversation on Thursday, January 25, Kouoh drew out more of her commitment to building an innovative contemporary art institution like RAW. She addressed the changing nature of “the curator” and the ways this term shifts in different languages and places as well as the ways it ties to different systems of cultural production including colonial hangovers. For many of the students in the class, these questions about the nature and breadth of a curator’s work, how these roles shift geographically and historically, and how they bear ethical and political weight are central to our consideration of how the contemporary is produced through exhibition-making and collection-building. Primed by an excellent class visit the week before by Carnegie International curator, Ingrid Schaffner, and, associate curator, Liz Park, the Carnegie International’s history and future was certainly present in our discussions.

    Five students in the seminar (including myself) are now aiding Kouoh and her team in researching, designing, and developing Kouoh’s exhibition, Dig Where You Stand. To kick off our contributions, we joined Kouoh and Park on visits to the Braddock Carnegie Library and the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area to think more about how Pittsburghers are digging where they stand. These opportunities usefully intertwine the content of our class, which asks us to think about the meaning of display and the construction of the category of the contemporary, with working directly with curators who are enacting these ideas in real time. More than just thinking critically about the end product of the exhibition process—a useful endeavor, of course­­—we get to trace and put to use these ideas as they unfold in different stages of an exhibition’s development.

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