Undergraduate Work

  • Xander describing his exhibition

     

    Politics, Propaganda, And The Steel Industry

    Author: Xander Schempf, Museum Studies Intern at Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area – Fall 2017

    Spending over six months working with Rivers of Steel Arts taught me more about the history of Pittsburgh and its role in the development of the United States than being born and raised here. As part of my internship, I had the opportunity to develop a new exhibition for the traveling “Steel Case” – a mobile display case that functions as a miniature gallery on wheels. In preparation for the exhibition, I began by sifting through Rivers of Steel Arts’ vast archive to create a list of possible themes. None of them were quite right, so I always ended up scrapping them for something else. Eventually, I stumbled upon some old magazines created to spread information about union rights. Searching for related materials led me to an array of interesting artifacts and documents that taught me a lot about the WWII era, a moment in US history that until now, I did not know very much about. 

    With the guidance of Director of Historic Resources and Facilities, Ron Baraff, and the Chief Curator, Chris McGinnis, I developed a Steel Case exhibition that examines the political propaganda produced before, during, and after WWII in response to the rise of the steel industry in the United States. The rise of the steel industry ushered in new political ideas, my case considers how the political climate of the period was shaped by two major competing ideologies. There were left-wing groups who sought to attract steel industry workers to the socialist ideology, and in response, there were large corporations who quelled and attempted to maintain the existing capitalist working state. Themes such as the “common man” and the “greater good” were staples for each side in discrediting the other and strengthening their own views. Yet, hidden beneath corporate language was a continued effort to quell movements that threatened their status. The objects on view are only a small selection of the materials that can tell this story, but the ones I have selected seek to illuminate the progression of these interactions from unions, the industry, and popular culture, exploring how their influence made its way throughout many facets of twentieth-century America.

    The exhibition is on display at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland through April 30, 2019.  

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    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.

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  • A 1908 Overland model on display at The Car and Carriage Museum

     

    Driving the Disenfranchised

    Author: Meghan Lees, HAA1030 Museum Studies Exhibition Seminar student – Fall 2018

    Organized by one of our partners, The Frick Pittsburgh, Driving the Disenfranchised: The Automobile’s Role in Women’s Suffrage explores how the automobile served not only as a turning point for modern life, but also as an iconic symbol for female suffragists during the Progressive Era. Through the installation of a range of women’s fashion and vintage vehicles, many in the trademark yellow of the suffrage movement, the exhibition sends the visitor on a journey through the early twentieth century activism. The creation of the automobile allowed women a form of escape from the confines of the home. It was a symbol of individual mobility and social change. Vehicles were used in activist rallies and decorated in the suffragist’s message for independence and equality.

    This history closely connects with the ideas raised by our exhibition This is not Ideal: Gender myths and their transformation, opening at the University Art Gallery on 26 October. But one way that these exhibitions differ is in their overall tone. Since it commemorates the journey of activism towards giving citizens the right to vote regardless of sex from the first Women’s Rights Convention in July 1848 to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, The Frick Pittsburgh’s exhibit has an appropriately upbeat tone. It is conveys a feeling of pride in documenting the work of these early-twentieth century activists, and shows how a technological innovation, such as an automobile, can produce profound psychological changes in society. This is not Ideal, on the other hand, is less straightforwardly positive. With the title – This is not Ideal – we are taking a stand on issues of gender. The viewer is not meant to look fondly on the narratives told by many of the works we have selected from the UAG collection. Our exhibition asks the visitor to reflect not just on the changing nature of gender myths, but also on the progress that remains to be made.

    The Frick Pittsburgh’s Driving the Disenfranchised: The Automobile’s Role in Women’s Suffrage is currently being held at the Car and Carriage Museum and will continue to be displayed through October 21. This is not Ideal: Gender myths and their transformation opens October 25.

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    Guerrilla Girls, Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?, 1989, offset laser or inkjet print poster. The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, © Guerrilla Girls

     

    Guerrilla Girls and the CMOA

    Author: Annie Abernathy, HAA1030 Museum Studies Exhibition Seminar student – Fall 2018

    “Only 4 of the 42 artists in the Carnegie International are women.” So declares a message by the Guerrilla Girls in 1986, produced as part of this feminist art collective’s sustained attack on the inequalities of the art world. As Pittsburgh prepares to welcome the 57th edition of the Carnegie International, the situation is thankfully much better. This year, 17 out of 32 artists included in the International are women.

    The Guerrilla Girls are also making their presence felt in the permanent collection displays of the Carnegie Museum of Art. As part of Crossroads, the museum’s recent rehang of the contemporary galleries, a collection of their posters are currently on display in the Scaife Galleries. What would the Guerrilla Girls think of This is not Ideal: Gender myths and their transformation, the student curated exhibition at the University Art Gallery that opens a few weeks after the Carnegie International? Given their own iconic billboard designs of the 1980s, what might they make of our inclusion of Tom Blackwell’s print I-610 North? Where the Guerrilla Girls use art to protest the art world itself, Blackwell’s work appears to merely repeat and reinforce traditional gendered imagery. Both women in these works are reminiscent of classical depictions of the female nude such as Manet’s Olympia or Titian’s Venus of Urbino. Drawing upon a history in which women have consistently been presented as passive objects, the Guerrilla Girls take a stand. The group of their posters on show in Crossroads at CMOA use the traditional female nude to call out institutional sexism.

    This is not Ideal also uses a historical lens to confront contemporary issues, reinterpreting artworks in the collection to expose their sexist content. The CMOA has often collected works through the Carnegie International, such that the decisions of its curators make a lasting impact on the museum’s collection. As the students curating This is not Ideal have discovered, it is a constant struggle in exhibition making to acknowledge the limits of the collection you are drawing upon. The UAG collection also has its disparities: the statistics are difficuly to calculate, but only about 8% of the works in the collection were created by women. In This is Not Ideal, sexist and traditional histories are challenged through their dialogue with non-normative images. By using a biased history to tell a new narrative, we hope that viewers will see how the past still resonates in the present, and what transformations must occur to effect lasting change.

    Crossroads is now open in the Scaife Galleries at the Carnegie Museum of Art. This is not Ideal: Gender myths and their transformation opens October 25.

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    Andy Warhol, Ladies and Gentlemen (Marsha P. Johnson), 1975, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

     

    Important Identities: Recognizing and Remembering the Faces of Ladies and Gentlemen

    Author, Rebecca Moser, Milton Fine Museum Profession Fellow at the Andy Warhol Museum – Summer 2018

    As the most comprehensive single-artist museum and archive in the world and the largest in North America, The Andy Warhol Museum certainly doesn’t lack research material. During my Fine Foundation Fellowship at the museum under the supervision of Milton Fine Curator of Art, Jessica Beck, I spent the summer experiencing the daily operations of the museum and learning about the curatorial process. My favorite thing about working at the Warhol was seeing the lengths that the dedicated staff go to exhibiting Warhol’s artworks in new contexts in order to connect with diverse communities.  The opportunity to participate in these efforts was one of the most rewarding experiences of my internship.

    This summer I assisted in the curatorial staff’s research on Warhol’s Ladies and Gentlemen series (1975) as they prepared for a temporary exhibition opening this fall. Ladies and Gentlemen is portrait series featuring predominantly black and Latinx drag queens and transgender women from New York. The series was commissioned by Luciano Anselmino, an Italian art dealer, and is arguably Warhol’s largest undertaking. The series, including Warhol’s preliminary work, is comprised of 268 paintings, 65 drawings, a print portfolio containing 10 collages, and over 500 Polaroids of 14 models. Select prints, paintings, drawings, and Polaroids from Ladies and Gentlemen will be exhibited for the first time as a comprehensive group at the Andy Warhol Museum in conjunction with Devan Shimoyama’s first solo museum exhibition, Devan Shimoyama: Cry, Baby (October 13, 2018–March 17, 2019).

    In an effort to recuperate the stories of figures who have historically been marginalized and overlooked, even by Warhol himself, we focused on the models’ biographies. During Warhol’s lifetime, the models for the series were left anonymous at exhibitions. Due to this persistent disregard for the individuality of the models, they were grouped together and commodified as anonymous faces of an oppressed subculture. After Warhol’s death, when works from the series were displayed, the models were occasionally named, but still little was known about their lives. Thanks to efforts by the researchers behind the Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonne: Volume 4, published in 2014, extensive information about the models and the series was uncovered and compiled. We now know they did not lead easy lives and most of them lived on the streets fighting homophobia and transphobia in society, even in gay activist circles.

    By revealing their names and their stories, the images of Ladies and Gentleman become more personal, allowing viewers to connect with the artworks in new ways; especially when the series is put into conversation with Shimoyama’s portraits of black boys and men in queer spaces. Over forty years after the completion of this series, these drag queens and transgender women of the past will be recognized as early advocates in the fight for racial and queer justice and equality that continues today.

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    Andy Warhol, Ladies and Gentlemen (Wilhelmina Ross), 1975, Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas. The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

     

    Ladies and Gentleman: Queer subjects at the Warhol and the UAG

    Author: Rebecca Moser, HAA1030 Museum Studies Exhibition Seminar student – Fall 2018

    The student curated University Art Gallery exhibition This is not Ideal: Gender myths and their transformation focuses on themes that revolve around idealized beauty and gender norms as well as the subversions of these ideals by queer subjects. It is no surprise that there is a huge collection of art at the Andy Warhol Museum that can be discussed in regards to gender and sexuality. One of Warhol’s series of works that best fits into such discussions is his Ladies and Gentlemen series.These works are currently on display in conjunction with the Warhol’s forthcoming solo exhibit of the work of Devan Shimoyama, curated by Jessica Beck.

    Although queer subjects are rarer in the University Art Gallery collection than at the Warhol, several works in This is Not Ideal do present variations from the conventions of gender expression. Historical prints of the Chevalier d’Eon and Mary Frith, for example, register the long history of non-normative identities. A more contemporary example featured in the exhibition is the photograph titled Jennifur, by Daniel D. Teoli from his Gender Bender series. As a self-taught social documentary photographer, his goal was to assemble an archive of the people and cultures of Los Angeles street life in the 1970s. While no record of the sitter’s identity exists, their appearance suggests the sitter to be a drag performer or a transgender person.

    This photograph was taken at the same time that Warhol started shooting the Polaroids for his Ladies and Gentlemen series. In recent years, Warhol’s models have begun to be identified and credited, but Teoli’s models still remain unknown. The biggest difference between the works, however, is how each of the artists deal with the fine details of their sitters. In his paintings, Warhol erases the models features that seem less ideal to him, such as masculine attributes, obvious wigs and overdone makeup. These are characteristics that Teoli instead accentuates. Shot on opposite sides of the country, both Teoli and Warhol’s images provide important documents of queer culture in the late twentieth century.

    Devan Shimoyama: Cry Baby opens October 13. This is not Ideal: Gender myths and their transformation opens October 25.

    Rebecca Mosser was also the Milton Fine Museum Profession Fellow at the Andy Warhol Museum in Summer 2018.

    Read more about her internship experience here

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    The Susquehanna Art Museum’s VanGo!

     

    Interning Aboard the VanGO! Museum on Wheels

    Author: Olivia Rutledge, Intern at The Susquehanna Art Museum – Summer 2018

    This summer I worked as an intern at the Susquehanna Art Museum (SAM) in Harrisburg, PA. The Susquehanna Art Museum is central Pennsylvania’s only dedicated art museum, and its exhibitions explore a wide range of aesthetic and artistic interests while also reflecting the cultural heritage of the area.

    The majority of my internship was devoted to helping SAM’s educational outreach program aboard their mobile museum, the VanGo! The VanGo! travels to surrounding schools, summer camps, apartment complexes, etc. displaying an annual exhibition. On these visits, we presented the current show and paired it with a hands-on activity. I was responsible for assisting the educators by helping with the presentations, teaching kids the activity, and setting up the VanGo! for the next outing.

    This year’s VanGo! exhibition is Behind the Scenes, a show about jobs in and related to art museums, that aims to expand kids’ awareness of the types of careers that are possible.

    The exhibit inside the VanGo! includes: an app the museum helped to develop where visitors curate their own exhibition of Van Gogh paintings and choose how and where on the wall to hang them using a projector; a station where visitors restore a damaged sculpture; a lighting activity where visitors practice lighting a still life in different ways; and many more interactive stations that preview various aspects of museum work.

    The hands-on activity that I led for most frequently explored the work of art registrars and the conservators. Each child was given a box and told that it contained damaged art objects donated to the museum and that it was their job to act as inspectors, marking down where and how each of the objects was damaged. We told the kids that these objects would then be given to a restorer or a conservator to fix them and put them back in our museum.

    I think it is really important that SAM is using their outreach program to spread awareness about jobs in museums. As a kid, I was not exposed to that, and it was not until high school when I learned just how many jobs are available in museums and in the arts in general. It was very rewarding to be a part a project that makes museums and the arts more accessible for kids.

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  • Kendall in the Yayoi Kusama’s "Infinity Dots Mirrored Room" installation

     

    Development Difficulties: the Challenges of Working to Secure a Non-Profit’s Financial Future

    Author: Kendall Dunn, Mellon Museum Profession Fellow at the Mattress Factory – Summer 2018

    Over the summer of 2018, I worked in the Development Department of the Mattress Factory as an Mellon Museum Profession Fellow. Having served as an Education intern in the previous semester, I was generally familiar with the staff and offices of the museum. Transitioning from Education to Development, however, was definitely harder than I expected. Working in Development requires patience, determination, and focused work behind a computer, whereas museum Education is more creative and active work.  This fellowship gave me a better understanding of how valuable a development department is to any non-profit organization.

    Working full-time every day for three months, I got a taste of what it was like to be an employee at the Mattress Factory, managing a set of day-to-day duties and long-term projects. My daily tasks included donation requests, membership mailing, and filing. In addition to this administrative work, I was responsible for four larger projects throughout my fellowship.

    One of my first tasks as a Fellow was to write two Letter of Inquiries to two different foundations, requesting funding for the Mattress Factory. In order to create persuasive and informed letters I learned to write project proposals, which included conducting research, drafting budgets, and establishing funding plans.

    Secondly, I did a lot of work to prepare for the Mattress Factory's 40th Anniversary Auction. I was responsible for creating artist folders for each winning bidder at the auction. These folders contained a certificate of authenticity, the artist’s bio, CV, and a photograph and description of the artwork donated for auction. I attended all of the auction planning meetings and worked closely with the museum's Archivist. 

    My last project involved visitor experience surveys. This task included, conducting research on museum surveys, compiling a long list of potential survey questions for the Mattress Factory, and then going into the galleries and surveying visitors on a weekly basis. These surveys were designed to supply staff in the Development and Marketing Departments with inspiring visitor quotes for grant writing, social media platforms, and advertisements. 

    Each of these projects were time consuming and detail oriented in ways I found challenging, but I’m happy that I have experienced the ups and downs of a Development office. I want to pursue a career in the museum world and by working in a Development Department I have learned the importance of communication, patience, hard work, and teamwork to professional life at a non-profit organization. Every department of the museum relies on Development to get the job done. I left the Mattress Factory with a greater appreciation for non-profit organizations. Each employee's drive, passion, and hard work contributes to the museum's reputation and financial future. My fellowship experience at the Mattress Factory is something that I will cherish forever, as I jump further into my future career in the arts.

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  • One of the focus group sessions at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History

     

    Nile in Focus: Assessing Community Expectations for CMNH’s "Egypt on the Nile" Exhibition

    Author: Alec Story, Milton Fine Museum Profession Fellow at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History – Summer 2018

    When preparing for the installation of a new permanent exhibition, museums often assess the needs and assumptions of the communities they serve. For its upcoming gallery rework entitled Egypt on the Nile, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has been doing just that. Egypt on the Nile unites human and natural histories, a unique approach that differs from traditional Egypt-oriented galleries. The novelty of this concept necessitates properly gauging audience reactions to and receptions of the exhibition and its themes. Over the course of my summer fellowship I assisted curator Dr. Erin Peters in, among other things, the planning and execution of these community focus groups.

    Paramount to this process was recruiting participants from a wide variety of backgrounds: museum members, college students, K-12 educators, and senior citizens. Diverse groups were chosen in order to accurately represent the thoughts and feelings of those who visit the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

    Prior to the focus group meetings, we created prompts and questions that participants could respond to, and a session schedule to ensure we used our time effectively. Questions were designed to be open-ended, promote discussion, and to tease out valuable information on the proposed exhibition themes. During the focus group sessions we used an array of strategies including surveys, sticky notes, and open discussion to gather relevant information. The focus group environment allowed anyone, regardless of education or experience with Egypt, to come in and share their thoughts on one of the most famous cultures of all time.

    After the focus groups I was tasked with recording and synthesizing the data accumulated during each focus group. With this information the Egypt on the Nile team can even more successfully create an exhibit that both depicts all desired themes and does so in a way that is easily communicable to the public.

    This experience has allowed me to see how museums plan exhibits, how exhibits are constantly undergoing change and adjustment, and how cultural institutions interact with the community.

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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.

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