Undergraduate Work

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    Student Journal: Seeing it all come together

    Xander Schempf, 24 October and 6 November 2017

    October 24

    As a class, we are currently in the stages right before the show really starts to pick up, or at least that’s how I’ve perceived it. Coming from the Installation group, it feels like planning can only go so far, and that once we get into the gallery to begin set up, things will come together and solutions to problems we didn’t know existed will be found. After multiple drafts with constant revisions and tweaks from fellow installation members, professors, and other classmates, we as a group have a pretty solid grasp on how things will be displayed.  The original plan of having Visual Knowledge in the front gallery, Identity in the rotunda, and Ritual in the hallway is intact (with just a few deviations). Within a week our installation group went from tentative guesses on locations to a well thought out layout of the upcoming exhibition. Next comes the physical installing of the objects, which is what I’m most looking forward to. Weeks of planning and scrapped ideas have led to this, so I hope for the best of luck!

    November 6

    Just a few days before the show opens, and the exhibition has truly come together. I've learned a lot about how a museum might operate from the de-installation of the previous show and the installation of ours. I learned many installation techniques such as proper lighting, display methods, handling of objects, and many more that I hope to bring to careers in my future. After it’s all installed, all that’s left to be done is to just let it happen. That's what I’m most excited about, just knowing that it’s installed and anyone can come and visit. 

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    • Undergraduate Work
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    • UAG
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    Student Journal: What is Ruyi?

    Wendi Yu, 7 November 2017

    When you look at the vitrine that is filled with a set of ceremonial keys from the Nationality Rooms, an ornate key with gold accents will catch your eyes. Made for the Chinese Room, this ceremonial key is designed as a Ruyi (scepter), with a curved shape and a head fashioned like a cloud. But do you know what a Ruyi is, and what it represents in traditional Chinese culture?

    The Chinese term Ruyi is a compound of Ru “as; like” and Yi “wish; desire”, which had been used as early as the former Han Dynasty (206 BC – 24 AD). The Hanshu biography first recorded that Ruyi means “as you wish” in a quotation of scholar Jing Fang (77-37 BCE). There are two basic theories of the origin of the Ruyi. One is that Ruyi originated from Sanskrit Anuruddha, “a ceremonial scepter” used by Buddhist monks in India, who later brought it to China. The other is that the Ruyi was invented as a back scratcher because it had an apparent ability to reach parts of the human body that there normally impossible to reach.

    During its historical evolution, however, Ruyi became luxurious symbols of political power in the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 AD). A Ruyi was regularly used in imperial ceremonies, and they were awarded as gifts to and from the Emperor. Because of its elegant style, the Ruyi was also popular among the literati class.

    A Ruyi could be made from various materials, including jade, ivory, metal, coral, wood, lacquer, crystal, and precious gems. Craftsmen fashioned the head of each Ruyi as cloud, fist, flower, Lingzhi mushroom, or a bat, which all symbolize power and good fortune. Since the design of the Chinese Room in the Cathedral of Learning was inspired by the Forbidden City, which was the Emperor’s palace for more than 600 years, the shape of Ruyi was used as a model for its ceremonial key to represent the dynastic history of China. The Chinese characters "Ruyi" were also incised on its head, making the appearance of the key as an important motif of Chinese culture unmistakable.

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    • Undergraduate Work
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    Shopping for furniture at Construction Junction for the Human Diorama in the new exhibition: We are Nature

     

    A Whale of a Tale: Archiving and Exhibition Design at The Carnegie Museum of Natural History

    Author: Eliza Wick

    Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History - Summer 2017

    I came into my fellowship at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History with certain preconceptions. Namely, I had a preference and more experience with museums that may be more traditional, such as the Carnegie Museum of Art. But I was eager to see how a natural history museum differed from what I was used to. I also expected that I would be making decisions each day that would be effecting changes in the museum in a more direct way as well as contributing to the formation of future exhibits, however I quickly learned that that was a bit of a naïve and idealistic view of how a museum works. My work as an intern, while important, was more of an archival project in backtracking, documentation and organization of historical material and how that information related to current halls and future exhibitions.

    One thing that I quickly became aware of is how almost every museum has to operate from a perspective that is often overlooked: the museum as a financial entity. Despite being a non-profit, a museum still has to make enough money to do things like upkeep of permanent halls, creation of temporary exhibits, borrowing of traveling exhibits, paying employees, graphic design projects, and much more. Due to the fact that revenue is only generated really from grants, admission, and generous donations, creation and innovation must be brought down to reality and altered to fit the limited funds that most non-profits must face.

    With this in mind, many ideas have to be struck down to fit the reality of budget and time more so than I had naively expected. I thought that ideas could be implemented quickly and without limits; however I learned that museums by nature take time to implement new projects, ideas, halls, etc. Work must be reviewed by many people and departments because museum work stresses the collaborative and group effort.

    I remember someone describing the design and implementation of exhibitions as being for the long haul. Essentially you are hoping your ideas and efforts will come later in five years or so, resonating with a museum-goer deeply concerned for our natural world. Through particular implementation and design that you curated hopefully helps visitors become more interested in science or better understand a concept.

    Additionally, something I had not considered all the way through is how much a natural history museum differs from a more traditional art museum. A natural history museum requires much more preparation and planning of exhibitions in most cases than an art museum. There are factors like specimen acquisition, preservation, and preparation as well as thought mapping of how you want to educate the scientific topic in space.

    Natural history museums also make the majority of their own props, stands, cases, and anything else that will be going into the physical space. All of these considerations as well as protection of specimens and of the visitors means that much more time and energy must be put into the final product than an art museum where the pieces stand alone. In a way, the exhibition department in a natural history museum is like an artist and educator because they get to design and create the majority of the pieces in the exhibit. 

    There is also the fact that many exhibitions require that permanent changes are made to the physical building and like new walls made, old walls taken down, blocked exits, new walking patterns, etc. that become more costly and laborious.

    Understanding the museum budget, raising money, and how finances and time affect production allowed me to better understand the history of the institution and made my archiving process much more informed and tailored to a museum as opposed to another entity.

    I treasured my fellowship, most of all, because it satisfied my personal fascination and admiration for archival research. I also cherished the fact that I personally got to make choices that affected the organization and logic of their exhibition department archival system.

    While archival research and organization may not seem like a pressing issue, this information is actually essential for knowledge about past exhibitions and renovations, current halls, and for the production and planning of future exhibitions. For example, there was a traveling exhibition in the mid-2000s about a whale. The exhibition required that a life-size whale be installed from the ceiling. This required some significant changes to the rooms walls, ceilings, and general layout.

    It may not seem like a major issue in the moment, but it means that any blueprint of the area that was dated prior to this alteration would be significantly off in its measurements. And, because it is a traveling show, the whale was only temporary, but the alterations were permanent. Therefore, an updated blueprint needed to be made to avoid confusion in the future. This became especially significant after the dissolution of the exhibitions department and the later revival of it because there were many old blueprints that had dimensions that did not match the current features of the space. Being off by even an inch in one’s measurement of a room can be tragic for the installation of a future show because items might not fit. Hopefully this serves as a very tangible reason as to why archival upkeep, intelligence, and research is so important.

    What can be done to help archival get more attention and communicate its importance?

    I believe that keeping the relationship open between our History of Art and Architecture Department at the University of Pittsburgh and the exhibitions department of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History would be the best way to help further develop and explore these archives as well as be mutually beneficial to both institutions. It would be valuable work if a future intern would use my archives and/or guides to conduct research on the institution or exhibits, further develop the archives, or document the current halls and exhibits on display now as a proactive project for the future of the archives. I would love to stay in touch with any future students that might encounter these archives or the wonderful group of staff that make up the exhibitions department.

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
    • Academic Interns
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
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    Weekly Update For Exhibition for HAA 1020

    This past week, going into this week has been dedicated to finishing up the installation at the gallery. Everyone is working hard to finish mounting wall texts as well as setting up all the display cases and move in the last of the objects in the different galleries. Each team is finalizing their areas of the gallery, each team has different challenges in presenting the objects for the show. Some groups work with vitrines and display cases, while others work with manikins and wall mounted objects.

    The class has also finished installing the Avinoff watercolor gallery while installing a few student were able to learn in detail about the effects of lighting on watercolor paintings as well as how to handle the artwork. One of the main challenges with displaying such delicate artwork is the effect light has on the paint. Students were given a device that measures light intensity. this device is used in knowing what range of intensity is safe for objects and artwork to be shown in. 

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    Student Journal: Labels and Posters and Postcards, Oh My!

    Darien Pepple, 24 October 2017

    In the past week, we have taken a few significant steps in our exhibition production process. First, everyone created labels for the items that they have chosen to focus on within their planning group. The three planning groups, known as “visual knowledge,” “ritual and sacred spaces,” and “identity,” were designated to reflect three of the research Constellations of the Department of History of Art and Architecture and have been used to organize the exhibition into three main sections in the University Art Gallery. We are now completing our final edits on these labels before they are given to the publications working group for final review. As a member of the publications group, I will be proofreading the labels that have been submitted to ensure that no grammar or spelling errors make their way into our exhibition space. I am looking forward to reading everyone’s labels and learning more about the amazing objects that will be on display.

    An exciting decision was also made this past week, as the class voted for a poster design that will serve as the central advertisement for our exhibition around campus. Members of the publications group created three final submissions after the initial drafts were discussed in class. The chosen design exemplifies the diversity of the Nationality Rooms and presents just a few of the meaningful objects that will be displayed in our exhibition. The next step in this aspect of the preparation was the incorporation of this design into the format of a postcard. In the publications group, we have come up with a number of postcard design drafts, and these will be finalized later this week. It is amazing to see our exhibition concept and goals come to life through these visuals, and I cannot wait to see them once they have been printed.

    It has been wonderful to notice how far the different working and planning groups have come through the products that we are beginning to see. Last week, we were able to walk through the gallery space and discuss where specific objects should be displayed. It is exciting to see everything come together for the show, and in just a few short weeks, it will be open to the public!

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    • Undergraduate Work
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    Student Journal: Friendship across nationalities, Stories behind dolls

    Tianni Wang, 25 October 2017

    It is widely known that traditional handmade Japanese dolls are great choices as souvenirs for foreign tourists. They formed an important part of traditional Japanese culture for much of the nation’s recorded history. What many people do not know, however, is that dolls actually played an important role in the diplomatic relationship between Japan and the United States in the 1920s.

    At that time, the world was full of international anxiety because of World War I. Discrimination was increasing and successive immigration laws were passed. Finally, with the passing of the US Immigration Act of 1924, the Japanese found themselves entirely prohibited from immigrating to the United States. Into this bleak picture stepped Dr. Sidney Gulick and the United Federation of Churches of Christ in America. They initiated the Doll Messengers of Goodwill project which collected over 12,000 dolls with blue eyes from children across the United States. They sent those dolls to Japan, hoping to ease the tension between the two countries. The dolls were given a grand welcome in Japan, and were distributed to schools throughout the country. To return the courtesies, 58 dolls were painstakingly made by the doll-making masters in Japan and sent to cities across the United States. Among them was “Miss Kochi,” who was installed in her new home at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. Dr. Andrey Avinoff, director of the museum at that time, wrote a thank you letter to Mr. Oshima, the governor of Kochi prefecture. His letter reiterated the goodwill message Miss Kochi had brought with her: “…this presentation by the children of your province manifests the cordial spirit existing between Japan and the United States…”

    More than 60 years later in 1993, a group of 50 Japanese people from Kochi prefecture came to Pittsburgh to visit Miss Kochi and raise funds for the Japanese Nationality Room. With their contributions and the efforts of many other people, the Japanese Nationality Room was dedicated in 1999. From then on, dolls became an important part in the Room’s collection. Currently, a doll dressed in an elegant kimono is on display in the Japanese Nationality Room. A set of Japanese Kokeshi dolls will also be displayed in the coming exhibition, Narratives of The Nationality Rooms: Immigration and Identity in Pittsburgh, as well as an edition of Carnegie Magazine that highlights Miss Kochi. The show also features watercolor paintings by Avinoff, whose depictions of the Nationality Rooms reflects a deep interest in the kinds of international collaboration that made the Rooms possible, and have become a focus of the UAG exhibition.

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    Student Journal: New Experiences

    Emily Campbell, 3 November 2017

    Having never put an exhibition together, this experience allowed me to think about gallery spaces in a way I hadn’t before. Specifically, I realized that the way that art and art objects are arranged in a room is done in a very specific way and with purpose. We had to think in terms of not just how objects and artifacts would fit spatially in a room together, but; also if the story they were telling made sense.

    Each of the rooms in the University Art Gallery has been given a theme, with the Rotunda focused on Identity, the Hallway used for Sacred Space, and the Front Gallery dealing with Conflict and Cohesion. My favorite part of this seminar is not just seeing all of the beautiful and unique artifacts that were chosen by my peers but, getting to work with people in a way that I haven’t before. During the planning of the exhibition and the actual working as a team to put it together, we have become this tight-knit family. Everyone is working towards the same goal to make this exhibition a success and we’ve all helped each other out in the process. For instance, even though we are all put into groups and are tasked with different things, if I get done with something I jump over to another part of the gallery and see if anyone from a different team needs help, and vice versa. Of course, our professor Shirin Fozi and curator Isabelle Chartier have been there every step of the way to help guide us but, that being said, they’ve given us a lot of free rein. Giving us this independence and letting us make big decisions while still approving everything that happens and making suggestions along the way has helped me and my peers tremendously.

    Working in art galleries is my career goal once I graduate. This process has not only taught me how to work in a team better; it has also helped me learn about the whole process of putting an exhibition together and all the hard work that goes into it. I already feel more confident that this is something I can do in the future and I know my teammates are appreciative of the experience as well. I hope everyone enjoys seeing the exhibition as much as we enjoyed creating it!

    Categories: 
    • Undergraduate Work
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    • Front Gallery
    • Front Gallery
    • Rotonda
    • Hallway
    • Avinoff WaterColors
    • Documentation group setting up for interviews
    • Interview
    • Second Interview
    • Interview with Michael Walter
    Front Gallery

    The class discusses where the timeline will be as well as objects.

     

    Weekly Update For Exhibition for HAA 1020

    It was a very busy week last week for the class! This past week was spent in the gallery discussing and finalizing the installation. We also walked around the gallery while the installation team discussed where they would be placing objects and asking for feedback. While in the gallery we discussed wall texts and where they would be placed on the walls. There was much debate on certain aspects of the Exhibition, this pertained too certain objects and where they would be placed and how their placement would affect the flow of the show. One aspect of the show that was discussed that is very important is that of the placement of the monitor that would be on during the show. We wanted to make sure the monitor and what will be playing on it, would not cause people to group up in front of it and cause congestion in the gallery. What room the monitor would be in was finally decided by the end of class with everyone agreeing on it being in the same gallery as the Avinoff watercolors.

    Last week the Documentation group began filming for what would be on the monitor during the show. They set up shop in the French Room in the Cathedral of learning and interviewed tour guides of the Nationality Rooms as well as Trainees. They also were also to get an in-depth interview with Michael Walter, the tour coordinator of the Nationality Rooms here at Pitt! The interview gave further insight into certain aspects of the Rooms and some challenges he has faced while tour coordinator of the Nationality Rooms.

    As we come closer and closer to the Gallery opening the working groups are in full gear creating and finalizing wall texts as well as tombstone texts for each and every object that is in the Show. While learning how to create these wall texted we faced the issue of making sure we did not write to much or too little, but just the right amount of text on the labels. This is an ongoing challenge each group faces in creating these texts as well as making sure each member of the group gets their opinion heard. Wall texts play a key role in a gallery and can be just as important as an object in the show, both the object and the text must match to make an effective message and one understood by the gallery visitor. It's our job to make sure this is done and the wall texts can be understood by everyone regardless of age and education, this show is for everyone!

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    Cyd and Kendall standing outside of the original storefront of the 'The Store', which is now occupied by 'Otto’s Shoe Store'

     

    The Untold Stories of 'The Store,' Verona, PA

    Author: Kendall Dunn

    Museum Studies Intern at Contemporary Craft - Fall 2017

    Through my fall internship at Contemporary Craft, I have been conducting research on the life of Betty Raphael, the woman who brought modern art and craft to Pittsburgh. Before Betty Raphael’s work led to the creation of what is now Contemporary Craft, located in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, she opened the city’s first modern art gallery called 'Outlines Gallery.' She collected and displayed artworks by renowned modern artists Alexander Calder and Paul Klee, among others. After this stage in her life, she found a crafts store in Verona, PA, titled 'The Store for Arts, Crafts, and People-Made Things,' and reopened it under her management.

    To learn more about the physical landmark of the Store and Raphael’s legacy in the Verona community, a group of student interns and staff from the History of Art department ventured to Verona, PA, about thirty minutes from Pittsburgh. We drove up on the main street, Allegheny River Blvd, where the small town began. Our purpose was to find the original location of the ‘The Store’ and investigate its history as art historians. With the town being so incredibly small, we were able to track down the original location of 737 Allegheny River Boulevard in 1971, which is now occupied by the shoe store, 'Otto’s Shoes.' (In 1973, the Store would relocate to a bigger space, a few blocks down the street, at 719 Allegheny River Boulevard, now occupied by the fitness center 'No limits. Sport performance').

    As we scanned the outside of the building we saw the store owner looking at us curiously from inside.  We met the owner, Larry, and learned from him that he knew little about Betty Raphael, taking over this store front around ten years ago. Before he moved into the building, his friend, Gloria, housed her store there, and before that, the whole entire building was used as a theatre. Larry also disclosed information regarding his father’s involvement in the art world when he was younger. His father owned Geisler Brothers Art Dealer on 5627 Penn Avenue in East Liberty. His father was mainly in charge of making safety and instructional posters for the steel factories in Western Pennsylvania. Later on, he offered Larry the family business but Larry decided to pursue shoe sales.

    As another possible lead for information about Betty Raphael, Larry then directed us to Gloria, the owner of 'Gloria’s Fixations.' Gloria, too, did not know much history of the store front and did not have any knowledge regarding Betty Raphael. But, she did direct us to our next destination: The Verona Municipal Building which houses a special history room of Verona.

    The History Room contained information about the railroads, the community, various pictures, objects, newspapers, and other documents. We learned that the Social Women’s Club was a huge part of Verona’s community. Additionally, there were many scrapbooks that recorded the crafts and arts that occurred in the 1960’s and 70’s.

    While we did not discover any specific mentions of Betty Raphael, we did enjoy learning more about the history of Verona. Now, when I resume my work at Contemporary Craft, looking through the personal scrapbooks of Betty Raphael, the visit has made me curious even more curious about the owner of 'The Store.'

    Explore Kendall’s SCALAR storybook project here

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

    Categories: 
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    • Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh

    Robert Sterns, “Verona Has a ‘Handy’ Approach to Art: The Sociable Workshop,” The Pittsburgh Press, March 4, 1973: 12. Betty Raphael’s Scrapbooks, Contemporary Craft, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

     

    Organizing the community through art and crafts

    Author: Cyd Johnson

    Museum Studies Intern at Contemporary Craft - Fall 2017

    Before starting my internship at Contemporary Craft I first watched a documentary, Tracing Outlines, and was immediately enchanted with its founder, Betty Raphael. How could I have lived in Pittsburgh my whole life and not have known about this awesome woman who started a modern art gallery downtown in the 1940s? After watching the documentary on Outlines gallery, I was excited to learn that at my internship I would be flipping through her large leather-bound scrapbooks and learn about other, somehow even more inspiring projects.

    After Outlines Gallery closed in 1947, Betty Raphael got involved with the Riverview Community Action Corporation, a volunteer community service organization for the boroughs of Oakmont and Verona which provided used clothes to people in need, either giving the clothes away or selling them at bargain price, but needed storage rooms for all the clothes they were receiving. Raphael reached out to a small craft store in Verona that was preparing to shut its doors, called “the Store for arts and crafts and people-made things.”  She agreed to continue selling the works of local craftsmen in the Store if they could also use the space as storage for the clothing.  

    Shortly thereafter, a project grew out of the Store called the “Sociable Workshop.” The Store’s original director, Beth Cameron Walter, described it as a place “where professional artists and designers work with students, hobbyists, retirees and handicapped people in a non-profit program for the hand arts." They paid unemployed people to come to the workshop and take classes with professional designers and craftspeople. The objects made in the Sociable Workshop were sold in the Store, and two-thirds of the profits were given to their makers, while the other third went towards other community projects such as a bus that ran between the boroughs and helped transport people to/from the Workshop. (A bus system which, by the way, is still in place today).  

    The Sociable Workshop grew into a master-apprentice program, attracting nationally known craftspeople to come in and create easily reproducible designs for people with some technical skills, but who lacked creative ingenuity. The objects produced in the workshop began being noticed by retailers, first with a line of Santa Clauses sold in several New York department stores (including a window display at Cartier), and handmade objects being sold at Gimbels, a local department store. After seeing the displays, Park Smith called Betty Raphael and asked her to produce 800-1500 pillows/month for his stores. This led to the expansion of the Sociable Workshop into a new space, and the employment of nine weavers, four finishers, a manager and two assistants. Despite Betty Raphael pouring her own money into it, the Sociable Workshop was always in debt. While they received some federal funding as an anti-poverty program, it was never enough. Raphael, with the help of the Riverview Community Action Corporation, decided that they had enough support within the community to fund-raise this and other community outreach projects. They hosted a Bootstraps Twin-Boroughs party to fundraise. Objects from the Store were sold at the fundraiser, and all the volunteer groups put their best foot forward in attempts to raise the money the government refused to give them. In the words of Betty Raphael herself, "Who can say how far a community or city neighborhood could go today toward 'taking care of its own' if the government would help rather than hinder their efforts?" 

    In scouring these news articles and advertisements beautifully arranged in her aging and delicate scrapbooks, a single quote from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette art critic, Donald Miller, properly summarized my findings: "No one has ever worked harder or more cleverly to promote crafts in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania than Betty Raphael. She deserves more success."  This got me thinking -if Betty Raphael couldn’t sustain this project, can anyone? And, are there any arts organizations, today, that are actively thinking about community outreach in such a powerful way? I figured talking with my co-workers at Contemporary Craft would be a good place to start, since it is Betty Raphael’s remaining legacy.

    The outreach coordinator informed me of programs they do a few times a year, as well as many connections they have in education with schools and museums. Contemporary Craft maintains their status as a non-profit, offering a free gallery space and  programs that work in schools and with the women’s shelter in Pittsburgh. I understand that Betty Raphael struggled to secure funding in the 1970s, and I can’t imagine that getting government funding for a project of the magnitude of the Sociable Workshop would be any easier in 2017…

    Is it still possible? I am now determined to find out. 

    Explore Cyd’s SCALAR storybook project here

    Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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

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