On Feb. 13, some 50 students, staff and community members crowded into the Mead’s William Green Study Room, where each work was on display. The artwork selection event is open to the public, and every person who attends gets a vote.
Jake Montes-Adams ’21, Cosmo Brossy ’19 and Mount Holyoke College student Zahin Islam advocated for a pair of self-portraits—Shivangi Ladha’s Self Portrait (2017) and Cedar Kirwin’s I Exist Between Every Line (2017)—which together explore what unites humans across differences.
Jacob Gendelman ’20 spoke for William Villalongo’s Palimpsest (2017), a screenprint that comments on recent and historical racism in the United States.
Skylhur Tranqille ’18, Camilo Ortiz ’20 and Mount Holyoke’s Daphne Schneewind hoped the Mead would acquire Emma Amos’ Stars and Stripes (1995), and Davis Brown ’19, Matthew Ezersky ’21 and Stephen Johnson ’19 favored acquiring Reigning Queen (2017), a print by Diana Al-Hadid.
After tallying the votes, Waldman announced that the pair of self-portraits by Ladha and Kirwin had won, closely followed by Villalongo’s Palimpsest. Waldman then announced that, because benefactor H. Nichols B. Clark had increased the acquisitions budget, the Mead could acquire all three of those prints.
Gendelman was all smiles. “I’m just so incredibly grateful,” he said. “I would never have been able to do anything like this anywhere else in my own life after Amherst. I’m glad Mr. Clark decided to bring [Palimpsest] to Amherst. I think a lot of people will enjoy it.”
The class allowed students such as Gendelman to impact the canon of art history, says Amodeo: “Buying this art supports the artists. More important, the works will be taught. They’re going to be written into history.”
The annual student-driven art purchase is made possible by the Trinkett Clark Memorial Student Acquisition Fund, named in honor of the former Mead curator who died in 2006. Nick Clark is her widower. A decade ago, he underwrote the fund, which has now allowed the Mead to acquire 33 new works by American and international artists. He attends the selection event every year.
The day after this year’s event, Clark reflected on the experience. “I applaud all the students for their poise and passion,” he said. “That is the beginning of a true love affair with art.”