Two community events. New informational pamphlets. An amped up social media presence. Archival and curatorial endeavors. Combined, such tasks could easily have kept the Mead Art Museum’s five student interns busy all summer long. But this ambitious group set out to do more.
They approached Danielle Amodeo ’13, the public programs and marketing coordinator at the Mead, with an idea: they wanted to put together an exhibition of their own. And so, after earning the support of Director and Chief Curator David Little, the students began their largest project of the summer, an exhibition titled “Picturing American Identity.” The show, which highlights 20th century American photography of urban spaces, will open on Sept. 12 in the Mead’s Kunian gallery and run through Dec. 31. The opening reception, to be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sept. 12, is open to the public.
“It’s turning out to be something we really like, but the process we took on to get there was painful at times, and that’s what made it so worth it,” says Shreeansh Agrawal ’20E, an art history and mathematics double major.
The show highlights American cultural identity. For example, Weegee’s Out at Three In The Morning, a 1940 print, depicts a girl with a large cardboard Hershey’s box partially covering her head—revealing how, in a consumer culture, brands become more than just their products.
Emerging Man, by Gordon Parks, is a 1952 photograph that shows a man lifting his head out from a manhole cover. The interns chose this piece because it sends a subtle message about how certain strata of American society are driven into certain occupations. The exhibition also includes works from such photographers as Louis Faurer, Jerome Liebling and Robert Frank.
Before they began curating, the interns shadowed and assisted members of the Mead staff, while periodically taking trips to regional museums. Over the course of the summer, each intern had the chance to develop a specialty. Here’s what stands out most for each of them:
Shreeansh Agrawal ’20
An aspiring curator, Agrawal worked alongside Curator of American Art Dr. Vanja Malloy on a show titled Diminsionist Manifesto, as a way to experience first-hand how a curator puts together a show. Most valuable, he says, was seeing works of art spread out on a table “and trying to decide how they go together. It’s difficult, but that’s what I really enjoyed.”
Jane Bragdon ’20
Bragdon, an art history and English double major, coordinated the “Time-Traveling Tea Party,” the first community event of the summer. More than 120 visitors came to the museum to sample tea and sweets and participate in activities such as landscape sketching and seed planting.
Crystal Ganatra ’19
Architectural studies and Spanish double major Ganatra planned the “Dog Days of Summer” event, which attracted more than 200 community members. Highlights of the event were snacks, vendors, a DJ, a photo booth and art activities. “I felt closer to the event because I saw every step of the process,” says Ganatra.
Claire Cho ’20
Cho, an art history major, has a strong interest in graphic design. At the Mead, she honed her graphic design skills by designing a pamphlet that showcases Mead resources. Every student will receive this pamphlet at the beginning of the fall semester. “I’ve been able to use my own personal artistic vision in our projects,” says Cho. “Having more responsibility with my projects has helped me realize that graphic design is something that I’m considering pursuing in the future.”
Nekhoe Hogan ’19
As a law, jurisprudence and social thought major, Hogan applied for the internship as a way to broaden his horizons, as he was not well-versed in the world of art. “The point of being at a liberal arts school is that you push yourself outside of your comfort zone,” he says. He also saw the internship as an opportunity to strengthen his writing, research and public speaking skills–all necessary for an aspiring lawyer to develop. At the Mead, Hogan worked on archiving material for Rico Gatson’s Hall Walls, an annual project in which an artist works together with students to create a temporary mural on the walls of the museum. Hogan also conducted research for the interns’ final exhibition.