Spring at the art museum this year is more student-involved than ever before

Miami students enjoy new exhibits at the art museum (Photo by Scott Kissell).
Miami students enjoy new exhibits at the art museum (Photo by Scott Kissell).

Art musuem exhibits

Students created art and curated artwork for spring exhibits at the Miami
University Art Museum. (Photo by Scott Kissell)

written by Mekenna Sandstrom, University News and Communications Intern

For two of the three main exhibits at the Miami University Art Museum this spring, 18 Miami students either created art for display or curated the capstone exhibition, making this year the most active period for student involvement.

“We are very excited about student engagement at the art museum this spring. It's amazing," said Sherri Krazl, coordinator of marketing communications. “Student involvement in the Art Museum can also be seen through student workers and internships, currently in the areas of guest services, communications, curation, marketing and interactive media studies. For instance, junior graphic design student Morgan Murray designed the publicity materials for both of these exhibitions.”

The year began in the fall with an open call to all students for art entries that expressed their thoughts regarding racial segregation. Creative responses had to relate to issues of freedom seen in 1964 and in today’s society.

The call for entries continued a dialogue that began with last summer's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a movement with a history that included the campus of Western College for Women, now part of Miami.

Book about Freedom Summer inspires student artwork

The exhibition name, “Freedom Summer: A Student Response,” was inspired by Bruce Watson’s book, Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy, Miami’s selection for the 2014 incoming first-year class as part of the summer reading program.

According to Jason Shaiman, the museum curator, Watson and Nishani Frazier, assistant professor of history, and Ann Taulbee, director of Hiestand Galleries, judged the entries submitted by students, accepting 10 works now displayed in the exhibition.

The students who created the entries are not all art majors. Students studying strategic communication, interactive media studies, American studies, botany and zoology are featured.

Also unique to the exhibit are the forms of art. The art is depicted through creative writing, sketches, paintings and print-made works.

Students helped with exhibit

Capstone students designed "Figures in a Garden." Pictured l-r: Wilson
Pittman, Danielle Riggs, Jim McClanahan, Delaney Lee, Alexandra
Czajkowski, Abbigail Crawford, Naren Gao, Gabrielle Turner and
Professor Ann Barrott Wicks. (Photo by Sherri Krazl)

A Chinese garden-like atmosphere greets visitors

Various forms of art also are exhibited in “Figures in a Garden: The Ideal World in Chinese Art.”  This exhibition takes visitors on a tour by looking at culture in a different light as curated by eight Miami art history students for their capstone project, taught by Ann Barrott Wicks, professor of art history.

The students learned about the curatorial process, collections management, education, installation practices, graphic design, marketing and promotion in order to develop the exhibition.

“They were responsible for defining the theme, selecting and researching the objects featured, writing the text and designing the layout,” said Shaiman, who along with Wicks, oversaw the process.

The exhibition depicts an ideal space constructed according to long-established Chinese beliefs.  

Shaiman explains, “Gardens, especially those of the educated elite, were designed to model the perfect balance among heaven, earth and people.”

A peaceful mood greets visitors as Chinese music plays with occasional chirps from birds. Traditional scrolls hang on walls and blue china sparkle in glass enclosures.

The artwork on display comes from the museum's permanent collection with some pieces from private collections on loan.  

Senior Gabrielle Turner, one of the students in the capstone, said there was a lot of work that was put into the exhibit.

“We had to write everything — from the object labels, gallery guide, text panels as well as a final research paper that was given to the museum,” Turner said. “We also had to design the gallery, meaning we had to decide where the pieces were going and how we wanted people to walk around the gallery.”

Despite the work, Turner said the experience was unforgettable.

“I really like the fact that (the exhibition) gave us, as future art historians, the experience [to see] what it’s like to put on an exhibition,” Turner said.  “I personally love Asian art, so the whole exhibition is wonderful to me.”

The student response exhibition closes May 16, and the other exhibitions remain open until June 27. For more information, please visit the Miami University Art Museum website.