By Tricia Duke '19
A new course, independent study opportunities, and the recently opened Borzello Gallery are giving students increased opportunities to pursue museum studies.
By the end of the winter term class Art Museum Curating, taught by Professor of Art History Gregory Gilbert, each student was able to present research on three artists, a proposed collection of works, and a label condensing that research into a short essay that could be displayed in a museum exhibit.
“We focus a lot on the nuts and bolts of museum curating,” explained Gilbert, who has a museum studies certificate and spent two years as a senior curator at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa.
“By taking this class, they’re learning job skills that would take them a couple years of working in a museum to find out. They’re getting a head start in the field,” he said.
A design team of students is currently working with Gilbert as an independent study to take the collections developed in last term's class and prepare an exhibit in Borzello Gallery titled “The Long Twentieth Century: Modern and Contemporary Works in the Permanent Art Collection of Knox College.”
“The gallery will be the main learning laboratory for this museum training,” Gilbert said. He went on to explain that with a gallery where full shows can be presented, the art history department has the opportunity to show students both curating work and skills involved in other museum positions.
Ruth Holmes '18 is conducting a post-baccalaureate fellowship with the Knox Archives. In addition to taking Gilbert’s classes as a student, Holmes’ work allows for additional experience in the mechanics of organizing art shows.
“The gallery is really helpful because now we don’t have to do shows off-site at the [Galesburg] Civic Art Center. We have what we need right here, which is better for me and for the collections,” Holmes said. Holmes said they’re grateful in general to have the opportunity to gain museum studies experience, since Holmes has known for a while that museum management is their preferred career.
“I’m an artist first and I always will be an artist first,” Holmes said. “But as far as paying the bills goes, I want something steady. And I know I want to be around art, and this job gives me the opportunity to do that.”
Gilbert agreed with Holmes that the full shows the department will be able to put on in the new gallery are a step in teaching students important professional skills.
“One of my responsibilities is to ask, 'What can I do to help you make this a career?'” Gilbert said. “In the field of art history, the growth area is museums. In this country, there’s been an explosion in leisure and tourism industries. With museum studies classes, there’s exposure to all the different jobs you can do in a museum, and then the students have hands-on experience doing some of that work in the gallery.”