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Curation Exploration

Art students at UMass are getting a firsthand look at what it means to have a career in curation thanks to Collecting 101: Acquiring Art for the UMCA (University Museum of Contemporary Art). Students in this class are tasked with a project most undergraduate art students don’t have a chance to do until far past graduation: purchasing works of art for a museum. And the process isn’t hypothetical—by the end of the semester, students will have spent their budget on a new piece for the university’s collection.

This course sees museums as a public good and offers a true reflection of the ethics behind curation. Students in Collecting 101 form teams around artists chosen by the professors leading the class. Then, the students end the semester by presenting a piece of art by their designated artist to the public. Attendees at their presentation—which is open to anyone—vote on the nominations and welcome the chosen work to the university’s collection.

The winner of the fall 2023 vote was a diptych by Cindy Sherman, but with the help of a last-minute fundraiser, UMCA students ultimately welcomed these three new pieces to the collection.


Two framed black and white portraits. One pictures a blond masculine-looking person in a suit and tie, and the other pictures a brunette feminine-looking person in a blouse and hat.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled, 1980–1987


A grid of 23 black and white photos. Each is a close-up, out-of-focus picture of a face. The photos have high contrast, and eyes appear as large black splotches.

Christian Boltanski, Gymnasium Chases, 1989–1991


A black and white photo of a figurine of a woman sitting in miniature furniture in a model living room. A radio is on a table next to her and framed art is on the walls around her.

Laurie Simmons, Woman Listening to the Radio, 1978