NEWS Eva Fierst exhibit
University News

University Museum of Contemporary Art Celebrates Eva Fierst Curatorial Exhibition Fund

The University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMass Amherst is taking the occasion of its Spring 2022 Graduate Student Curatorial Exhibition to host an ongoing celebration of the endowment fund created to support the program that culminates in the annual exhibition.

“We Gotta Get Out of This Place — Transportive Art,” on display at the museum through May 1, is the second annual student curatorial exhibition to receive support from the Fierst Fund. But as the fund was launched amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the spring 2022 exhibit presents the first opportunity to celebrate in person the endowment, the program, and Eva and Fred Fierst.

Eva Fierst was UMCA’s first education curator, serving in that role from 2007 through 2017. She helped further the museum’s mission to serve as a training ground for museum and art world professionals. She also explored for the museum new methods of exhibition presentation and interpretation.

Over the years, Fierst worked closely with graduate students, faculty, and UMCA staff on the Graduate Student Curatorial Exhibition, which is the culmination of a yearlong independent project conducted by Art History and Studio Arts graduate students. The exhibition features work selected primarily from the UMCA’s permanent collection of more than 3,000 works of art on paper. Students select a thesis for their exhibition; research objects; write labels, text panels, a press release, an exhibition announcement, and website information; write and submit a grant application; write and design a brochure; help design the exhibition layout, and work on the installation; and assist with all other aspects of exhibition development.

The program’s goal is to deepen students’ understanding of the intellectual and practical tasks of curation in a museum setting. It has provided students with hands-on experience and highly valuable skills in the job market. Working together on a collaborative exhibition project opens a wealth of possibilities for Art History and Studio Arts graduate students and provides a greater range of potential careers after graduation.

“We Gotta Get Out of This Place — Transportive Art” is curated by Tirzah Frank, 2022 M.A., history/public history; and Cecily Hughes, 2022 M.A., history of art and architecture. Tirzah Frank specializes in public history and genocide studies, with a focus on post-conflict art and memorial museums. Cecily Hughes specializes in medieval art, combined with studies in Islamic art, focusing on the complex connections between Middle Eastern and Western European medieval cultures.  

The exhibition opened March 24 with a reception and formal celebration of Eva Fierst. It will feature a virtual artist talk with Sue de Beer on Wednesday, April 20 at 5:30 p.m. The exhibition focuses on the transportive power of art that was moved to the forefront by the isolating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “When there was nowhere to go, we sought to be transported — through stories in books and television encompassing distant histories or dystopian futures; via digital images and videos of cute animals or faraway places; and with meditative and spiritual practice that connected us to our inner selves, the natural world, and our global community,” said the curators. “This show is a celebration of art objects that are imbued with such transportive potential. They have the ability to move us across time and space, taking us out of ourselves and into another realm. Featuring work from Susan de Beer, Anne Beresford, Chakaia Booker, Marc Chagall, Caitlin Cherry, Oriole Farb-Feshbach, Sam Gilliam, Edward Johnson, Kara Walker, Gary Winogrand, and many others, ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’ alights on themes of home, fantasy, escapism, nature, the uncanny, and the ways that history haunts everyday experience.”