The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Feature Stories

The Art of Learning

Students curate museum show
  • UMass Amherst graduate students review art for a collection they will curate.

“While working closely with professors and arts professionals, the students learn through research and firsthand experiences with works of art."
– Loretta Yarlow

Behind the scenes of Domestic Sphere Goes Pop, an exhibition at the University Museum of Contemporary Art opening April 4, are two graduate art history students who, as curators of the show, have done everything from selecting the artwork to hammering nails into walls.

Curatorial Fellows Rebecca Bernard ’12G and Kristen Rudy ’12G decided on the show’s theme by reviewing the museum’s 3,000 works on paper and being drawn to bold, bright, and colorful pop art from the 1960s and 1970s.

Mario Ontiveros, assistant professor in the Department of Art, Architecture, and Art History, says the curatorial fellowship is an invaluable resource for students, the campus, and the wider community. Loretta Yarlow, museum director who started the curatorial fellowships five years ago, says the program fulfills the educational mission of the museum and is of immeasurable benefit to the students. “While working closely with professors and arts professionals, the students learn through research and firsthand experiences with works of art. They also write grants and develop the public programs such as podcasts, tours, and lectures to complement their exhibition,” Yarlow explains.

Bernard notes, “It is a crazy amount of work on top our already hectic graduate student schedule.” Rudy adds, “It is not as easy as it looks. It is not like hanging pictures on the walls of your home.” The students were tasked with selecting works then justifying why they should be in the show, writing essays about the exhibition and individual pieces, applying for grants to help defray the cost of the show, and working with museum staff to determine the best way to display each art work.

“We have literally done everything. The staff has been helpful and supportive but we have made the decisions,” says Rudy. Bernard says the time devoted to the exhibition will boost their chances of landing a job in a museum. “Every position you look at, they all ask for experience and it is hard to get experience while you are in graduate school,” explains Rudy.

The exhibition, which will be on view through May 6 and during Commencement weekend, May 10-12, will feature some of America’s best known pop artists including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns. The opening reception will be held April 4 from 5 to 7 p.m. The UMass Arts Council, University Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Art History Program made the exhibition possible.

University Relations