Stonehill Faculty Focus 2009
Faculty Step Back, Students Curate Exhibition
Engaged learning also works well in capstone courses, which invite students to synthesize knowledge gleaned from years of college study into one experience. That's exactly what Fine Arts Professors Carole Calo (left) and Candice Smith Corby (below left) ask students to do in "Exhibition and Collections: An Inside Look."
A capstone requirement for art history concentrators, but open to studio and graphic design students, the course challenges students to develop and curate an exhibition at the Cushing-Martin Gallery from beginning to end - everything from choosing the topic, to selecting the artwork, hanging it in the Gallery, writing the catalog, and promoting the opening.
This year's Exhibition and Collections class chose "Move Me: Kineticism in Art" as their exhibit title. Calo and Smith Corby issued a call for entries in several arts publications and through their contacts in the art world. "When students started the semester, they reviewed the applications, visited local artists' studios, invited artists to come speak to the class, reviewed applicants' websites and slides, and then made the selections as a group," notes Smith Corby.
"We actually left the room when they were choosing," says Calo. "We didn't want them to feel we were pressuring them to pick one over another." Student journals, required for the course, however, gave the professors insight into the students' selection process. The journals revealed that "one student really wanted one particular piece in the show and others didn't," explains Calo. "This student advocated hard for her position, and the other students basically said, ‘If it's that important to you, let's include the piece.' Over the semester, some came around to appreciating the piece while others didn't, but that's part of the learning process. In the real world, you won't always get your way, either. It's not majority rule; everyone's opinion should be respected."
While Calo has taught the course for the past decade, Smith Corby, who joined the College as Gallery director in 2007, is a new collaborator. "This class has changed my ideas about teaching and learning, the value of working together to try and solve a problem," says Smith Corby. "Through this course, students get an experience they couldn't get anywhere else at this point in their education. During an internship, they might do one small piece of putting together an exhibit, but not anything like this. It would take years to gain all this experience."
For their part, students appreciate the hands-on approach. "This course was an experience I'll never forget," recalls Bridget Connors '09 (right with Professors Calo and Smith Corby). "I'm usually quiet in class, but this course really brought me out of my shell. I think it's because there was so much teamwork; the professors helped where we needed it.
"Other than that, they let us do what we needed to do to put together the exhibit. It's something to be able to put on my resume that I curated an exhibit from scratch and that my writing was published." For Connors, the Capstone helped cement her future plans: "I wasn't sure if curating was something I'd want to do," she says, "now I know it is."
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