This semester, two students have been given the opportunity to acquire a piece of artwork for The Collections of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Through extensive research into the current collection and various pieces being considered, Jacques Lane ’16 and Savannah Reed ’16 are gaining invaluable insight into the challenging and intricate process of obtaining art.
“I hope Jacques and Savannah learn how to look at art history in a different and more practical way,” says Visual Arts Curator Kathryn Vaughn P’08, who is advising the acquisition internship. “Rather than just knowing some of the highlights of a particular period of art and the theories behind them, they are getting a concept of a particular period and what is needed to truly understand that period. In many ways, it’s a very practical exercise.”
Vaughn explains the semester-long process is more complex than simply selecting a piece of artwork. Tasked with choosing a piece that strengthens the current collection, Lane and Reed prefaced the selection process by studying HWS’ holdings to identify weaknesses and choose an appropriate genre. Although only required to research one period of art, Lane and Reed decided to examine three periods in order to make the best possible selection.
“There are limitless possibilities,” says Lane, an art history major. “Once you choose a style, you have hundreds of artists, and each artist has hundreds of pieces, and we only get to choose one piece. We also have to take into consideration that the piece you want might not be available. You collect what you need and what there is to be collected.”
Currently in the research phase, they are examining different artistic and cultural aspects of Pop Art, contemporary art in the 21st century, and social realism in the middle of the 20th century. For each genre, they are required to compile their research into formal proposals, defending their reasons for how a selection from the particular period would benefit The Collection.
Lane and Reed agree that the internship is providing them with knowledge and skills that will be useful in the future, regardless if they pursue careers in curation.
Reed, also an art history major, is unsure of her career path and believes this acquisition internship is “a helpful step” in deciding if a career as a curator is in her future. Lane adds that the guided inquiry provided by Vaughn and the freedom offered by the experience has given them an “in depth and encompassing idea” of what is entailed in the profession.
“It’s hard to believe that the piece we choose will be in the collection forever,” Lane says. “We have the opportunity to contribute to the Colleges in a way that we believe students have not done before, which makes the project both unique and intimidating. It’s definitely profound that the Colleges have given us this kind of opportunity.”