By Emma Castleberry
Western Carolina University is providing curation experience to students through an exhibition practicum class, instructed by Carolyn Grosch, curator of Collections & Exhibitions at the WCU Fine Art Museum. The students are currently curating a summer exhibition for the main gallery of the museum, featuring the work of local, regional and national photographers from the museum’s permanent collection. Grosch says that most of the students in her class aspire to be professional artists, and this practicum will serve them well. “Working closely with a museum curator to develop an exhibition will help them to work effectively with museums and curators down the line,” she says. “The students are also learning skills that they can then apply to their future careers as artists.” These skills include learning how to interview artists, access the museum’s records and uncover information about each work of art, as well as marketing skills like creating a postcard for exhibition publicity.
For undergraduate Kayla Rossier, the networking opportunities provided through the class have been invaluable. “We recently attended a two-day conference in Asheville, and just in those two days, we were exposed to several qualified professionals that could potentially benefit us in the future,” Rossier says. “We had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and speak with them, as they gave us advice going forward in our career paths. Some even asked for our business cards, and I believe I speak for us all when I say how professional we felt.”
As an instructor for this class, Grosch has had her fair share of learning moments, as well. During one assignment, students were asked to write a short paragraph on the definition of a museum. Grosch was surprised to see the word “safe” in most of the responses. “At the WCU Fine Art Museum, we take pride in being a place where visitors feel comfortable experiencing the artwork and engaging in discussion about important issues,” she says. “While exhibiting, collecting, preserving and educating are at the core of the museum’s mission, the students’ use of the word ‘safe’ illuminated another important dimension of museums: as open and welcoming environments for the exchange of ideas through objects.”
For more information about Western Carolina University and the Fine Art Museum, visit WCU.edu.