In spring 2015, students took part in a new course resulting from Bard Graduate Center’s partnership with the Chipstone Foundation. It culminated in a student-curated exhibition.

Eleven students participated in Curatorial Practice as Experiment, a new course resulting from Bard Graduate Center’s partnership with the Chipstone Foundation,, a dynamic Milwaukee-based institution devoted to the study of American decorative arts and material culture. This collaboration was initiated by Dean Peter N. Miller and Jonathan Prown, Chipstone’s executive director and chief curator.

The aim of the class, taught by Assistant Professor Catherine Whalen and the foundation’s curator and director of research, Sarah Anne Carter, was to foster innovative curation. The course kicked off with an Object Lab led by Chipstone, which exposed participants to inventive ways of analyzing and interpreting material things. Subsequent sessions included lectures and workshops with distinguished scholars and curators, such as Professor Steven Lubar of Brown University, Professor Edward S. Cooke, Jr. of Yale, artist Elizabeth Duffy, and Glenn Adamson, director of the Museum of Arts and Design.

The course culminated in the student-curated exhibition Behind the Glass, which features objects loaned by the Chipstone Foundation and selections from Bard Graduate Center’s Study Collection. Each member of the class created a shelf within a “collector’s cabinet,” installed on the third floor of the Academic Programs building at 38 West 86th Street. On view through the end of July, the exhibition engages with conventions of display, and the roles that curators and collectors play as they shape the interpretation of objects. By placing them in an informal environment rather than keeping them “behind the glass,” the exhibition’s organizers hope to encourage interacting with and reflecting upon these objects from a collector’s standpoint.

Class members designed and installed Behind the Glass with the assistance of Ian Sullivan, Gallery exhibition designer, and Kate DeWitt, art director, learning from their expertise. Students also created interpretative and promotional materials, and staged events demonstrating exploratory methods for object study. Reflecting upon their experiences, they emphasized the value of creative freedom, the intellectual benefits of collaboration, and the satisfaction of realizing their own exhibition. Participants were Emily Banas, Shayla Black, Linnea Johnson, Marietta Klase, Erica Lome, Claire McRee, Summer Olsen, Jeanne Paquet, Ariel Rosenblum, Sarah Stanley, and Andrew Taggart.

—Catherine Whalen, Assistant Professor