Students create art gallery exhibition of 18th- and 19th-century objects
The exhibition “Self and Sensibility: Women and Decorative Arts in the Age of Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson” in the Dorrance H. Hamilton Gallery brings a treasury of about 50 museum-quality works from the Georgian and Victorian periods to Salve Regina’s campus.
“We’re all excited to bring such wonderful pieces to our campus,” said Dr. Anthony Mangieri, professor and chairperson of the Department of Art and Art History. The work in the show comes from the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, and all are examples of the decorative arts, featuring work like textiles, ceramics and dolls.
This exhibition is a collaborative project by 23 students in the Department of Art and Art History. The students are taking an upper-level Art History class called ART405: Curatorial Practice and the Gallery Experience, which is co-taught by Dr. Mangieri and Ernest Jolicoeur, professor of art and director of the Hamilton Gallery.
Students learn to design and implement a gallery exhibition
Students in the class worked in groups to propose ideas for installing the exhibition in the gallery. Then, as a class, individual groups worked together to identify the best ideas and create a more unified exhibition experience.
“The students helped organize the pieces in the show,” Jolicoeur said. “Every aspect of the exhibition was essentially crafted by the groups. The students worked together with us to build the exhibition. They painted the walls, painted the pedestals and developed the layout of objects.”
Sarah Belling ’22 is a double major in art history and cultural historic preservation, and she welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with her classmates and create the exhibition.
“I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said. “In my group, we specifically thought that the color pink on the walls would complement nicely both the theme of the show and the objects. Other groups shared that idea, so it was interesting to see how many ideas coincided.”
Samantha Kahle ’22, who is also a double major in art history and cultural historic preservation, was part of a group that created the wallpaper print on the walls to evoke the Victorian period. Her group also discussed the display of dolls to better showcase them as a collection.
“This gallery class has been a really great experience,” said Kahle. “It’s amazing to be really creative and share my ideas and … do things that I’ve never had the opportunity to do before.”
Creating public scholarship, a digital catalogue
After the exhibition, the students will be working on a digital catalogue of photographs and essays highlighting the works in the show. The exhibition was scheduled to open to the public, but COVID-19 changed its course. Creating a digital catalogue online will help bring this exhibition to the public and provide an invaluable experience for the students in the class.
“Students are not just writing ‘term papers’ for class,” said Dr. Mangieri. “They’re creating original scholarship.” He goes on to explain, “Students are researching and writing about the pieces in the show to create a work of public scholarship that contextualizes them.”
With this class, both Dr. Mangieri and Jolicoeur hope to offer more holistic learning experiences in art and art history. “We’re trying to create a more dynamic pathway for students in the humanities,” said Jolicoeur. “We’re trying to develop opportunities for students to work in more hands-on ways, using the gallery as a platform for expanding the curriculum.”
Kahle believes that this class is going to be pivotal for her future career, which is why she was excited to take it during her time at Salve Regina. “This class seemed really important for me to get on my resume — to get this kind of experience that no one really gets when you’re in college,” she said. “To be able to say as a sophomore in college that I contributed in a gallery is just really exciting.”
“Self and Sensibility” will be on display until Friday, Nov. 20.