Art and Architecture History Capstone Creates an Exhibition and Learns About Careers

Bridget Garnai, Arts Management Intern

Advance/Retreat: Prints and the Great War, one of the current exhibitions for Spring 2017, was created as part of a unique Capstone course for Miami University Art and Architecture History Students. The Capstone course allows upper-level Art and Architecture History students (usually seniors), to use the skills they have learned in their classes to create an exhibition at the Miami University Art Museum (MUAM).

The seven students in this year’s course selected the pieces of art featured in the exhibition from a larger list of prints created around the time of World War I. Art & Architecture History professor and capstone instructor Dr. Pepper Stetler, Curator Jason Shaiman, and Collections Manager/Registrar Laura Stewart selected the original larger list from the museum’s permanent collection and tasked the students with creating an exhibition that tied into the museum’s overall theme for Spring 2017, a commemoration of the United States’ entry into World War I. While making their selections, the students learned about printmaking techniques from printmaking professor Ellen Price, created the themes around which the exhibition would be designed, decided where to place each print within the gallery, chose paint colors and graphic design elements, and designed an educational program to share their work. In addition, the Capstone students each chose two or three prints from the exhibition to research individually. Students then wrote object labels for their respective prints to provide a context for the artist and print, and explain the relevance of each print to the overall theme of the exhibition. Each student also wrote an individual research paper about a larger question or idea based upon one or more of the prints that they chose to research.

The capstone course at their Gallery Talk/Reception in February 2017. (Front row, L-R) Allison Dykes, Kate Hanley, Bridget Garnai. (Back row, L-R) Dr. Pepper Stetler, Rebecca Hughes, Josh Perry, Raechel Root, Aaron Brown-Ewing.

The exhibition was installed in January 2017 and in February 2017, the students gave short presentations of their individual research during a gallery talk and reception. In addition to employing the research and writing skills that the students have developed in their classes, the experience of creating an exhibition with MUAM gave the Capstone students an opportunity to explore museum careers – a popular career path for Art & Architecture History graduates. The Capstone course worked with each department at the museum in the development of Advance/Retreat, allowing the students to learn about the careers of each employee and to see how each staff contribution adds to the creation and presentation of an exhibition, and the mission of the museum.

During a class trip to New York City during Fall Break in October 2016, the students also learned about career options by visiting Miami Art & Architecture History alumni working in NYC. Professor Stetler arranged for the students to visit museums and galleries in NYC, and introduced students to alumni with a variety of careers, including artists, museum professionals, and gallery associates. From these introductions, students were able to make connections with alumni and learn about how to transfer their education and skills into fulfilling careers. The Art & Architecture History Capstone is a unique opportunity for students to practice these skills in the creation of a museum exhibition while learning about museum careers. Thanks to the Miami University Art Museum, the Miami University Department of Art, and the Miami University alumni who met with the class. Best of luck to the Capstone students as they graduate and begin their careers!

Visit Advance/Retreat: Prints and the Great War at the Miami University Art Museum, on view until May 13, 2017.

The capstone students at the Met Breuer in New York City with Miami alumnus Neal Stimler ’06 in October 2016.