MUAM Offers a Unique Undergraduate Capstone: Curating an Entire Exhibition

Miami University offers a unique opportunity for its senior Art and Architecture History majors and minors to curate an exhibition at MUAM, fulfilling their capstone requirement. This is something that really makes the Art and Architecture History program stand out amongst the rest, as students are able to gain curatorial experience, work hands-on with the Art Museum’s extensive collection, and engage with the students and the community through the presentation of their extensive research. These opportunities are typically only offered at the graduate level, and we get to experience all of this as an undergraduate, which provides a nice boost on that resume. For eight years now, senior capstone students work to design and curate the exhibition during fall semester, working alongside the MUAM staff and a professor in time to have it exhibited during the following spring semester.

Each year, the capstone exhibition is based around a particular style of art, as well as a central theme that the students come up with. Under the guidance of Dr. Jordan Fenton, this year’s capstone exhibition had a focus on African Art. Titled More Than An Object: Engaging the Broader Context of African Art, we as a program aimed to move away from traditional methods of displaying art in order to highlight the context and original framework these objects once belonged to. Prior to completing the exhibition, we as a class traveled to Washington D.C. to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and worked with both Deputy Director and Head Curator Christine Kreamer and Curator Kevin Dumouchelle for a more in-depth interaction on the inner-workings of the museum’s curatorial process. We had the opportunity to spend the entire day at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, gaining a closer look at exhibitions, the Smithsonian library and even their collections department. Not only did this give us inspiration on everything from object layout to color scheme for our own exhibition, but vital information on the museum world as well. Personally, this D.C. trip answered a lot of my own questions regarding what I can do with my art history degree after college, as well as confirm my passion for research and curation.

Dr. Fenton and most of the Capstone class outside of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC while on their research trip to the city.

Fall 2019’s capstone program will be led by Dr. Michael Hatch, with a focus on Asian Art. But due to a recent policy change under Miami University, the capstone program will now require a minimum of 12 students to participate, posing a threat of elimination of the program. Our Art History undergraduate class size is small, with only around 8-10 seniors participating in the capstone program each year. In the past, only art history majors were eligible to participate, but this current year was the first to allow art history minors, Arts Management, and anyone else with an interest in the program to join as well! This recent inclusion of minors and anyone with a general interest gives the next capstone program a chance to continue, so I urge all senior art history minors, Arts Management students, and any other seniors in need of a capstone requirement to consider this unique opportunity. It is rare to gain such hands-on, curatorial experience like this capstone program, and it will really set you apart from others once you enter the exciting yet terrifying real world.

Although registration has passed, there is still a chance to sign up for the Fall 2019 Senior Art History Capstone! Questions? Still on the fence? Visit Miami University Art Museum’s Exhibition page to learn more about More Than An Object and browse the past capstone exhibitions.

Written by Margaux Newell