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Curating Native American Art

Grace Gahagan '14 curates Native American art exhibit

Curating Native American Art

By Erin Ravin ’08

Grace Gahagan, an intern at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and a Colorado College senior studying art history, museum studies, and music, curated an art exhibition for the Fine Arts Center over the summer called “Reflections of the Past in Contemporary Native American Art.”  As a junior going into her senior year, curating an entire art exhibition at a museum on her own is quite a commendable accomplishment. A reception honoring her curatorial work was held at the Fine Arts Center this past week.

Gahagan began her Fine Arts Center internship in January of 2012. Once she finished working on several collaborative projects between the CC IDEA Space and the Fine Arts Center, she asked Michael Howell, the Registrar and Collections Manager at the Fine Arts Center, if there was anything else she could do. In response, Howell asked Gahagan to suggest something that she would benefit from the most. With some experience proposing future exhibitions to the Board of Trustees at a museum in Osterville, Mass., where she worked for the summer before, Gahagan proposed an opportunity in curating.

At first, Howell offered Gahagan an online exhibition where she conducted research and photographed and assembled objects that would be shown through the Fine Arts Center's website. When she and Howell proposed this idea to Blake Milteer, the Director of the Fine Arts Center, he asked, “Why not do a full show”?

So this summer, with funding from the Colorado College Career Center, Gahagan worked on “Reflections of the Past in Contemporary Native American Art.” For the exhibition, she researched various artists and different historical objects seen in the show, selected all of the pieces, and wrote all of the exhibition literature. According to Gahagan, “The most rewarding part of this experience has been selecting the works, seeing them next to each other in the space of the gallery, and the process of speaking with featured artists, supervisors, docents, colleagues, and family about the works.”

Through this opportunity, Gahagan says, “I have learned museum standards of handling objects and artworks, conducting condition reports, and the basic inner workings of a museum.”  Gahagan continues to explore the opportunities offered by museum studies by interning at the Business of Art Center in Manitou Springs.

"After two years of working with Grace as an intern at the Fine Arts Center, it's time to let her go and watch her fly.  I know she is going to fly high.  Watching Grace learn the basic inner workings of a museum has been one of the most rewarding things I have been involved in," Howell said.