By Emily Sakamoto
Gund Gallery exhibitions are usually relatively well attended and highly praised, art-wise. But art itself can overshadow those behind the scenes, raising the question: who paints the walls, hangs the art, and generally readies the space for visits? The answer may be your peers.
Unknown to some, the Gund Gallery Associates are all unpaid students who tend to the exhibitions with a variety of duties that range from academic research to student outreach in elementary schools by fostering events such as Family Days at the Gallery.
“It’s kind of like an unpaid internship,” Associate Olivia Frey ’16 said. “I feel like I’m getting a lot of work experience and educational opportunities that I wouldn’t be getting otherwise on this campus.” Frey is a new associate and is working on academic research for a currently unnamed exhibition that will premier in the spring semester.
Although there is an application process for the Associates program, it isn’t as painstaking or limiting as one might think.
When asked if the majority of the applicants accepted were art history or studio art majors, Collections Manager Julie Leone was quick to correct the assumption. “[Being an art major] isn’t required. We really look at what the different majors and minors are and try to get a good mix of people. ﾅ The quarterback of the football team was one of our guards last year ﾗ being a little bit of a ﾑKenyon Renaissance man.'”
In addition to guard duty, Associates try their hands at a multitude of different aspects of the Gallery that they have expressed interest in pursuing.
“We’ve had interns work on collections projects, artwork that’s already on campus, research on artists. ﾅ We have a Tumblr, a blog, Instagram ﾅ They learn how to give tours and answer questions,” Leone said.
Curator of Academic Programs Natasha Ritsma works closely with the students in research projects for specific artists or types of artwork. “Research associates are working on creating different kinds of labels, for our public art as well as permanent collections,” Ritsma said. “Each associate is getting a different area of expertise. They’ll be the go-to person for that topic and create their own labels.”
Associates contribute a majority of the work that goes into the installation and de-installation of the physical art exhibits, as well as a new series of podcasts.
“Students are doing the filming and creating the podcasts,” Leone said. “[They are] narrating them if necessary, doing the interviews. It’s a completely associate-driven production. ﾅ Next, the big focus will be doing podcasts for all of the studio art majors’ exhibitions in the spring.”
Gallery artwork is chosen mostly in-house by Gallery Director Natalie Marsh, who is also head curator. Traveling shows do make appearances in the Gallery, such as last year’s “Thin” exhibition, which struck a chord with many due to its honest portrayal of a treatment center for eating disorders.
To tie all of the art back to the Kenyon liberal arts experience, Leone explained that when “opportunities come up that we think will be good for Kenyon, that are cross-disciplinary, we will pursue getting [them].”
Thus, “the art behind the art” is truly those who curate, install and research the upcoming exhibitions for Gund Gallery. There is a large populace that goes unnoticed in the background of the Gallery whose hard work and dedication goes into each exhibition brought to showcase.
There is a cohesive quality to the associates, which directly correlates with the production of the exhibitions.
“It’s amazing. Everyone really finds their niches, what they’re interested in, so we’re one well oiled machine,” Leone said.