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English professor Sarah Goodwin recalls a remarkable experi- ence with her freshman “Human Dilemmas” seminar, engaging her students in making a “museum of dilemmas” inspired by the Tang’s exhibition Dario Robleto: Alloy of Love. Robleto, who spent time talking with the students, had crafted “alloys” of discarded materials—part memorial, part rescue mission—mixing and trans- forming the wreckage of our shared past into works of hope. “His works are powerful; he represents extremes of life and death and emotions,” says Goodwin. She remembers her own excitement and uneasiness about the assignment, and yet these brand-new students responded creatively. One took a pair of his shoes, filled them with dead leaves, put them out in the snow, and burned them, capturing it on film with his cell phone. As he explained to Goodwin, “Shoes are like knowledge. You walk in them a way, and then they wear out and you move to a new pair.” Art historian Mimi Hellman uses the museum regularly. For

this fall’s “Practices of Art History,” she had students research and discuss the work of a local curator or art historian. It was, she says, a “very Skidmore” approach to a course that elsewhere might be simply a chronological survey of canonical texts. Some of her students explored Weber’s collaboration with Aronson on the Tang’s African art exhibit. Hellman hopes that, “along with building skills in research, critical thinking, teamwork, and leader- ship, this project will encourage an interest in museum careers.” Students interested in such careers can get a huge leg up from internships and work-study in the Tang. It’s a level of preprofes- sional training that has great currency in the museum world. “Being in this space gives our students an advantage,” says Karp, ticking off a list of graduates now working at museums from the Shelburne in Vermont to Washington’s Smithsonian and New York City’s MoMA and Metropolitan. Morgan Levey ’08, an art history major and economics minor who was recently hired as an interpretive-media associate at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, confirms that her experi- ence as a curatorial intern at the Tang “was invaluable when ap- plying for jobs.” She was a full participant in the research process for upcoming Tang exhibitions, and says, “The quality of artists and exhibitions the Tang attracts is really incredible. It was amaz-


Ten questions for Malloy Curator Ian Berry 1


How are shows shaped by their co-curators? Traditional curators work in ways that arise from museums’ historic functions as caretak- ers: defining, organizing, caring for. At the Tang we invite our collabora- tors to push us out of those expected zones, to do something unusual— and in that unfixed space, we can open up new bodies of knowledge and provoke new understandings.

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3. 4. WINTER 2011 SCOPE 15

Was this fully envisioned a decade ago? It was dreamed, but we didn’t have a model for it. We proposed to foreground the teaching mission in every aspect of our decision-making. We found examples to emulate in such diverse places as science laboratories and artist studios, where experimentation is often the focus.

What made this possible at Skidmore? Skidmore honors creativity and interdisciplinary collaboration and has a great history in the arts.

We inherited an interesting teaching collection to build on. We were for- tunate to have administrative, academic, and donor support. And the Saratoga Springs area has a strong infrastructure in place for visitors.

You see the Tang similarly to how other schools view their football team—how so? A big school’s football team can attract people from all parts of the community. It can build connections with students and be a source of pride for alumni. The Tang can do that for Skidmore—we can be a place where people outside the College get a taste of what’s happen- ing on the inside.

Does the “teaching museum” face in to Skidmore and the “art gallery” out to the world? All of our activities come from a unified whole and a strong mission. We don’t think in terms of separation or quotas within our programming. We do think, What are people thinking and talking about, and how can we respond to that in an interesting way?

Can you give an example of how that works? When the quadricen- tennial of the Hudson River was coming up, we noted that several of

our faculty, from American studies to chemistry, were studying aspects of the river. What a great confluence of knowledge. We invited Tom Lewis from English, and several others, to work with us, and in the end we had a multisemester exhibition, a catalogue with 20 different writers, and many classes using the show as part of their syllabus.

Do faculty come to you, or do you approach them? Both. For our up- coming project on social class with Mehmet Odekon, he came to us. With Beau Breslin and the Constitution, we invited him to think with us. When you keep it flexible, you can remain open to ideas from wherever they might spark. Some of the best catalysts for projects come out of a simple conversation over coffee.

How about artists—do they come to you? Some do, but mostly I reach out to artists whose work I have seen in a studio visit or ex hi - bition. I am always on the lookout for artists who are making great work and who are interested in the larger world around them. We often work with contemporary artists because they bring live reactions to the world and keep conversations right up the minute with our students.

What will the Tang be doing in the coming years? We recently hired our second registrar and will soon hire our second curator. Both po- sitions allow us to bring more people to the table with new bodies of knowledge. We’ll continue to enhance our Web and video presence. And I think we will do more with the College’s collection as a possible source of ideas and directions.


The 10th anniversary is all about doing what you do well? And celebrating what we’ve accomplished. We’re proud of the differ- ence we’ve made in many artists’ and students’ lives, and of how we’ve advanced the possibilities for college museums, in just one decade.


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