“Anti-Pandemic Class” Curates Library Exhibition

Students (from left) Chloe Akazawa, Olivia Giampietro, and Beatriz Areizaga plan the exhibition layout.

Power Up: American Women Printmakers from the Georgetown University Collection,” the new Library exhibition, represents a unique collaboration between the Art and Museum Studies program and the Booth Family Center for Special Collections. Graduate and undergraduate students in the “American Women Printmakers” class curated the exhibition. The course was taught by Professor Lisa Strong, and Art Collection Curator LuLen Walker and Assistant Art Curator Christen Runge from the Library.

“We wanted to create the anti-pandemic class,” Strong said, “one that was fully hands-on and fully collaborative.”

The course met weekly in Booth’s Barbara Ellis Jones (C’74) Inquiry Classroom. One of the three instructors often started with a lecture about some aspect of printmaking or the history of women’s printmaking. Those lessons also included extensive learning about women printmakers and the challenges they have faced since the 1500s, including under-representation in museums and galleries, a lack of training opportunities, and differences in how the art of women is evaluated and critiqued.

In addition, the class would work directly with prints the instructors selected from the Booth collection every week. “We gave the readings and a vocabulary that we thought was essential, and shared some highlights of the collection,” Strong explained.

“Handling and seeing the prints in person was different from what I was used to,” said Chloe Akazawa (G’22). “We had readings to prepare for class, but then we’d come to class and they’d have the print and you could see things that aren’t visible in the reading.”

Students were also expected to investigate independently. “They got really good at going into the database,” Strong recalled. Midway through the course, each student presented five prints they thought should be included in the exhibition, many of which they had found on their own.

During the final third of the course, students planned the exhibition itself. “We had a really essential staff meeting where students decided themes of the show and of each case,” Strong said. Those themes naturally informed the final selection of pieces to include. From there, students wrote all of the labels and created the physical layout of the exhibition.

Collaborative teaching meant that all three instructors could bring their own unique expertise. But Strong said the benefits went beyond that. “I think it took the pressure off of students to do well in a single instructor’s eyes,” she said. “It also demystified the process for them, and some students commented that they enjoyed watching the instructors work together to think through things and to solve problems.”

“It’s pretty impressive that our professors had an idea they’d never tried before and combined their eclectic knowledge,” said Oscar Flores-Montero (G’22), a student in the class. “They allowed students to get up close with the collection, and then dictate what we wanted to present to our fellow students“ in the exhibition.

The exhibition includes works by artists such as Sister Corita Kent, Renée Stout, and Elizabeth Catlett. Sections focus on the labor of printmaking; the importance of studios, teachers, and mentors; women representing women in art; identity and politics; and women in the art market.

“This amazing collection is meant to be used in teaching and it felt great to have an opportunity like this,” said Walker. “It was delightful to share a new selection of prints each week with our talented students and engage them in the art of printmaking, museum curation, and the trajectory of women artists in the U.S.”

The exhibition is installed in the Charles Marvin Fairchild Memorial Gallery and the Special Collections Gallery on Lauinger’s fifth floor through October 7. It can also be viewed online. The Georgetown Art History Department supported the exhibition by funding exhibition materials.

Photo: Students (from left) Chloe Akazawa, Olivia Giampietro, and Beatriz Areizaga discuss the exhibition layout. Photo by LuLen Walker.