Nick Beischer ’21

Sotheby’s Institute of Art-Introduction to Curating, Professional Development Course

This summer, I completed an online professional development course titled Introduction to Curating through the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. I am highly interested in working in the art world after graduating, so this course was extremely valuable in both providing additional skills, as well as hearing from experienced professionals in the field. The course consisted of online lectures, readings, podcasts, videos, and written assignments. The professor, Alexandra Schwartz, is an independent curator, who recently curated an exhibition on Helen Frankenthaler at the Clark in 2017. It was fascinating to hear her stories and experiences surrounding planning and executing an exhibition. Overall, I greatly enjoyed this course and it has only deepened my love and interest in art history.

One of biggest things that I’ll take away from this course is the number of different roles that a curator assumes while organizing an exhibition. From the planning phase to the execution of the exhibition, the curator completes a wide variety of projects and tasks. For example, one important phase of exhibition planning is the proposal. Once the curator has an idea for an exhibition and has worked on the initial elements, the curator then has to convince the rest of the curatorial staff, as well as other museum leaders, that this is a good idea. Following the exhibition’s approval, the curator then plays an important role in securing funding, reserving artwork loans, creating an exhibition catalogue, promoting the exhibition, and many other aspects. Furthermore, organizing exhibitions is not the curator’s only job, as they also play an important role maintaining and growing the permanent collection at collecting institutions.

In addition to the lectures, readings, and videos, we were also asked to submit writing assignments recreating the planning of our own exhibition for a contemporary artist. I chose Kara Walker as my artist and focused on her black and white silhouettes. The first assignment was to write an introductory wall text—the text you read just prior to entering the main exhibition space that gives a bit of background and primes the viewer for what they should expect. I also wrote an extended wall label for Walker’s Insurrection! (Our Tools Were Rudimentary, Yet We Pressed On) and discussed the silhouettes ability to confront the viewer with the unsettling reality of history. I really enjoyed these writing assignments, as they were an opportunity to practice not only the tools that I have gained through this course, but also all of the courses that I have taken at Williams.

By taking this course, I have become even more interested in a future career in the art world. It was extremely valuable to get an inside look at the curatorial field, and I gained many important skills along the way. Next time I visit a museum or exhibition, I will certainly view it through a different lens and have a greater appreciation for all of the work that goes in to making an exhibition a reality. I would like to thank the Bruce C. Davey 1944 Internship Program, as well as the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for making this experience a reality. I greatly value the opportunity to take this course, and I look forward to seeing where these new skills take me!