The Student as Curator: CFAM Provides Real Life Experience in Addition to Art

February 28, 2011

Photo by Justin Braun

Alumna Kellyn Biela (Class of 2010) presents her research on a featured African American artist.

The spring 2011 season of exhibitions at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum (CFAM) is an intensely stimulating sensory experience. Themes range from visually striking abstract contemporary photography to captivating religious Italian art, including featured works from the museum’s permanent collection.Furthering its mission of being a “teaching museum,” CFAM features an exhibition this spring that is the direct result of an interdisciplinary collaborative learning project.

“This is the first time CFAM has had a class completely curate an exhibition,” explained Bethany Gray, facilities and exhibitions coordinator at CFAM. As a progressive educational experiment in conjunction with the Department of Art and Art History, Piety & Magnificence gave students the opportunity to research rare pieces from the museum’s private collection while working closely with CFAM staff to produce a professional museum exhibit. The exhibit features a variety of treasured works by Renaissance and mid-18th century Italian artists.

Another example of CFAM furthering its mission are the newly established paid internships and preparatory positions for students. Rachel Kangas (Class of 2011) had the chance of working closely with CFAM Director Scott Habes and Curator Jonathon Walz to prepare the museum for exhibition. “I am proud to have taken part in the production of this amazing show,” said Kanags, who worked on the preparatory team. “It was an intense experience and I learned a lot from the museum staff. Having the privilege to work behind the scenes in this museum is a personal accomplishment for me.”

The exhibition titled The Edge of Vision is a definite crowd-pleaser. Showcasing the work of more than a dozen contemporary photographers, the art on display ranges from colossal carbon negatives to vibrant image abstractions and intricate compositions created through the use of social media. In accompaniment, Remix 2 features a photographic portfolio by Danish artists Trine Søndergaard & Nicolai Howalt from the museum’s permanent collection and investigates the relationship between humans and nature. Also included in the exhibit is yet another featured academic project by Habes and student intern Kellyn Biela (Class of 2010) that explores African-American heritage in two pieces by Chakaia Booker.

“The work of this artist is inspired by everyday tasks,” explained Biela to a crowd of CFAM patrons during her presentation at the museum’s monthly Outside-In event. Biela went on to describe how Booker uses discarded and raw industrial materials to create elaborate works of various sizes. In an interview following the gallery presentation, Biela described the rewarding aspects of her internship.

“I had the opportunity to experience my passion in depth and in a brand new way,” she said. “As an art history major, I had developed a great appreciation and understanding for art. However, this internship allowed me to get an inside look at the exciting technique of presenting art.”

This season of exhibitions is yet another stunning installment in CFAM’s history of breathtaking presentations and practical involvement with the academic community. The spring season runs through March 27, so do not miss this opportunity to experience one the Rollins Community’s finest cultural assets. For more information on the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, please visit

By Justin Braun (MBA Class of 2011)

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