Sarah McCarty '15 and Sofia Retta '15 get down to the details at the Rose Art Museum

The museum's curatorial interns are overseeing an exhibition at the Farber Library

photo/Mike Lovett

Sarah McCarty '15 and Sofia Retta '15 are curatorial interns at the Rose Art Museum.

Sarah McCarty '15 and Sofia Retta '15 got a small dose of the life of an art curator with a recent trip to the paint store, where they pondered five different shades of grey.

"The guy in the paint shop told us they were all the same," Retta said with a laugh. "There's a lot of detail you don't even realize until you have to do it."

McCarty is the Starr Curatorial Intern and Retta is the Lynn Warner Curatorial Intern at the Rose Art Museum. The grey paint they were picking out was for the walls of "Disrupted Spaces," an exhibition featuring works from the Rose's Carey Schwartz ‘87 Collection they are curating that will be displayed in the Farber Library Mezzanine March 12 to May 20.

From the exhibition's inception, the curatorial process has been theirs. The pair combed through the collection, selected pieces they wanted to display and developed a theme. They've written the descriptions for each work and will determine how they are presented – from lighting and framing to the paint on the wall.

“Sarah and Sofia are fully immersed, contending with the whole range of issues that museum staff must tackle when planning an exhibition,” said Kristin Parker, deputy director of the museum. “They've learned to negotiate and navigate relationships, working with both library and museum staff as well as outside vendors. Visitors will likely have no idea how many hours and how many details went into the final, magical result.”

For both McCarty and Retta, the museum and the resources it offers students was a major draw for them to come to Brandeis, and it hasn't let them down. They've worked there, starting as guards their sophomore year, and relied on it for course papers, insight in art projects, interaction with working artists and to learn the inner workings of a museum.

"To have access to a museum like this and its staff, and the visiting artists and lectures it hosts has been a huge, incredible opportunity," McCarty said.

Along with their upcoming exhibition, McCarty and Retta have also overseen the student loan collection, a selection of Rose works loaned out to students so they can live with pieces from the museum's collection. They’ve relied on the museum's staff for guidance.

"It's such a small staff that if you ask a question, even if they don't know the answer they immediately know who does," Retta said.

McCarty is a studio art major, and learning the ins and outs of a museum, along with the curatorial and installation process for works, has provided valuable insight as she looks to pursue a future in art.

"It's totally informed the way I make my work," she said.

An art history major, Retta has used the Rose's collection for reference in writing papers and led her toward a focus in modern contemporary art. She's also led gallery tours at the museum and been involved with the Student Committee for the Rose Art Museum (SCRAM). She plans to eventually go to graduate school and is considering a career in museum curating.

"Disrupted Spaces" features photographs that use various techniques to blur and raise questions about the reliability of photos as records of reality. The exhibition marks the first time works from the Schwartz Collection — donated expressly to be displayed in student areas around campus in order to facilitate experiences with art in places outside the museum — will be on display. 

“The Rose has been looking forward for several years for the right time and opportunity to collaborate with the library and to present the Schwartz collection, and we're so pleased this project is finally coming to fruition through Sarah and Sofia,” Parker said. “We're grateful to donor Carey Schwartz and the two curatorial intern endowment programs for supporting their work.”

It’s been rewarding knowing the exhibition will bring the museum’s collection to students who may not ordinarily be exposed to it, Retta said.

"It's a great way to feel like I'm giving something back to the Rose," she said.

Categories: Arts, Student Life

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