The often ambiguous artists and curators of Classroom 102 were made public this weekend when one group of freshmen designed and installed its own exhibit.
The gallery was taken over Sunday by 13 freshmen for their final project in professor Bibiana Obler’s Dean’s Seminar.
The exhibit, called “Cultural Immersion,” was installed Sunday and celebrated its festive opening Tuesday.
“It’s really about the different cultures,” student director Andy Johnson said. “When you walk in. you’ll be able to get a taste of what each culture is like.”
The theme for the installation came from conversations about the importance of an exhibit’s location to the exhibit itself. The National Museum of the American Indian, Obler explained, faces the Capitol, which sends a “powerful symbolic message.” The students had to consider their location on a college campus and in the nation’s capital in their choice of artwork.
Though the students ultimately decided they wanted to distance their exhibit from the politics of D.C., they held on to the idea of the District as a cultural melting pot, and that GW students in particular come from around the world and interact globally.
Last year, student and co-director Madeline Fraser spent her gap year teaching art to children in India. Some of the children’s artwork will be featured in the exhibit.
“Cultural Immersion” also features a video about nightlife in Honduras, Fraser’s photography from India and other pieces inspired by Japanese and Indian cultures from a variety of GW students. The exhibit is also interactive and encourages visitors to write their own cultural stories on a notecard and pin them on a wall of the exhibit. The aqua-colored wall, a rainbow of colors and the variety of mediums used in each piece echo the variety of cultures represented in the exhibit.
Students in the class range from presidential scholars in the arts to pre-med students to art history converts.
But Obler said even the students most versed in art history do not always take advantage of what D.C. has to offer in the arts.
“I’ve taught classes before where I had students who were art history majors and they hadn’t been to the Hirshhorn,” Obler said.
To remedy this problem, Obler created this one-of-a-kind class, which never meets in the same place twice, trading the boundaries of a typical classroom for museums and galleries around the city. Obler hopes that these interactions will make students not only more aware of the resources available in D.C., but also expose them to internship opportunities.
The students have met with the directors and curators of the museums, which has allowed them to learn directly from professionals who put on exhibits and to ask their advice about the students’ own installations.
“You’re not just reading from a textbook or just sitting in the classroom everyday,” Fraser said of the field trips. “You’re actually going out and experiencing what it’s like to be a curator and what it’s like to be a director.”
Many students, like Michelle Cho, came into the class already appreciative of art and museums, but enjoyed being behind the scenes at the galleries, which is what the class was designed to provide.
“The class is a really great way to see art in a different perspective as opposed to just visiting a museum. It really allowed me to learn a lot more about art, museums and art history. It allowed me to see the museum in a whole different perspective,” Cho said.
The exhibit will be displayed until Nov. 18. Students do not have to be art majors to be involved in Classroom 102.
This article appeared in the November 11, 2010 issue of the Hatchet.