October 4. 2004
Students collaborate with Museum of Art and
History to create innovative Big and Bold gallery
By Scott Rappaport
The Big and Bold exhibit now on display at the Santa
Cruz Museum of Art and History is a prime example of the benefit
derived from combining university research with an important
cultural institution in the community.
History of art and visual culture
professor Catherine Soussloff with the exhibit her class
helped create. Photo by Scott
The gallery exhibit features an array of large and oversize
graphic art from premier American artists such as Roy Lichtenstein,
Robert Rauschenberg, and Helen Frankenthaler. Of all the works
displayed, only one is less than six feet long in at least one
dimension, and nearly half are 10 feet long or more. Consisting
of prints from the Anderson Collection and the Fine Arts Museums
of San Francisco, the exhibition offers significant examples
of artwork that has defied technical and artistic assumptions
about the nature of print media.
The Big and Bold exhibition was arranged in conjunction
with an advanced undergraduate seminar taught by UCSC art history
professor Catherine M. Soussloff. Working closely with the museum,
12 students from her History and Visual Culture 190M
class researched large-scale prints by prominent American artists
from 1970 to the present. They held collaborative discussions,
interviewed living artists, and visited the presses that produced
the printsin addition to conducting extensive archival,
library, and web-based investigations. Based on this research,
the students then produced original wall label descriptions
and interpretations for each of the prints displayed to help
educate the public about the exhibition.
Catherine Soussloff with another work in the exhibit
Photo by Scott Rappaport
It was a highly innovative project, noted Soussloff,
who has taught at UCSC for the past 17 years. It is really
the first time the university has done this kind of a collaborationits
very unusual for students to work directly with such well-known
artists at a museum. The idea for the collaboration came
from Kathleen Moodie, curator at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art
Weve never had students writing labels and wall
panels before, said Moodie. But I was inspired by
a project at Stanford Universitys Cantor Center for the
Arts. At Stanford, the students gave information to the curators,
who went on to actually write the text themselves. This time,
I thought wed take a chance and have the UCSC students
write it instead.
Soussloff noted that the collaborative process gave her seminar
an edge of excitement because the stakes were much higher for
the students than simply handing in a research paper. She added
that next to each print at the exhibition resides a large photo
and a brief biography (often amusing) of the UCSC student who
researched that particular work.
We had this great camaraderie in the class, Soussloff
observed. In my teaching experience, it certainly stood
out as one of the best seminars Ive ever taught.
Barrie Lockitch, a 21-year-old student in the seminar who did
research on the Lichtenstein print, was equally enthusiastic
about the experience.
The student insight and the freshness of ideasguided
by Professor Soussloff, an expert in the fieldshould be
interesting to people who are trying to gain knowledge of what
students are learning about at the campus, said Lockitch.
It reinforces the positive ties between students and the
Big and Bold: American Graphic Art from the Anderson Collection
and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco runs through
November 28 at the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz.
For more information, visit the museum web site at: www.santacruzmah.org.
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