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Clare Rogan, curator of the Davison Art Center, looks over "Self-Portrait in Profile," sketched by German artist Kathe Kollwitz in 1927. The piece is included in "A Passion for Prints" on exhibit through May 22.
 
Posted 03.31..05

Davison Curator has Life-Long Interest in Art

Q: You started here on February 14th. What attracted you to the university?

A: I was attracted to the position of curator at the Davison Art Center because it is a wonderful combination of museum curatorial work and academia. I am very much looking forward to teaching in the fall. At the same time, I get to do the curatorial work I love. It is a perfect combination.

Q:  How did you get into this type of work?

A: I have been interested in art for a long, long time. The first one-page essay I wrote in grade school was titled "What is Art?"  In fact, a classmate swears that on the first day of high school, I told the guidance counselor that I wanted to be a museum curator, but I have absolutely no recollection of this!  Along the way I thought about architecture, geology, and a few other things, but always came back to art history and museum work.

Q: What kind of perspective does a curator need for this type of job?

A: A curator needs to be interested in the physical condition of the art work as well as the aesthetic issues. To follow the art market in order to acquire new art wisely. To research and present their findings in a clear, understandable fashion.  To develop his or her "eye" for art, so that they can trust both their research and their gut response to new work. Curators need to work well with other people, because every exhibition requires collaboration with installers, registrars and many, many others.

Q: What type of education is required?

A: To be a curator you need an advanced degree in the relevant specialty.  For art museums, either a master’s or Ph.D. in art history or a related field like archaeology. These days a Ph.D. is preferred, and I am finishing up mine at Brown University. While the subject knowledge is learned in university programs, you need to learn the museum skills on the job. I learned a vast amount during my ten-month fellowship at the Fogg Museum at Harvard, working under the supervision of Marjorie B. Cohn, Curator of Prints.

Q: What is most unique about the Davison Art Center?

A: The DAC has a world-class collection, which it makes available for direct study by students. The amount of student involvement and access to the collection is unique.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about the current exhibit, A Passion for Prints, that ends May 22?

A: The exhibition, "A Passion for Prints: The Davison Legacy" focuses on the amazing collection of George Willets Davison, class of 1892, who donated more than 6,000 prints over two decades. The curators of the DAC will be represented by key acquisitions made to complement and expand upon Davison's original vision. Working with Interim Curator Ellen D'Oench, student curators Jesse Feiman '05, and Dan Zolli '07, have spent the year researching the  collection and selecting the prints. Highlights will include prints by Andrea Mantegna, Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt van Rijn

Q: How do you spend the bulk of your day? Are you at a desk, out in the gallery or meeting with people?

A: A little bit of all three.  Doing email and correspondence. Meeting with various people. Advising students. Regularly going to exhibitions, etc.

Q: In a nutshell, how do you create an exhibit? What is the process? And where do you find the art for the exhibit?

A: For me, exhibition ideas come from studying the prints, drawings, and photographs in the collection, and beginning to explore themes or narratives across individual works and individual artists. These can be developments in technique, such as chiaroscuro woodcuts, or connected to recent studies in art history. For some exhibitions, the work comes from the collection. Other exhibitions are based on loans from collectors, artists, or other institutions. I'm still mulling over the exhibition possibilities for the fall.

Q: Do you find your job rewarding?

A: My job is extremely rewarding.  It offers the chance to continue to build a renowned art collection. I work with wonderful people, and will teach in the fall.

Q: Tell me about your hobbies outside of work.

A: Graduate school severely curtailed my hobbies. I play a terrible game of squash. I also enjoy sewing and knitting, which help fulfill my creative urge. And I spend time with my partner, Michelle Emfinger, who works in information technology and plays the double-bass.

By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor