CLARKSVILLE, TN — For more than a year, the director of art collection at Austin Peay State University has worked with several students to make the school’s extensive collection more accessible to the public.
This week, those efforts culminated with a recently unveiled online database that allows people to search and view artwork collected by the university.
“Even though we are a public university and our campus is open to the public, it can be difficult for people to see our collections,” said Michael Dickins, director of Austin Peay and curator of The New Gallery and University Collections. “Our gallery assistants have been working hard this semester to bring selections from the collection into the database, allowing more people to see the amazing we have here on campus.”
The database will be launched with over 300 parts listed. Dickins and his students will continue to add pieces from a collection of 3,000 paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures, drawings and historical objects.
Improve public access
The project started with a student. In fall 2020, graphic design major Katie Boyer began researching and documenting pieces from the Nan and Jim Robertson Photography Collection and the Ned and Jacqueline Crouch Folk Art Collection.
As a recipient of the Jewel Birdsong Conservation Fellowship and then as the first Hazel Smith Summer Scholar, she worked with Dickins to establish the database, adding 65 pieces by mid-summer 2021.
This year, Boyer is the gallery’s chief assistant, and three other gallery assistants – students Sara Roach, Rheanne Bouchard and Lena Castillo – have helped expand the database, adding pieces exhibited in the galleries. from campus.
The database includes pieces from the Hazel Smith Student Art Collection – works Austin Peay acquired from former students such as Khari Turner’s “Woman in a Rocking Chair” – and The Silverstein Collection – a collection of 16 photographs by Frank Paulin given by Bruce and Silke Silverstein.
The database allows anyone to browse Austin Peay’s collection, and if they note a piece they want to see in person, they can visit campus to view the work. Turner’s “Woman in a Rocking Chair,” for example, hangs in the main hall of the Art + Design building.
Improve student experiences
The database not only helps fulfill Dickins’ mission to make the university’s art collection more accessible to the public, but it also provides students with “hands-on experiences documenting, researching and manipulating works art,” he said.
The work was meticulous, requiring research and double-checking entries for accuracy, Bouchard said.
“Since we have so many pieces in the collection, we really need to take the time to check each one out, making sure the photographs are clear and the information is up to date,” the major art studio said. “It takes time to record songs. We have to go to each building and find all the works that are on display, taking notes on their category numbers as well as who created the pieces. »
Working with the collection and database gave Boyer a head start for a gallery or museum career, she said.
“I am able to learn about the different processes involved in creating and maintaining an art collection, as well as the process of curating works in the collection,” Boyer said. “It’s a great hands-on opportunity that will give me a good knowledge base to take with me throughout my career.”
Boyer will represent Austin Peay this summer at the famed Chautauqua School of Art residency program. She will work in residence with the Chautauqua Art Galleries, courtesy of the Austin Peay Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts and the Six Talents Foundation.
Bouchard also hopes to work in a gallery after graduation.
“Being able to gain experience while getting an education is amazing,” she said. “It’s a real-world practice that you can’t really learn by taking a course.”
Animation and visual effects major Castillo agreed, adding, “It means so much that I get to work with great people and understand what gallery assistants have to go through.”
Although the work can be “physically and mentally taxing”, animation and visual effects specialist Sara Roach – the recipient of this year’s Jewel Birdsong Curatorial Fellowship – said she enjoyed the experience.
“I love what I do,” she said. “It keeps me on my toes. This exposure to new things, people and ideas just wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had this opportunity, so I’m grateful that I did.
How you can help
The new gallery offers gallery assistantships, curatorial fellowships and a summer research fellowship to Austin Peay students. These opportunities are provided by funding and support from the Department of Art + Design and the Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts.
If you would like to support the Austin Peay Art Collection and the university’s preservation, outreach, and scholarship efforts, visit the collection’s financial support webpage or call University Advancement at 931-221 -7127.
Additionally, Austin Peay’s annual giving day, Govs Give, begins at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 19 and ends at 7:27 p.m. on Wednesday, April 20, a duration that lasts 1 day, 9 hours and 27 minutes in l honor of the school’s founding year, 1927. To donate, visit govsgive.com anytime during the event.