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Curatorial Musings: Olson ’17 at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

This term I have been working at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (BMFA) in the African and Oceanic Art Department. At the museum, I have worked on a variety of tasks and have been involved with many departments. I continue learning about working in an institution of this size and stature as well as contributing to the overall mission. While the Mission Statement is quite lengthy, what stands out to me the most is the conclusion:

“The Museum’s ultimate aim is to encourage inquiry and to heighten public understanding and appreciation of the visual world.”9ae2eaff-bb00-41c4-ba08-bdfa66422d8f

With the work that I have done so far at the BMFA, this aspect of the Mission Statement relates to what I am doing in the African and Oceanic Art Department and what I have been doing outside of the BMFA. Thanks to my wonderful boss I have been able to interact with a variety of departments to learn as much as I can about the museum overall as an institution. This has included working with the education team, assisting in classes on toy making and animation, and working with conservation concerning a mask that was damaged after being shipped improperly.

Within the department though, I have been working on a variety of projects including doing curatorial research for Highlights book of the African Art Collection, researching objects that are being donated to the BMFA, and corresponding with other museums and collectors concerning provenance and other information about the BMFA’s collection.

I am now approaching two new projects that I will be working on for the remainder of my internship. One of them is to create dioramas of the African and Oceanic art galleries for the purpose of figuring out future shows and spacing the art objects in locations that make sense, are interesting, and are aesthetically pleasing. Concerning this project I am in the midst of gathering supplies and measuring before I create the actual diorama which will be a one inch to one foot scale obenin_gallery_1f the actual spaces.

Another project that I will be working on once I finish researching the objects for the Highlights Book will be to assist the curator layout and edit the book. Together we be creating a layout that makes sense to read about the art objects and I will be helping edit the text to build a story through the objects about Africa and African Art.

I will also be reorganizing the filing system for the African Art Department. Since I have researched a large majority of the objects and that information needs to be put in the object files, while doing that I will be reorganizing the files since they are currently separated into provenance files and object files. The goal is to add the new information and combine the two separate files to make one file on each object.

Outside of work, I have been trying to engage with the artist and the public health communities. As an artist I have met with other students from Boston University, Emerson College, Mass Art, and Northeastern. We have been collaborating on art pieces and talking about our artwork with each other.

What has been the most interesting for me, though, during my time in Boston is engaging with sex educators here. I have had the opportunity to go to workshops, demos, and lectures regarding various aspects of sex and sex education and have been paying particular attention as to how these topics are being taught to the public. I have been making connections with these individuals and have been trying to learn as much as possible within these dedicated learning environments and by myself, as well, as sex education is a passion of mine.

One space that I frequent a lot is Good Vibrations. It is a feminist sex store, which I recommend that everyone check out! I have attended many of their events and have made friends and contacts in the sex education community as well as the queer community. By going to the events held at Good Vibes, speaking with the people leading and attending these events, I am learning that I really enjoy educating and believe that I want to pursue a career as a sex educator. I want to be able to not only educate in a classroom setting, but also through the art that I create. I am envisioning ways to meld the two interests together and hope to shape into a future career.

Photo credits: MFA Boston, Katie Olson

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<p>Katie Olson is a current undergraduate and Horace Mann Fellow at Antioch College pursuing a bachelor's degree in visual arts with an emphasis in 3D art. She has a passionate interest in engaging with various art communities and been able to interact with such communities in Boston, San Francisco, and Detroit when on her previous co-ops. She has worked in a variety of art establishments— from the local arts council, to multiple galleries and collectives, to a print studio and wood shop, to a student run exhibition space that I helped create. Her experiences range from helping artists show their work, to engaging with public art, to producing and displaying her own artwork. Katie is an aspiring artist who is eager to work in the art industry pre and post graduate school.</p>

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