Each year, the Birmingham Museum of Art selects a graduate student from the University of Alabama at Birmingham to complete a yearlong fellowship at the Museum. The UAB Fellow completes special projects that provide an in-depth experience and insight into the nature of curatorial work. The 2017–2018 UAB Fellow, Kristen McArthur, spent most of her time at the Museum researching and planning for Ways of Seeing: An Exploration of Line. Originally from Montgomery, Alabama, Kristen moved to Birmingham to study art history at UAB.
Why were you interested in the BMA’s UAB Curatorial Fellowship?
Kristen McArthur: I had the opportunity to intern in public relations at the BMA during my undergraduate years, and in the education department at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts before I moved to Birmingham. I wanted to expand my understanding of museum work, and felt that my interest in research and writing would fit with an experience in curatorial. Happily, I was right.
As you wrap up your yearlong fellowship, can you share a favorite memory from your time at the BMA?
KM: As part of the planning process for Ways of Seeing: An Exploration of Line, Senior Curator Emily Hanna and I taped up paper dolls of the artworks to get a sense for how the show would look and feel as the viewer walked down the Bohorfoush Gallery hallway. It was exciting to see the result of that project, and to give the Museum staff and visitors a taste of what’s coming.
What can we expect to experience with An Exploration of Line?
KM: Ways of Seeing: An Exploration of Line explores the theme line from both a formal and conceptual standpoint. The first part of the exhibition will focus on line as a fundamental element of visual art, while the second delves into how line can be employed by artists to communicate more conceptual ideas. What really excites me about the exhibition is that it brings together works from the BMA collection from many different time and style periods, cultures, and artists. It will be great for those who want to learn more about the visual language of art, and for veteran Museum-goers, who will have the chance to see previously shown works in a new way, while viewing works that they have not yet seen from the collection.
How long was the planning process for this exhibition?
KM: The planning process got into full swing when I began my fellowship in January and continued up until my last weeks and days at BMA. It was fascinating to learn about everything that goes into materializing an exhibition. It takes a lot!
Is there a message you hope people will take away from this exhibition?
KM: I hope the exhibition will encourage thoughtful conversation among viewers about visual art and culture, and that it will communicate the power of visual art to delight and spark positive social change. I think it will get people excited about the diversity of works of art in the BMA’s collection.
Ways of Seeing has been made possible by the City of Birmingham.