June 2013, Volume 17, Number 2


Curating a Future Career

With Miami increasingly emerging as the de facto art hub of the Southeastern United States, a new two-semester course is giving Miami Dade College students a unique opportunity to gain real-world experience in museum operations that is rarely available at the undergraduate level.

A collaborative endeavor with the Mitchell Wolfson Jr. Study Centre made possible with funding from the Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Foundation, MDC's Museum Studies course is offered through the Department of Arts and Philosophy at Wolfson Campus. The unique program exposes students to the museum world through hands-on curatorial work, research, travel and interaction with high-level professionals in the field.

Exploring Artifacts

The course's first semester focuses on the history and evolution of the museum as an institution, with students learning about different types of museums as well as the various jobs and behind-the-scenes responsibilities, such as conservation and exhibition design. Students have at their disposal the resources of the Study Centre's state-of-the-art facilities, with more than 25,000 objects in the Mitchell Wolfson Jr. Collection, which focuses on design, architecture and the fine arts from 1885 to 1945.

"The fact that Mr. Wolfson allows the students access to his museum-quality collection really sets this course apart," said Study Centre Collection Manager and Curator Lea Nickless, who co-teaches the course alongside MDC Adjunct Professor Melissa Díaz. "He wants them to interpret from the collection, to use it as a learning tool. I have not seen anything like this anywhere in the country."

A Team Undertaking

During the second half of the course, students practice what they've learned by organizing an exhibition from start to finish. In teams, they map out every aspect of the show, from branding and visual imaging to design and installation. In April at New World School of the Arts' gallery, the most recent group of students in the program opened their exhibition Entrances & Exits, about World Fairs.

"The project is so huge that they really learn how essential it is to work with others to reach a goal," Nickless said.

Ending the course with a bang, the students then travel to New York – not just to visit museums but also to meet top executives at world-class auction houses, museums and libraries. "The students are inspired by all the exposure to the places and the people they encounter," Nickless said. "They gain a true understanding of what it takes to work in this business."

— MR

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