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Summer Snapshot: Zoe Jameson '15 Researches Native American Artists for Museum Exhibition

About Summer Research

To learn more about the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) and to read more entries in our "Summer Snapshot" series, visit our SURP website.

This is one in a series looking in on the work and projects Pomona students are carrying out this summer. Jameson is working as part of the Janet Inskeep Benton ’79 Summer Undergraduate Research Program.

Project summary:
I’m researching contemporary Native American artists to prepare for a Pomona College Museum of Art exhibition that will happen in about 3 to 5 years. A contemporary native artist will come in and show their art side-by-side with objects from the museum’s Native American collection, which is really big and full of things from the late 1800s and early 1900s. This exhibition will enliven the collection and make sure it’s still getting seen. I’ve read a bunch of books and done tons of Googling, trying to find younger artists whose work might be particularly interesting. In the last week or so, the options narrowed down to a group of about 10 people. Because I’m graduating this year, I won’t be the one who’s here when final decisions are being made, so I’m making sure that whoever is doing this job in the future isn’t going to have to redo all my research or go digging through sloppy notes that are in six different places.

What is your mentor like?
My mentor is Kathleen Howe, the director of the museum. I met her the summer after my freshman year when I first curated an exhibition for the museum. It’s empowering to do research with somebody who has curated so many exhibitions and been published in so many places. During my research, I was reading a book and it hit me: “Wow. This essay was written by my boss.” Kathleen is great because she really respects my opinions. She has so much experience and is so much more knowledgeable than me, but she really trusts me with this. It’s the coolest feeling.

What is one thing about your research so far that you find particularly interesting?
I wasn’t expecting that so many of these younger, exciting new artists would be from Canada. I think it’s because there is a lot of art funding for the Canadian First Nations. There are a lot of established galleries and museums that are interested in giving fellowships and grants to young artists. There are also a lot of efforts to encourage native artists to just be artists. Their work doesn’t have to be connected to their heritage, although that plays into it just as anybody’s heritage influences how they move through the world.

Why are you doing summer research?
The research I’m doing is so very different from any research I’ve done before—as different as any research about art can be from other research about art. This is the sort of project you wouldn’t get to do in a class. I feel like I’m building skills that I wouldn’t necessarily get to build in other situations. I’ve been working with the museum off and on since my freshman year and it’s nice knowing that I can come here and someone will always find work for me.

In the fall, Jameson will travel with Howe to see some of the artists she's researched.

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