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Students Curate Exhibitions at Benton Museum of Art of Pomona College

In Our Care

Even before visitors were allowed inside the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College during the pandemic, the art on display could be viewed from the safety of one’s home. Digital gallery walks and live panel discussions accompanied the remote viewing sessions.

Three exhibitions were co-curated by students, faculty and staff. Curating exhibitions provided students an opportunity to work closely with museum staff and learn about the many collections of works at the museum. These are their exhibitions:

In Our Care: Institutional History in Material Form 

On view from December 15, 2020 through May 29, 2021.

Curators: Sam Chan ’22; Noor Tamari ’22; Kali Tindell-Griffin ’22 and the Sarah Rempel and Herbert S. Rempel ’23 Director Victoria Sancho Lobis; and Claire Nettleton, academic curator.

In Our Care was presented on the occasion of the Benton Museum of Art’s inaugural season. It explores the evolution of Pomona’s art collection and the individuals who contributed to it.

The exhibition is rooted in history, featuring notable collectors, artists and works, including Native American basketry and textiles, Mexican paintings, European paintings and prints, and works in various media produced in Southern California in the late 20th century.

“The first work that I proposed to exhibit was Mirella Bentivoglio’s Riaprire, which translates to Open Up Again in English,” says Chan. “This piece caught my attention because I thought the way she incorporated Michelangelo’s sculpture Pietà was such a powerful way of tying the legacy of the Renaissance in her hometown Italy into her modern critique of the lack of compassion and obsession with material gain in the present.”

Chan adds that going into this exhibition, she didn’t know much about the history of the arts at Pomona. “The research that I’ve done reminds me that this history isn’t only marked by the Benton, or the Prometheus mural, or the James Turrell Skyspace—it runs much deeper than that. Everything we see now started in a small room with a humble collection. The Benton wouldn’t be the museum it is now without the active work and collaboration among our staff, students, neighboring communities and artists.

“I think In Our Care just perfectly encapsulates the amount of care and love that we have all put into maintaining and enhancing our role as a catalyst for the exchange of critical dialogues and a space that not only gives visibility but [also] sustainability to emerging artists in L.A.” 

The exhibition was developed with the support of the Remote Alternative Independent Summer Experience (RAISE) program and the Judith A. Cion ’65 Fund in Endowment for Student-Curated Exhibitions.

Art, Object, Specimen

On view from January 4 through October 3, 2021.

Curators: Sam Chan ’22; D’Maia Curry ’19, post-baccalaureate fellow for research and programs; Noor Tamari ’22; and Kali Tindell-Griffin ’22, with the mentorship of Victoria Sancho Lobis, Sarah Rempel and Herbert S. Rempel ’23 Director; and Claire Nettleton, academic curator.

Art, Object, Specimen explores the assumption behind museum work: Objects are transformed by how and where they are displayed. The exhibition features many different types of objects, all drawn from collections of the Benton Museum of Art and Pomona College. It includes paintings, photographs, geologic specimens, basketry, beadwork, snuff bottles and even a cribbage board. It offers interpretive texts that address the fluidity of the categories named in the exhibition title.

“Sam, Kali and Noor curated this groundbreaking exhibition with D’Maia Curry ’19, a post-baccalaureate fellow for research and program who researched Pomona College’s geological collection,” says Nettleton.

“The students researched particular works that defy categorization and obfuscate disciplinary boundaries. They discussed their findings with the group, and they made the final selections collectively.”

The exhibition was developed with the support of the Remote Alternative Independent Summer Experience (RAISE) program and the Judith A. Cion ’65 Fund in Endowment for Student-Curated Exhibitions.

CrossBorder Photography: Images of the U.S. and Mexico from the Permanent Collection

On view from October 20, 2020 through October 3, 2021

Curators: Grace Sartin ’21, Madeleine Mount-Cors ’22, and Maelvi Nuñez ’22 with the mentorship of Rosalía Romero, Chau Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Art History.

CrossBorder Photography explores how the border—symbolic, cultural and personal—has been contained, framed and represented through the medium of photography from the 1940s to the present. The exhibition brings together artworks that interrogate and make visual the processes of bordering, including the state practices of militarization, surveillance and deportation that reinforce the physical barrier.

It was inspired by Professor Rosalia Romero’s Border Art seminar from spring 2020. “Drawing from the concepts we covered in the seminar, the exhibition examines the ways the medium of photography has been used by artists to represent the U.S./Mexico border and experiences relating to the border, such as border crossing,” says Madeleine Mount-Cors ’22.

“Curating this exhibition gave me a chance to not only more deeply research the issues at the border, but also a chance to contemplate the realities of U.S./Mexico migrants that will continue to be ongoing unless institutional changes are made,” says Mount-Cors. “Overall, I am grateful for the collaboration and introspection that came with curating this exhibition and I am excited to see it in person this fall before its time at the Benton comes to an end in October.”

The exhibition draws from the permanent collection of the Benton Museum of Art and showcases the work of photographers Gordon C. Abbott, Christina Fernandez, Nathan Lerner, Danny Lyon, Don Normark and Richard Ross.

The exhibition was developed with the support of the Remote Alternative Independent Summer Experience (RAISE) program and the Judith A. Cion ’65 Fund in Endowment for Student-Curated Exhibitions.