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The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Students Curate Gallery Inspired by CORE Curriculum

Emma Hanlon

Picker Art Gallery’s new installation, “Core/Collections: Let’s Talk About It,” embraces Colgate University’s newly revised CORE Curriculum by creating a unique museum experience. The gallery has been transformed into a space that encourages open-ended dialogue on topics relevant to Colgate’s CORE Curriculum, specifically the CORE Conversations course. CORE Conversations is a new requirement within the curriculum that utilizes five common pieces of media to direct conversation anchored in the past and directed toward the present: “Antigone” by Sophocles, the “Tao Te Ching” by Laozi, “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer and the documentary “Paris Is Burning.” The exhibit was curated by senior Emma Barrison, senior Cindy Chen and junior Wendy Wu. 

Since 2013, the Picker Art Gallery has been moving away from traditional methods of art collection. The gallery currently holds many pieces of artwork created by female, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists. Picker’s commitment to sharing the stories of artists who are historically left out of museum collections emphasizes Colgate’s continued efforts to represent diverse voices in art and education on campus. 

Chen explained her team’s goal to connect the liberal arts curriculum with their collection. 

“The new CORE Conversations [course] introduced in 2022 represents the essence of the University’s liberal arts commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” Chen said. “This exhibition is an examination of [these] changes and the University’s commitment to diverse intellectual discussions.” 

Unlike typical museum installations, “Core/Collections” encourages visitors to engage in conversation with one another within four broad areas of inquiry: “Urbanism and Labor,” “People and Land,” “Appearances” and “Epistemologies.” The exhibit challenges visitors to contemplate questions such as land’s connection to spirituality, how art contributes to storytelling and the relationship between appearance and truth. Each question corresponds to art chosen for a section of the collection, enhancing a visitor’s experience by prompting them to look beyond artistic skill and ponder these complex topics. 

This collection is particularly relevant to those who have taken the CORE Conversations course. First-year Josephine Jenne described how the collection connects with her experience in CORE Conversations. 

“I thought that presenting questions with the art pieces was a very interesting way of encouraging discussion across texts and in a greater context,” Jenne said. “It reminded me of my experience in [CORE] Conversations and the questions we would center our classes around.”

“Core/Collections: Let’s Talk About It” has been in the works since last fall. Wu explained the enthusiasm and difficulties involved in properly reflecting the revised CORE Curriculum in the exhibition.

“The most challenging and exciting part was integrating the themes of the revised CORE [Curriculum] into the gallery space divided into four different sections,” Wu said. “We talked to several professors who teach CORE [Curriculum] and learned that the four texts — plus ‘Paris Is Burning’are designed to be the pedagogical threads shared in the college experience of all students.” 

Representing Colgate’s CORE Curriculum in an art collection prompted the curators to think creatively about the museum experience. 

“The exhibition is designed to be an extended space for open intellectual conversation,” Wu said. “We don’t want to limit it by suggesting any prescribed learning outcomes or showing any sense of hierarchy between themes […].”

At the end of the exhibit, visitors are encouraged to share their thoughts on how this exhibition fits into a liberal arts education. Students are asked about their experiences taking the CORE Conversations course using an iPad. The curators also left room for visitors to suggest novels that should be incorporated into the CORE Conversations curriculum.

Barrison, Chen and Wu worked alongside University Museum staff to make the collection possible. “Core/Collections: Let’s Talk About It” can be viewed in Picker Art Gallery — located on the second floor of Dana Arts Center — from March 21 until May 19.

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