Tag: Wriston Art Center

2 Minutes With … Shania Johnson: A Met internship on the path of art history

Shania Johnson ’22 has been doing research this term on art history. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

When COVID-19 got in the way of a coveted internship this summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Shania Johnson ’22 was determined not to let the opportunity slip away.

The Lawrence University sophomore from Rosedale, New York, worked with her faculty advisors to create a fall schedule that will allow her to move the internship to the fall while keeping her classwork on schedule.

“In high school, I did an internship at the Met,” said Johnson. “And at the time I wasn’t really considering a career in art history, but that internship really opened my eyes to the art world, or the contemporary art world at least.” 

But it wasn’t until her time at Lawrence that she realized that art history could be her potential career path.  

“It made me start to think about art history and curatorial work as a career path,” Johnson said. “But I never really took it seriously until I got to college and I realized I can actually make a living out of it.” 

Shifting plans

For this summer, Johnson was accepted into the internship offered to college students by the Met. But due to COVID-19, The Met will not be reopening until the end of the summer season and has transferred its summer internships to the fall. Johnson created a plan with Lawrence’s Art History department that allows her to work the internship without falling behind on her course schedule.

“This internship was really selective, and I didn’t want to give it away because I have to be at school,” Johnson said. “So, I’ll be living in Midtown, working at the Met. And, I have worked it through with faculty here … so I’ll be getting internship credits and independent study credits for the research and work I will be doing.”  

Johnson is excited to take on this experience with the knowledge she has gained during her time at Lawrence.  

“In high school, I felt really insecure, coming from my background and working with some of these other people who come from more fortunate backgrounds,” Johnson said. “But I feel like now being away at college, and being who I am now, more confident, I am really excited for this opportunity.” 

While at Lawrence, Johnson has been working closely with Beth Zinsli, the Wriston Art Center galleries curator, museum studies director, and art history professor.  

“At first I did all the formal things like gallery guard,” Johnson said. “Then I got the internship position where I work with the objects in the archive.” 

Through her internship with the Wriston, and now with the gallery being closed due to COVID-19, Johnson has been doing her own research that will directly connect with the research she will be doing in the fall.  

“I have the chance to do my own research, so that’s been great,” she said. “The paper that I am writing is kind of uncharted territory and I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with it, but it has turned into a pretty lengthy research paper talking about medieval abstraction. And the internship at the Met relates to global medieval art, so this is kind of my segue into the fall.”  

A vision for change

Johnson hopes to one day join the museum world, providing leadership and curating exhibitions, helping to create more accurate narratives for diverse populations.  

“The drive for me is, even today in the museum world, not a lot of people are represented,” Johnson said. “Not a lot of women of color or POC in general, and also not a lot of LGBTQ identities are represented. But I feel like people of color and LGBTQ identities should be part of the people who are making big decisions, curating exhibitions because you have the power to create narratives. When you create an exhibition, you are telling a story that you’re basically selling to people. And if people are not accurately represented the way they should be, that becomes a problem. I want to be able to create narratives for people like me, people from my background, so they can see themselves being represented the way they should be.”  

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

On Main Hall Green With … Beth Zinsli: Excelling in the art of engagement

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Beth Zinsli ’02 (Photo by Danny Damiani)

About the series: On Main Hall Green With … is an opportunity to connect with faculty on things in and out of the classroom. We’re featuring a different Lawrence faculty member every two weeks — same questions, different answers.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Beth Zinsli ’02 is a focal point for visual arts at Lawrence University.

As an assistant professor of art history, she is an important voice in the classroom. But more people may know Zinsli for her role with the Wriston Art Center Galleries, where she serves as curator, leading the staff that prepares and presents the public art exhibitions and oversees the University’s art collection. She also serves as program director for the Museum Studies interdisciplinary area.

Zinsli joined Lawrence in 2013, 11 years after earning her bachelor’s degree in history as an LU undergrad. She went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in art history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We caught up with Zinsli to talk about her work in the classroom and galleries and her interests away from campus.

IN THE CLASSROOM

Inside info: What’s one thing you want every student coming into your classes to know about you?

My goal in the classroom is to get to the questions that really matter, the questions that will push students to think and engage more deeply with an idea. I don’t have all the answers; I want to work through the important questions with students. Learning to ask those sorts of questions is hard but it’s part of the joy of intellectual work. In the spring 2020 term, the added challenge is doing this at a physical and temporal distance from students, but in our current context, shared intellectual engagement and joy feels more important than ever.

Getting energized: What work have you done or will you be doing at Lawrence that gets you the most excited?

I was excited and honored to help bring Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip) to campus to install the “Indigenize Education” mural with students and give a convocation last spring. It was thrilling to see the positive reactions to the mural and her powerful talk. Public art is a vital form of representation that can compel important conversations – the “Indigenize Education” mural started the conversations we need to keep having as a campus. There’s more to come.

Going places: Is there an example of somewhere your career has taken you (either a physical space or something more intellectual, emotional or spiritual) that took you by surprise?

I got to travel to Havana twice for dissertation research in graduate school. There is no way I could have fully prepared for the experience or for the surprising, profound conversations I had with Cuban artists, curators, and other folks while I was there.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

This or that: If you weren’t teaching for a living, what would you be doing? 

Definitely something with food – chef, restaurant critic, food stylist, culinary historian. Cooking and baking are my creative outlets and I think about recipes and ingredients all the time. I have around 130 cookbooks, from a well-used copy of The Joy of Cooking to NOMA by Danish chef René Redzepi.

Right at home: Whether for work, relaxation or reflection, what’s your favorite spot on campus?

The art galleries, of course. I am biased, but they are usually peaceful and there is always something interesting to look at. There’s also a windowsill seat by the back gallery that looks out on the walkway between Memorial Hall and Wriston; if I need a break it’s the perfect spot to people-watch for a few minutes.

One book, one recording, one film: Name one of each that speaks to your soul? Or you would recommend to a friend? Or both?

I picked up Florida, Lauren Groff’s recent book of short stories, on librarian Colette Lunday-Brautigam’s recommendation. I was in New York checking out some museum shows; when I took a break for lunch I pulled it out. I didn’t come up for air until a couple hours later. I finished it the next day and then immediately started reading it again from the beginning.

What’s that you asked about a recording? I couldn’t hear you over ROSALÍA’s El Mal querer, which I have been blasting on repeat for the past few months. Her voice and stylistic versatility are totally energizing.

I find Chantal Ackerman’s film, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels, fascinating. It’s 201 minutes long and focused on a single woman’s seemingly mundane daily routines. She literally makes a meal in real time on screen. I’m interested in boredom and how we react to disruptions in our habits, two big themes in this film – so maybe it’s not for everyone, especially as we all cope with those very things – but it’s definitely on my safer-at-home screening list.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu