Class creates, hangs exhibit

Joel Gibbs (left) and Roann Barris (right) view the exhibit
Joel Gibbs (left) and Roann Barris (right), professor of the museum studies course focusing on exhibition planning, view the exhibit.

Radford University students in a museum studies course practiced the intricacies of designing and installing their own exhibition as part of a class project this spring.

The show, on display in the Radford University Art Museum through September, features the work of Adolf Dehn, who has an extensive presence in the Radford University Art Collection. Dehn is known for lithographs, a form of artwork commonly created by applying a polymer coating to a flexible plastic or a metal plate. The process may also involve the use of stone instead of the plastic or metal plate. Dehn is a two-time recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship award.

His extensive presence in the collection stood out to the students enrolled in the museum studies course – and helped the students narrow down choices for the exhibition. From the available works by Dehn, the students created categories, grouping the pieces by similarity.

Seven clusters were created for the show: performances and spectacles; performances and spectacles ii; people; people ii; portraits; and landscapes and cityscapes.

“The interesting thing about the categorical groupings is the viewer can start anywhere in the gallery and still enjoy a visual narrative that does not rely on a this-happened-and-then-this mindset,” said Leslie King, communications officer for the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Langley Anderson (left) and Joel Gibbs (right)

Langley Anderson (left) and Gibbs (right), both MFA students, view the exhibit.

The gallery space, which features a large open area partially separated by pillars, allowed the students to comfortably space the artwork.

“The space is big and it doesn’t feel crowded at all because there is a lot of space between the works,” said Roann Barris, chair of the Department of Art and the professor of the course. “At the same time, we really focus in on each work and the kinds of works that Dehn made. You can have a personal experience with each set.”

Kim Cochran, Art Museum Registrar, worked closely with Reagan Brown and Dakota Townsend, two students that hung the exhibit. Cochran let the students take the lead in arranging and hanging the pieces, which started with the students eliminating a few of the colorful prints from the exhibit.

“I asked them to prepare a thumbnail sketch of their layout to ensure I was correctly imagining the description they were conveying,” Cochran said. “I hammered the nail in the wall when they decided where a piece would hang.”

The exhibit, which is by appointment only until September, was recently viewed by members of the Radford University family.

“I was really impressed that they not only had the pieces up that they had up, but also that they have an extensive collection of Dehn’s work,” said Nickola Dudley, senior graphic designer and manager at Radford University. “I liked how it was arranged and how they included color work, lithography with crayons and lithography with washes. The students did a great job. It’s hard to hang a show and make it look right.”

James Harman, graphic designer at Radford University, “enjoyed the exhibition” and said that the gallery "vividly illustrates the power of the curators to affect how the viewer perceives art by image selection, grouping and hanging.”

To schedule an appointment to visit the gallery, contact the Radford University Art Museum via telephone at 540-831-5754 or email

Jun 7, 2017
Max Esterhuizen