Managing art is no easy task regardless of where one is in the art world, but for two Geneseo students, it becomes an even more unique experience when the location is a small college community in western New York. Senior Shannon Gallagher and English and sophomore Britina Cheng are the current gallery coordinators for the Lockhart Gallery on Main Street and Bertha V.B. Lederer Gallery at Brodie Hall. They work together with two student interns under the supervision of director of galleries Cynthia Hawkins to produce art shows open to the community each semester.
“Setting up the galleries is a lot of fun,” Gallagher said. “It feels good as soon as everything comes together; actually putting up the paintings might be my favorite part … you get to handle the artwork.”
Putting together the gallery openings, however, is not the only responsibility the job entails. “On a day-to-day basis, it’s a lot of collections management,” Cheng explained. “I do a lot of accessioning, making sure that everything is catalogued in a way that we can go back easily. The whole process of it is so pertinent to gallery and museum keeping; it’s important.”
The two began working with Hawkins as interns and eventually worked their way up to paid positions. The work provides unique insight into the complexity of the art world. Gallagher emphasized this point, discussing a large project she worked on that involved working with Italian-speaking students to translate Italian prints.
“It touched so many disciplines and it made me happy to realize that art history goes everywhere,” she said. “That's why I love [it].”
Cheng also cherishes the value she receives from her job. “You’re working with beautiful pieces of work that Cynthia chooses,” she said. “The mechanical tasks are really nice. A big part of museums is presenting art as art, and the surroundings are what’s important.”
Gallagher and Cheng come from different backgrounds and their reasons for applying for the gallery coordinator job also vary.
“I actually wanted to be a librarian when I grew up,” Gallagher said. “I got this job after taking a geography course with a graduating classmate who suggested I apply for the position.”
“Back in high school, I worked in curating art galleries and that's how I came here and knew I wanted to contact Cynthia after having to write an article reviewing an exhibition,” Cheng added.
Many students may not know about the magic behind the gallery openings and record keeping around campus, but there are opportunities for students to apply and see if working with art is for them. Even if it turns out to be the opposite, the real world application experience is well worth it.
“I had no idea that this existed until my sophomore year and was only able to do it as a junior,” Gallagher said. “I wish I could’ve done it freshman year.”
“I feel like [art on campus] is thriving,” Cheng noted. “So hopefully that’ll continue as long as people appreciate art.”