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“Catch and Release” exhibit assembles seafood-related works

A new UNC scholarship is bringing museums across the Triangle closer together.

In its first use, the scholarship has facilitated “Catch and Release” — an Ackland Art Museum exhibit that assembles seafood-related artwork from the Ackland and the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.

Lauren Sanford, an art history Ph.D. candidate at UNC, curated the exhibit, which runs through Sunday.

The exhibit marks the culmination of Sanford’s work as the first recipient of the Joan and Robert Huntley Art History Scholarship.

The scholarship offers a research opportunity in collaboration with both the Ackland and the N.C. Museum of Art.

Sanford said she was able to work with N.C. Museum of Art curators Dennis Weller and David Steel, who helped her navigate the museum’s collections.

Steel, curator of European art, said the collaboration benefits both the scholarship recipient and the museums.

“(Sanford) brought a lot of new ideas to the table about how art might be used and displayed,” Steel said.

“It’s not a true collaboration if only one side gains something from the experience.”

Carolyn Allmendinger, director of academic programs at the Ackland, said she also worked closely with Sanford.

Allmendinger praised Sanford’s knowledge of art and ability to collaborate, but said it was her persistence that made her a perfect candidate for the scholarship.

“(Sanford) had this idea when she applied — and she was able to see it through,” Allmendinger said.

She said the Huntley Scholarship allows for flexibility in the presentation of recipients’ research, with both in-depth research papers and exhibits as possible projects to undertake.

Sanford began research for the exhibit in the spring and said it was rewarding to finally see a tangible result.

Sanford said her exhibit serendipitously ties in with UNC’s two-year theme of “Water in Our World,” which examines the global importance of water.

The exhibit also relates to Sanford’s dissertation, which focuses on women and water in 19th century British art.

Sanford said she started assembling the exhibit by looking at collections in both the Ackland and the N.C. Museum of Art, and the theme of seafood began to emerge.

“‘Catch and Release’ really highlights masterpieces from both collections and encourages interdisciplinary connections,” she said.

Sanford also created a virtual tour that can be accessed from smart phones, which allows guests to view larger and more delicate pieces that she could not fit into the show.

“I’m so grateful to the Huntleys for creating this opportunity,” Sanford said.

“It’s just wonderful that a graduate student could do something like this.”

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