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Masters of Fine Arts students to present work at Ackland

Working with curators is no novel experience for MFA student Michael Bramwell. But the Ackland Art Museum’s curatorial assistant, Lauren Turner, was open in her vision – and that changed things.

“Some curators take certain work because it resonates with the theme they are trying to get across. Even though I’ve participated in exhibitions like that, I like exhibitions like this one that are open ended in the sense that each work addresses the theme of the show in their own unique way,” Bramwell said.

“In this case, it was more like, ‘Let’s see what you have that may work well with the theme that’s developing.' That is more organic. It allows the work to breathe.”

Bramwell, along with eight other art students graduating from the Master of Fine Arts program, will present their work as a collective exhibit titled “Parts of the Sum” in the Ackland Art Museum, which opened yesterday.  

“Having an MFA show annually is something that the Ackland has been doing for years. It’s a way that we can feature the graduating MFA students,” said Ackland communications director Emily Bowles.  

“The MFA show is one that is always greatly anticipated by the public. It’s the most contemporary of contemporary art.”

This year, the show was curated by Lauren Turner, one of the curators for the Ackland. She visited the artists’ studios throughout the year to get a feel for their work. Noticing that many of the artists created pieces that contributed to a larger series, she eventually decided upon a theme for the show — Parts of the Sum.

“A lot of (the pieces) are working with the ways that fractional elements work with one another,” Turner said. “They don’t always do so in a neat and tidy fashion. I’m trying to show the many ways that things work together.”

For some of the students, this is their first time working with a curator.

“Since I’m presenting this in a certain thematic framework, they get to see how others can interpret their work,” Turner said.

“I’m always very keen to emphasize that, just because I’m presenting one of these pieces as part of this theme, that doesn’t mean that’s what they were thinking of when they were making it.”

In the past, MFA students’ work has not been shown as one exhibit assembled by a curator. Instead, the students presented their work individually in the Ackland.

This year, though presented together in the Ackland, each student also had the opportunity to present his or her work on its own in the John and June Allcott Gallery in the Hanes Art Center.

“I like the fact that the work has acquired a new venue because I’m sure that it will get a different read than it did in the Allcott,” Bramwell said.

“When it’s viewed in a different museum setting with docents that will go around and explain the work, I’m sure it will get a whole different read to it.”

Bramwell also said that being at the museum adds legitimacy to his work.

“It is treated the same as any other exhibition we put up — the same amount of work, everything from the graphic design and invitations to the preparation of the gallery,” Bowles said. “It’s a real museum show.”

The museum is offering tours led by docents who will explain the work. People will also be able to find out more about the work by visiting the gallery on Sunday, May 4 from 3 to 5 p.m. At this time, many of the MFA artists will be at the gallery discussing their work.

Bramwell said that the exhibit represents the validation of two years of strenuous academic work.

“It indicates the icing on the cake of two years of hard work that culminates in an exhibition with my colleagues."

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