Michaela Bear was awarded The Donald Tugby UQ Art Museum Renaissance Summer Research Scholarship 2016–2017 following a competitive application process. Her success is not surprising given her commitment to study and work experience – Michaela completed Honours in Art History at UQ in 2016 after finishing a dual Bachelor of Arts (extended major in Art History) and a Bachelor of Business Management (Marketing) at UQ. During this time, she’s undertaken internships and volunteer roles at UQ Art Museum, the Institute of Modern Art, Boxcopy and the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, as well as internationally at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand. As she prepares to jet off this month to intern at the Honolulu Biennial, we caught up with Michaela to find out more about her experiences at the UQ Art Museum.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your scholarship and experience working with the UQ Art Museum?
A: My scholarship involves curatorial and registration tasks related to the UQ Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition Philanthropists and collections. The exhibition includes artworks that have been generously donated to The University of Queensland, and acknowledges the important role that philanthropy has played in the development of the Collection. As part of the scholarship, I have researched archival records relating to historical donations, communicated with current donors, written exhibition labels, organised copyright clearances for artworks that will be used to promote the show, and confirmed artwork details.
The philanthropic focus of this exhibition has made writing the wall labels particularly interesting as they focus on the donors rather than on the artworks themselves. Many of the labels include personal anecdotes provided by donors, which offer a different perspective on the artworks that will be on display. I’ve really enjoyed being part of this alternative method of contextualising artworks as I believe that rethinking traditional exhibition conventions can often lead to meaningful and engaging shows. I’m grateful to all the Art Museum staff that I’ve worked with during my scholarship, particularly Senior Registrar Kath Kerswell and Curator Samantha Littley. Everyone has been very helpful and inclusive and allowed me to make the most of my time here.
Q: What has this opportunity meant to you and how do you feel about being granted this chance to further your professional experience due to the generosity of the late Dr Donald Tugby?
A: It’s been wonderful to see the many intersections that occur between the Art Museum’s registration and curatorial departments over the course of an exhibition’s development. I haven’t had experience working in registration before, so it’s been great to deepen my knowledge in this area. This bursary has also allowed me to undertake important curatorial tasks that have further developed my ability to write for a general audience. It’s exciting to know that my work will contribute to an exhibition, instead of just being a University assignment. UQ is lucky to have supporters like the late Dr Donald Tugby – their generosity gives students a chance to gain practical experiences that will help them pursue careers in the arts.
Q: What are your plans for the future – do you have an idea of the kind of work you’d like to do?
A: Although I did really enjoy the registration activities that were part of my scholarship, I still feel that I would like to be a curator one day. I like how this field encompasses research and writing, as well as the more practical side of putting together a cohesive exhibition that can then be enjoyed by others. However, in the immediate future I plan to do some Biennale hopping around the world – I’m heading to Hawaii to intern with the Honolulu Biennial for a few months and then I’ll go to Venice and see the Biennale there. I love how rich and diverse art is internationally and locally and it would be great to incorporate travel into my future job as there’s so much art to experience!
Q: What advice would you give to students considering interning and volunteering with the UQ Art Museum?
A: I think it’s very important to gain industry experience while you study. It allows you to apply your art history knowledge within a practical setting, while also challenging you to develop new skills. The UQ Art Museum offers really amazing opportunities to students. We are so lucky to have an art museum at our fingertips on campus – it’s a great asset. On that note, I think it’s important to go to the events and exhibitions held here and at other galleries and artist-run spaces around Brisbane – there is plenty of art to see and people to meet. I‘ve made several friends just from visiting these spaces regularly. Not only is this a great way to meet new people, but also the friends you make could become colleagues one day.
Philanthropists and collections explores the philanthropic impulse, and considers how patronage has helped shape the UQ Art Collection. A selective survey of the giving that has bolstered our holdings, it brings together a representative group of artworks that have been generously donated by organisations such as the Alumni Friends of The University of Queensland Inc. and altruistic individuals. The exhibition opens on 11 March and will run until 2 June 2017.