Emily Francisco '14

Captivated by Curation

Emily Francisco '14 curates Andy Warhol exhibit

When Emily Francisco ’14 stepped onto Gettysburg College’s campus, she was immediately overcome by the energy and sense of community she experienced.  It was Get Acquainted Day in April 2010, and she got her “dot.”

Francisco, now a double major in Art History and English with a writing concentration, knew she wanted to be in a place where she wasn’t just a number, and she had a good sense of what courses she wanted to pursue once she arrived.  “At the time, I was interested in finding a school with both strong English and Studio Art programs, so the fact that Gettysburg had strengths in both appealed to me,” Francisco said.

Emily Francisco '14What Francisco didn’t expect was that a series of academic courses would change her initial path.  Her First-Year Seminar (FYS) entitled, “Florence: Art, Money, and Power in a Renaissance City,” taught by Prof. Felicia Else of the Gettysburg College Art & Art History department, introduced her to the interdisciplinary nature of Art History.  “It requires knowledge of both visual analysis and historical and social contexts,” Francisco said.  “It combined my interests in art and other humanities.”

Francisco had similar experiences when she had the opportunity to take two additional courses,  “Art & Public Policy” and an interdisciplinary team-taught course called, “Wonders of Nature and Artifice: The Renaissance Quest for Knowledge”. Both courses culminated in curating an exhibit as a group project. Francisco was captivated by the idea of museum curating– she declared her second major in Art History at the end of her sophomore year.

The path to Warhol

While serving as a gallery assistant at the Schmucker Art Gallery, Francisco had the opportunity to see all different kinds of exhibitions, from projects by professional artists to student projects in the project space. 

“I thought it would be amazing to do a Senior Capstone exhibition from an art history, curatorial angle,” Francisco said.  However, students’ capstone research typically consists of an extended research thesis and presentation.

Francisco spoke to Prof. Shannon Egan, director of the Schmucker Art Gallery, who introduced her to the 153 original Polaroids and gelatin silver prints that the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts had gifted Gettysburg College.

“Emily has been able, in a short time, to gain tremendous curatorial experience,” Prof. Egan said.  “She served as the first exhibits intern at Musselman Library in the summer of 2012 and curated a number of wonderful displays in the library.  Her enthusiasm and prior experiences made her a perfect candidate for this opportunity to curate the Warhol photographs.”

“The ability to work on the Andy Warhol exhibit seemed like a fantastic and rare opportunity for an undergraduate to take advantage of,” said Francisco. “The most challenging part of curating the exhibit was deciding which of the 153 Polaroids to exhibit.  I carefully considered which ones were the most important and which ones would complement each other the best.” 

In the end, Francisco chose a total of 16 Polaroids, with a balance of male and female portraits, both celebrities and lesser-known personalities.  Additionally, the exhibit includes a Polaroid that was used as a study for one of Warhol’s major painting and silkscreen projects, The Last Supper.

Emily Francisco '14

Francisco with Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, at her internship this summer.

Francisco had the opportunity to learn about the personal side of Andy Warhol when she was one of 50 interns selected to participate in the Museum Studies Summer Internship Program at the Philadelphia Museum of Art this past summer.  To supplement her research for her exhibit, she traveled to the Andy Warhol Museum near Pittsburgh to hear Warhol’s nephew speak. 

“Listening to his nephew gave me an appreciation for Andy Warhol as an artist and as a person. I was surprised to learn that he rarely took photos of his own family,” said Francisco.

Over the course of working on the Andy Warhol exhibit, Francisco learned there are many moving parts to curating an art exhibit.  “I’ve had a range of different tasks throughout the project.  It has been a mix of exhibition planning, public relations, research, and academic writing.  I’ve learned so much about the process of curating an art exhibit and the sheer variety of skills it involves.”

“Gettysburg College is a place with so many opportunities to get involved. I feel it has encouraged me to pursue my diverse interests and become a well-rounded person, which will be useful in the field I hope to pursue.”

After graduation, Francisco would like to pursue an MA in Art History and Museum Studies.

About the Exhibit

Andy Warhol: Polaroids and Portraits, runs through September 28 in the Schmucker Art Gallery. The gallery is open Tuesday - Saturday from 10am – 4pm. The exhibition is supported in part by Special Collections and College Archives, Musselman Library, Gettysburg College.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Shawna Sherrell, assistant director of web communications, 717.337.6812

Posted: Wed, 4 Sep 2013

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