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Student curated art exhibit makes an Impact

Moments of Impact explores social justice through art. (Dani Toriumi)
Moments of Impact explores social justice through art. (Dani Toriumi)

A new art exhibition chronicling the intersectionality of environmental and social justice has been curated by a class of six students called “Moments of Impact.”

The exhibition opened on Nov. 30 in the Mills College Art Museum’s (MCAM) back gallery and featured works from the museum’s permanent collection that examine ideas around environmental and social justice. It showcased pieces of work ranging from a poster with a mushroom cloud and the word “Oops!”, small bowls made out of gathered clay, to a coyote made out of sweaters, shirts, towels, stuffed animals, wood, pins and colored paper – all done by a variety of artists from the 20th and 21st centuries. The pieces were put together to create a conversation that will bring to the mind of the viewer questions around inequality, cultural appropriation and agency.

The Museum Studies Workshop, a course of only six students, selected a number of artworks that related to the theme, wrote about the artworks and pieced together an exhibit. Marilyn Claes, a senior art history major, and Elizabeth Martin, a junior visual and critical studies major, are two of the students who co-curated “Moments of Impact.

“As a group, we sort of came up with ‘What are the best of those pieces? How can we then play with those pieces off of each other in [Moments of Impact]?” Claes said. “It was a lot of fun, and everyone worked well together.”

Martin shared the class’ interest in using three-dimensional pieces. The class wanted to figure out what kind of language the three-dimensional pieces would provide while being presented in a gallery space, especially because the Museum Studies classes in the past had never used them before.

Students chose pieces from the MCAM permanent collection. (Dani Toriumi)
Students chose pieces from the MCAM permanent collection. (Dani Toriumi)

“While we were narrowing the works, it seemed as though we were able to all keep our sort of dream-works of pieces that we really thought were important to the overarching topic,” Martin said. “I think it was really an amazing opportunity for collaboration within a small group of people.”

Jayna Swartzman-Barosky, the program director for the MCAM, worked with the students to create a press release by figuring out the title for the show and choosing the images that would best represent it.

“The students took [the theme] in the direction and really put together a show that was reflective of the intersections between social and environmental politics, which was very interesting,” Swartzman-Brosky said. “Because in the past, those two politics…were often approached, or pursued, or discussed or promoted in isolation from one another.”

The Museum Studies Workshop is offered in the Fall semester and limited to only six students. The essays students wrote for their assigned pieces are available in the digital catalogue online at along with more pieces that are part of the MCAM’s collection. “Moments of Impact” is open from now until March 28, 2017.