...or: How to Have the Best Summer Ever!
During the summer of 2015, I had the honor of being the Trinkett Clark Intern at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. This museum is the only one of its kind in the United States, and its mission is “to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books”. The Trinkett Clark internship has a curatorial focus, and gave me the opportunity to curate my own small exhibit while also learning about working in several other departments within the museum.
During my first year at MICA, I had taken an academic Critical Seminar class with Stephanie Plunkett, Chief Curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum. This class encouraged writing and critical thinking about illustration and its history, and the experience kindled an interest in the scholarly side of illustration. I knew I wanted more time to explore the possibility of museum work, and decided to put my first summer of graduate school to good use through an internship. After applying for the Trinkett Clark internship at The Carle with high hopes in early 2015, I was notified of my acceptance in the spring!
In June my husband and I moved up to Amherst, and I began my eight week internship. The Carle’s Director of Education, Courtney Waring, and Chief Curator, Ellen Keiter, were my supervisors, and they made me feel immediately welcome. Within the first week I was already immersed in the museum environment, helping with special events, and learning how a museum functions.
I worked at The Carle for four days a week. Sundays were spent in the Reading Library, where I greeted visitors, managed the library, tidied up, prepared books for library use, and led Sunday’s Storytime for visiting families. Although I was initially nervous about leading Storytime, it became easier with practice (pro Storytime tip: everything always goes better if you sing to your audience before diving into a book!). Soon I discovered that it could be both exciting for the kids, and a valuable exercise for me. I treated each Storytime as a chance to test children’s responses to different kinds of picture books, and often selected stories that were similar to what I was planning for my upcoming thesis. This real-world experience quickly taught me more about children’s taste and the qualities of an effective picture book than I ever could have learned on my own.
Mondays were spent working in the Reading Library in the morning and then in the Art Studio, where I helped to prepare materials and introduce the day’s art project to visitors. In late July The Carle opened its doors for free to the public for Free Fun Friday, and I created three coloring book pages for visitors to the Art Studio to enjoy during the event. I also danced in a Very Hungry Caterpillar suit!
The main focus of my internship was the curation of an exhibit for The Carle’s Reading Library Gallery, and this year’s subject was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in celebration of the book’s 150th publication anniversary. Tuesdays and Wednesdays were used as research days for this project, and over the course of seven weeks I built my exhibit: “Alice Is…”. The character of Alice has been depicted in a multitude of ways, and yet when we think of Alice we still often think of a dainty, blonde Victorian beauty. Each illustrator that tackles her story has offered a fresh take on who this little girl is, and I chose to shape my exhibit around the numerous physical changes that Alice has experienced.
The show was divided into four subsections. Alice is Changing focused on the first fresh representations of Alice from the early 20th century. Alice is Modernizing showed how her character changed with the fashions every decade, showcasing iterations of Alice from the 1920s up through some of the most current publications. Alice is Wonderland explored the ways in which Alice herself is both psychologically and visually tied to her own dreamland. The final subsection, Alice is Universal, took Alice out of the western world and focused on how she has been represented in Sweden, Aboriginal Australia, and South Korea. These international representations of Alice were of special importance to me, and I was excited to reach out to artists from around the world when sourcing imagery.
The exhibit was to be presented on panels hung on the Reading Library’s walls. After gathering each image for the show, I created a design template for the panels and began assembling each individual panel, including one title panel, two panels on the history of Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson, and four expository panels: one for each subsection of the show.
There were 30 panels in total, and after printing the images, mounting them on boards, and trimming the boards down, I was able to hang the show quickly. Lastly, I wrote and designed a supplementary booklet for the exhibition, giving background information for each piece.
While at The Carle I was also given the opportunity to help with other projects related to the Collections Department. I helped to measure original artwork for The Carle Honors auction, leant a hand with the final layout of an exhibition about the work of Fred Marcellino, and worked with Ellen Keiter to brainstorm a new design for the Eric Carle Biography wall, a permanent exhibition in one of the museum’s main galleries.
On Friday, August 7th, I gave a gallery talk presenting my final exhibit to the museum’s staff, and the response from my coworkers was wonderfully warm and supportive. I feel extremely proud of my work on “Alice Is…”. It marks my first foray into curatorial practice, and the experience was gratifying and enlightening. Working at The Carle was a truly wonderful, one-of-a-kind opportunity, and I'm so grateful to have had this incredible experience. I would like to thank Whitney Sherman and Stephanie Plunkett for their guidance and for helping to make this possible for me. And I want to express boundless gratitude to Ellen Keiter and Courtney Waring for selecting me for this internship, and for their tremendous help throughout the summer. Although I did not enter graduate school with the idea of pursuing a museum career, a new door into this has now opened for me. Thanks to my internship at The Carle, I feel that I can walk this new path with confidence.
Ashley Yazdani is a second year student from California in the Illustration Practice program at MICA. She has a lifelong love of picture books and children’s illustration, and a fresh new interest in curatorial practices. Ashley is currently working on her thesis, for which she is writing and illustrating her very first picture book: a narrative nonfiction story about the creation of Central Park in New York City. When not illustrating, she enjoys reading, going for hikes in the great outdoors, and savoring fancy coffee.