Tyler Students Curate “Charles Searles: In Motion”

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Tyler’s atrium is currently the backdrop for the “Charles Searles: In Motion” exhibit, a show curated by Tyler students.

The curators included Rachel McCay, Louise Feder, James Short, Nicole Restaino, Will Schwaller, Alicia Bonilla-Puig, Elise Houck, and Alex Cohn.

“It was interesting for me to participate in this project because I have never been a part of curating a small show, let alone a show that would be exhibited in a place like Tyler, with an artist like Charles Searles,” Cohn said. “I’m happy to have it as part of my Tyler experience. Everyone brought something different to the curation.”

Charles Searles (1937-2004) was an African American artist from West Philadelphia. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and then taught at Philadelphia College of Art, now the University of the Arts. The exhibit features Searles’ later sculptures and large-scale paintings.

The show was developed by undergraduate and graduate students who took Professor Susanna Gold’s exhibition studies/curatorial seminar course last fall. As a first year Master’s student in the art history department, this course was very appealing to Bonilla-Puig.

“[Professor Gold] explained that the students in her class would be organizing a show of the work of Charles Searles. As an aspiring museum professional, I knew this would be a great opportunity. I also thought this would be a nice change of pace from a traditional lecture class,” Bonilla-Puig said.

To create a successful exhibit, each student was given a specific role in curating the show.

“I created a 3D model of the Tyler Atrium and the artwork we selected for the show, so that we as a class could move things around virtually rather than actually when installing. It was nice to be able to see the show before it was even installed,” Cohn said.

Being able to participate in the curation of the show was very rewarding for the students involved.

“It was exactly the ‘hands-on’ experience that future curators need so that we can understand all of the facets of exhibition preparation and the range of curatorial responsibilities,” McCay said.

For Bonilla-Puig, the opening of the show was one of her favorite parts of the experience.

“Seeing the project fully realized was amazing and we’ve since received so many positive comments/reviews. In the end, both the show and the catalog came together very well,” Bonilla-Puig said. “I don’t think I could choose a favorite piece. They are all so fun and colorful, which is why I think so many people have said they enjoy seeing our show.”

“Charles Searles: In Motion” can be seen at the Tyler School of Art through June 16. Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

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