Rembrandt Exhibition Triples Museum Attendance

Thursday, February 14th saw the opening of Rembrandt: The Consummate Etcher and 17th Century Printmakers at the Carnegie Museum of Art. During the two-hour gala, over 150 Huntingdon citizens and Juniata students, faculty, and staff milled about the exhibition of Rembrandt’s prints.

“It is all about engaging people,” said Kathryn Blake, the museum curator, when asked about how ‘big name’ exhibitions interact with the viewers. “The Rembrandt exhibition, especially, is a good fit with the art history curriculum because art history classes will usually cover the 17th century.”

When asked about how the museum acquired the numerous prints, Blake said, “They are on loan to us from Syracuse University. These are traveling exhibitions that schools and institutions can borrow. Printmaking is interesting because of the process that goes into it. It is particularly collaborative; it marries techniques and uses variation in the etchings and the lines to affect the mood, light, and shadow.”

The museum gallery immediately to the right of the entrance showcased fifty borrowed pieces. The pieces were hand-picked in conjunction with students in a senior-level course, Museum Practicum. Blake explained that the Practicum course allows for “collaboration on technicalities like wall color, layout, order, and interpretation” while helping students fulfill their responsibility to the public of offering precise and engaging information.

“As a student, I love the hands-on work that Practicum allows me to do. The exhibition had a lot to do with the thematic and the social significance of the prints. There are genre scenes, landscapes, portraits…we have to pick and choose which ones to display by their relevance to the community,” said Sky Vance, one of the students in Museum Practicum.

Jennifer Streb, Professor of Art History, teaches Museum Practicum. Streb addressed the work that went into making the exhibition a reality. “We wanted this collection to supplement the Rembrandt in our collection,” she said, referring to the museum gallery on the immediate left, which holds a Rembrandt piece owned by Juniata. “My favorite part of creating the exhibition is working with the students. They work very hard under our guidance. They have been researching this exhibit since they got back to school in January. Although Syracuse University had their own labels for the pieces, I wanted the students to learn how to research on their own and create their own labels,” says Streb.

All of the labels accompanying the artworks were written by the Museum Practicum students to give them insight into the workings of curating a museum. The exhibition saw appearances from international students and faculty as well.

“I like how they showed the comparative copper plates for the prints,” said Jordan Person, Professor of French, amidst the din of people circling through the galleries. “It makes the art more relatable to the people who can see how it was made.” Person, a French citizen, further commented on the Carnegie Museum’s unique nature. “It is so relaxed here. It is quite different from the museums in France. Everyone knows each other so they talk more about the art.”

Person’s observation was astute-–the numerous attendees, ranging from ages 7 to 82, were immersed in conversation about the art pieces present at the exhibition opening. Over 60 people showed up to the exhibition within the first ten minutes of its opening. That is three times the attendance Carnegie Museum’s exhibition openings usually see.

When asked about the huge turn-out, Streb commented, “we do a lot of publicizing for these exhibitions. We only have two per semester. We want to see the faculty, staff, students, and community members interacting with the artwork. This is why we send out information through the Arch, the Altoona Mirror, the Daily Mail, WPSU, WKVR, and the Juniata website.”