<h4><em>Stanford students bring new insight to a Cantor Arts Center space<\/em><\/h4>\r\n<blockquote><em>I wanted to show visitors that contemporary African art is incredibly diverse in its formal and conceptual goals.<\/em>\r\n\r\n<em>\u2014Tabitha Walker, '18<\/em><\/blockquote>\r\nMuseums foster conversations between the work on display and its audience. To\u00a0keep the conversation going, museums must change over time.\r\n\r\nStanford\u2019s\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/museum.stanford.edu" target="_blank">Cantor Arts Center<\/a>\u00a0advanced the artistic conversation this spring when\u00a012 undergraduates reimagined part of its African galleries in a class taught by\u00a0Catherine Hale, the Phyllis Wattis Curator of the Arts of Africa and the Americas\u00a0from 2014 to 2016.\r\n\r\nThe exhibition,\u00a0<em>African Artists as Innovators<\/em>, opened in spring 2016. It focuses on the\u00a0artist as maker, an individual with universal and relatable concerns about society,\u00a0the environment and his or her artistic inheritance. It prefaced the Cantor\u2019s\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/museum.stanford.edu\/news_room\/Cantor_Fall.html" target="_blank">major\u00a0reinstallation of many other galleries<\/a>\u00a0around Stanford\u2019s art history curriculum.\r\n<blockquote>Taking a closer look at everything from the language of the labels to the paint color,\u00a0our class attempted to create a more welcoming African gallery \u2026 relevant to the\u00a0Stanford community and reflective of the vibrant art scene in Africa today.\r\n\r\n\u2014Katherine Evers, \u201916<\/blockquote>\r\nIt\u2019s rare for undergraduates to redesign a permanent museum exhibition, even at\u00a0Stanford, a leader in experiential learning.\r\n\r\nStill, Hale believes that giving such responsibility to young people of the diverse\u00a0backgrounds, majors and aspirations as took the class is key to making museums\u00a0more relevant to more people today.\r\n\r\n\u201cI wanted to start a conversation with the Stanford community on how we exhibit\u00a0African art,\u201d said Hale, who now builds interdisciplinary arts programs as curator of\u00a0the Creative Campus Galleries at Sheridan College\u00a0in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.\r\n\r\nIn the Stanford course <em>Art History 278:\u00a0Curating Africa: Anatomy of an Exhibition<\/em>, Hale assigned pairings of art works and asked students to tease out the parallels\u00a0between them. She asked them to plan all aspects of the new exhibition: researching\u00a0the works and writing the labels, choosing the wall colors, the typefaces, even the\u00a0design of the cases.\r\n\r\nIn so doing, the students replaced an installation that they thought represented\u00a0Africa in stereotypical ways.\u00a0They swapped adobe-colored walls for white and light gray that make the art easier\u00a0to see and spotlight its formal brilliance. They gave the space a graphic identity\u00a0congruent with that of the Cantor\u2019s other galleries.\r\n<blockquote>The stark color contrast to the rest of the galleries was a problem for us \u2013 we didn\u2019t\u00a0want African artists to be isolated or worse, patronized, for something as seemingly\u00a0insignificant as paint color.\r\n\r\n\u2014Tabitha Walker<\/blockquote>\r\nBy juxtaposing works made as early as 4500 BCE and as recently as 2012 \u2013 from\u00a0across the continent as well as its diasporas \u2013 the new exhibition highlights the rich\u00a0history of innovation in African art.\r\n\r\nArt history major Tabitha Walker, '18, researched contemporary Ghanaian painter\u00a0Ablade Glover\u2019s\u00a0<em>Red Townscape II<\/em>.\u00a0It hangs in juxtaposition with a Ghanaian kente\u00a0cloth, a traditional, labor-intensive textile. Walker invites the viewer to see how\u00a0Glover invokes the industry, vibrancy and symbolic weight of kente in his depiction\u00a0of a busy Ghanaian market.\r\n<blockquote>The [old] labels had a tendency to tell stories of the cultural significance surrounding\u00a0some of these objects, often overshadowing the fact that creative and innovative\u00a0artists were behind them.\r\n\r\n\u2014Akua Oduma Nyarko-Odoom, '18<\/blockquote>\r\nOne case in the new exhibition pairs a predynastic Egyptian black-topped redware\u00a0vessel, more than 6,000 years old, with a piece by contemporary Kenyan ceramicist\u00a0Magdalene Odundo, who had visited the museum in 1976 and been inspired by\u00a0these ancient vessels. A new take on an ancient technology, Odundo\u2019s work, with its\u00a0faintly anthropomorphic shape, also invites speculation on the nature of beauty and\u00a0womanhood.\r\n\r\nPremed student Akua Oduma Nyarko-Odoom, '18, who researched the ceramic pairing,\u00a0went on to study ceramic techniques in Ghana under a\u00a0<a href="https:\/\/undergrad.stanford.edu\/advising\/student-guides\/sophomores-only-chappell-lougee-scholarship" target="_blank">Chappell-Lougee Scholarship<\/a>,\u00a0awarded to fund full-time immersive projects in the humanities, creative arts or\u00a0qualitative social sciences in the summer after sophomore year.\r\n\r\n\u201cI\u2019d grown up seeing African art in my home and in the homes of relatives, but never\u00a0really knew where to begin talking about it,\u201d Nyarko-Odoom said. \u201cThough this class\u00a0does not align with my primary course of study, I\u2019m so grateful to have had the\u00a0opportunity to take it because I learned so much.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe gallery\u2019s centerpiece is a monumental installation,\u00a0<em>Uwa<\/em>, by Ghanaian-born El\u00a0Anatsui in 2012 and on extended loan to the Cantor. Anchored by a sphere made\u00a0largely of bottle caps and other discards of industrialized society, it invites\u00a0contemplation on the creation and destruction of the world.\r\n<blockquote>What does it mean to be an African artist? Do you have to have been born on the\u00a0continent? Do you need to at least be a member of and reflect the diaspora? Or do you\u00a0have to be influenced by it? Is there authenticity to tourist art, art that can easily be\u00a0reproduced?\r\n\r\nThere are so many questions this exhibit has the potential to trigger, and\u00a0I\u2019m excited to see how, in the coming year, people react and engage.\r\n\r\n\u2014Akua Oduma Nyarko-Odoom<\/blockquote>\r\n<em>African Artists as Innovators<\/em>\u00a0is on extended display in the Thomas K. Seligman Gallery on the museum\u2019s first floor.\r\n\r\nLearn more about the deep collaborations the Cantor Arts Center offers to Stanford students, including the <a href="http:\/\/museum.stanford.edu\/contactus\/CantorScholars.html" target="_blank">Cantor Scholars program<\/a>.\r\n\r\nLearn about past Cantor Arts Center exhibitions curated by Stanford students, including <a href="http:\/\/museum.stanford.edu\/contactus\/CantorScholars.html" target="_blank"><em>Oasis of Glass<\/em><\/a> and <a href="http:\/\/125.stanford.edu\/revisiting-fateful-battle\/" target="_blank"><em>Contemporary Perspectives on the Battle of the Little Big Horn<\/em><\/a>.