More than just painted ladies! Ringling Museum provides students with educational opportunities
It’s a fall afternoon in Sarasota and the locals are padding the crosswalk outside of the Ringling Museum. A young person, about 20-years-old, smiles at the gate guard who is turning them away from the front door. The locals are confused as to how this person has forgotten to put on shoes before heading to the museum. According to the guard’s face, this happens frequently.
Ringling and New College staffs have historically called on each other for collaboration for the benefit of both students and the museum. Thanks to this collaboration between professors and curators, curators at the museum frequently teach classes at the college.
“It’s almost like having your very own museum as part of the campus,” Art History Professor Malena Carrasco said.
The proximity and availability of the museum makes its collections indispensable for classes. Professor Carrasco, when teaching her advanced class on Caravaggio, a late 17th century Italian painter quintessential to the chiaroscuro technique, utilized the museum. Each student in her class picked a chiaroscuro painting on display in the museum’s baroque collection to research for the duration of the class and had to present on it.
For alum Francisco Perez (‘13) the adjunct positions that the college offers curators at the Ringling was fundamental for engaging in and learning more about their field.
“For instance I took Chris Jones’ Introduction to Photography and that was really important to me. Dr. McLendon’s Theory and Visual Culture class was perhaps the best class I took at New College,” Perez said. Dr. Matthew McLendon is the former Curator of Contemporary Art and Christopher Jones is the Curator of Photography and New Media. Jones is teaching another class this semester at NCF called Contemporary Photography focusing on curation.
“But the opportunities at Ringling are not just for Art History students,” Carrasco assured.
Former professor Margaret Konkol used the space for her Victorian Poetry class in the spring of 2016. At the end of the semester, each student picked a painting to write a poem on.
On top of taking classes by curators of the Ringling, Perez worked at the Ringling as a volunteer for all four years at New College. They started their first year working for the now Curator of Collections, Dr. Sarah Cartwright, who was a research fellow responsible for organizing the museum’s object files at the time.
“It was nice because sometimes I came across information relevant to my classes, which I used in essays,” Perez said. “There was a very real connection between my internship and my classes.”
Internships at the Ringling frequently call on students’ experiences outside of their work at the museum. Third-year Kaithleen Coñoepan had an internship that lead to her work as a permanent fixture in the new East Asian art exhibit. She interned as an Art Preparator, learning about soldering, woodwork, preparing for exhibitions, how to carefully handle art and deinstallations. Coñoepan remarked that her experience working at the Bike Shoppe was applied more often than she thought it would have been while interning at the Ringling.
“I worked with other art preparators at the museum and they guided me in each task. I didn’t expect for my actual work to be reflected in exhibitions,” Coñoepan said, “Some of the wooden frames that I helped build and stain were later used in their Japanese Bronze Culture exhibit.”
There is a way to engage with Ringling for all students. The Ringling has been nested in between New College’s two bayside campuses since 1971, when Caples Campus was created through a donation towards an environmental studies fund from of Mrs. and Mr. Caples. Ever since then, students have been walking across the grounds to and from these two campuses, as the grounds and permanent exhibitions are free for students to come and go as they please.
There are five gardens at the Ringling. The Dwarf Garden, Mable’s Secret Garden, the Millennium Tree Trail and the Museum of Art Courtyard. Mable’s Rose Garden, established in 1913 and restored in 1991, is the most striking of the five gardens.
“It is the oldest, continually maintained rose garden in the state of Florida,” Kevin Greene, the landscape superintendent at the Ringling said in a video on the museum’s website. There are over 1000 different rose bushes and over 300 varieties of roses. There’s even a rose named after Dolly Parton and Mable Ringling.
“I’ve done homework in some places at the Ringling and it’s nice to go to their rose garden when I have lot of things on my mind,” Coñoepan said.
“And I’ve used their library many times. Nothing can be checked out, but the books and written works they have is very unique and worth a look,” Coñoepan continued.
Their art library is also free and available to students. It is the largest art library in the southeast, boasting 70,000 items such as specialized art databases which include auction catalogues from the 1930s to the present, more than 100 journal/magazine subscriptions and a collection of rare books from the 1930s to the present.
To get involved with the museum’s internships opportunities one should ask their advisor for information on who to speak with, as internships are provided on an individual case-by-case basis. Those interested in volunteering must complete an online Volunteer Application, participate in a one-on-one interview with a Volunteer Services staff member and complete an orientation and training program. To visit Ringling for free, a student ID must be presented at the entrance. Unfortunately, shoes are always required.
Information for this article was gathered from various online interviews and ringling.com.