Creating a unique historic exhibition for a unique major
It is rare to hear of a small school being the only place that offers a specific degree; however, alumna Angela Decker found her unique degree at Minot State University. Graduating in the winter of 2019, Decker majored in art administration, which is offered at MSU and no other school in North Dakota. It is a bachelor’s degree in science that includes operating and working with an art gallery, and exhibition preparation for a gallery in a museum. Along with gallery management, it also ties in work for nonprofit and museum management.
For her Senior Capstone exhibition, Decker chose a historic display of Stroud clothes items collected by the Minot State Native American Center. Stroud cloth was a wool textile from Stroud, England that was brought over to the Great Plains and traded for other goods such as buffalo robes and fur. Some of the objects that are on display are an elk tooth dress, a chief’s blanket, and a pair of leggings. She worked with Linda Olson, art professor, and Annette Mennum, Native American Center director.
“She did research into the objects [she chose],” said Greg Vettel, Northwest Arts Center director and art instructor. “She researched the correct way to display them, like looking into conservation, how to best display, (and how) to have the least impact on the object. Then she worked with Annette and Linda on the cultural construct in displaying them.”
Vettel added that Decker is one of the first art administration majors to capstone for that part of the art department in the Northwest Arts Center. There was one other student in the past who organized an art exhibition, which Vettel notes was different to Decker’s display in the sense that the other student was working with contemporary items while Decker was working with historic items. Regardless, Vettel highlighted that Decker sets an example for future students on what can be on display in the Northwest Arts Center.
“The degree is relatively new. I am not certain how she necessarily compares to previous students, but I think she sets an example for future students on what you can do and what’s achievable,” said Vettel.
Vettel highlighted that Decker was an excellent student when she attended the school and how she contributed to the school and art department, not only in art administration, but also in cataloging, research, and conservation of items, as well as preparation and care of artifacts for Minot State University collections and in her artwork.
“She brought a level of wit and hilarity to all the classes that she was in. She was very funny and a real joy to work with, both at the arts center here and having her as a student on campus,” Vettel said. “I know that other students also loved having her around and loved seeing not only what she would create, but then how she thought of what other people were working on in the critique sessions. I think what I will miss most is her humor and her good nature and willingness to approach everything with a fairly positive attitude and seeing humor in all of that.”
Along with her sense of humor and wit, Vettel also adds that she was a good student overall as she graduated with honors and how she was dedicated to her work, especially in the display.
“She worked very hard, too. She was dedicated,” said Vettel. “She not only did all of the preparation for these materials, she had people that helped in building the models, and she planned what was going to be in the case and how it was going to be organized.”
Vettel believes one of the ways she can be a role model for students is not only in dedication to classes and academic achievement, but also in terms of the art program with her capstone project. He said it is certainly something to look up to and it can be held as a bar for future exhibition preparation in the arts center. Decker can be an inspiration in her attitude, how she approached coursework, and her process of creating an exhibition.