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Museum Momentum: Fusing Intersectional Feminism and Art History

June 7, 2018

Portrait of Ashley Cope.

Portrait of Ashley Cope.
Photo by Jacob Van Blarcom, CLAgency student

Ashley Cope dreams of becoming a museum curator. She wants to create spaces for conversation around intersectional feminism and its relationship to art and art history and to bring attention to local and relatively unknown artists. It’s a grand vision, and she’s well on her way to achieving it, thanks to a world-class education, an internship at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Mia), and a scholarship to fuel those opportunities.

From Bulldog to Gopher: Transferring from UMD to UMN

Now entering her senior year, Cope is double-majoring in art history and gender, women, and sexuality studies (GWSS) at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She started college at the University of Minnesota Duluth as a history major. Her first history course covered medieval art history, and piqued Cope’s interest in art history. Later, she took a survey course on the subject at UMD with Robyn Roslak, which led her to switch her major to art history. She added a second major in women’s studies when she arrived in Minneapolis, citing the influence of her intro to feminism professor at UMD, who introduced Cope to feminist art history.

Ever since transferring to the Twin Cities campus, Cope has been blending both art history and women’s studies together to create a major she wants to pursue. She is currently working at the Center for Community-Engaged Learning, which provides opportunities for students to engage in off-campus experiential learning through community work and place-based educational programs. Cope combines her passion for intersectional feminism, community engagement, and art history into one.

Mia Fellowship

Cope is the second student to win the new Gabriel Weisberg Curatorial Fellowship. Professor Emeritus Weisberg established this fellowship to support exceptional undergraduate and graduate students completing unpaid internships at local and regional museums.

Cope took one of Dr. Gabriel Weisberg’s classes, and who became a mentor figure—aiding her in various independent projects. While interning at the Weisman Art Museum, Cope worked on an upcoming retrospective exhibition that Weisberg is curating and scheduled to open in 2020. Weisberg encouraged Cope to apply for the fellowship which she later received.

Cope interned at the Minnesota Institute of Art, working with the Department of Contemporary Art, specifically on the Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program (MAEP) which is dedicated to exhibiting and supporting artists living and working in Minnesota.

Under the guidance of Nicole Soukup, assistant curator of contemporary art and the Minnesota artist exhibition project coordinator, Cope worked on multiple projects. In addition to digging through the archives to find more information about previous MAEP exhibits, Cope assisted in the installation of renovations of the galleries.

A large portion of the internship was conducting research on local artists, interviewing a few, and then writing gallery labels for an upcoming exhibit and rotate the current ones in the larger contemporary gallery. Cope also networked with museum professionals, completed an article about Essma Imady, a current MAEP artist, and sat in on departmental meetings. Cope also sorted all the MAEP archives from 1975-2009, reorganizing all of them, making a database, and boxing them according to the Mia Library archiving system.

One Ticket to Montpellier, Please

Around the same time Cope applied for the Weisberg Fellowship, given her interest in nineteenth through twentieth-century French art, she applied for the Puffer Scholarship to go to France to enhance her language skills and interact with the museums there. She was accepted into the Learning Abroad Montpellier program for this summer.

Cope plans on staying in France after her program to travel around the country and visit museums. “[I want to] experience traveling and see art objects in person. The art history professors stress that it is very important to actually go and see things in person because it is very different compared to looking at it on the screen.”

Experience for Life

Cope was featured at CLA's 2018 Bright Lights celebration as a student with outstanding experiential learning. Watch the video.

Cope has received immense support from the professors and faculty of the Department of Art History. Given the smaller size of the department, there are more opportunities for hands-on experiences and one-on-one support. “I have gotten really lucky in certain ways by meeting the right professors and having the right advisors, and finding out about the ‘right experiences,’” Cope explains. “They're really invested in their students. I'm grateful for that—it helped me a lot.”

After graduation, Cope wants on focus on applying to graduate school while still building up her resume with museum or gallery jobs. She also plans on applying to a few East Coast New York programs or UC Berkeley programs, saying “Whatever turns out to be the best program that actually fits my future goals is really important to me.”

With the information she learns in school, Cope hopes to pursue a career that combines her passions for intersectionality and engagement with her interest in art history. Cope wants to gain as much experience as she can, building off each experience to apply to a future career working in the field and also bringing new ideas about how to present an accessible form of education to communities. 

"The experience that I'm doing now is working with local artists. This is an experience that I will be able to translate into my future career. Having all these experiences to build from and having a great network has been very valuable to me."

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.