Student Voices at the Kemper

The Kemper is such an incredible asset to Washington University because it gives those who seek them endless opportunities to get involved. As a senior at Wash U, I am beginning my fourth year as a member and now president of the Kemper Student Council, as well as my third year as a student docent at the museum. These two experiences have defined my time as a student here, as nothing excites me more than feeling like my voice is heard, especially when it comes to my passions: art and museums.

Scarlet Tanager performs at the KSC Vault Party on April 12, 2013.

Local band Scarlet Tanager performs at the KSC Vault Party on April 12, 2013.

The Kemper Student Council is a vibrant Student Union group interested in bridging the gap between the museum and the rest of the student body. We meet biweekly and discuss different ways to promote the exhibitions at the museum and get students as excited about art as we are, while also engaging with the greater St. Louis community. We have the chance to meet with staff members throughout the museum and learn what it is exactly that they do. However, the best part of the group is the chance to plan events by students and for students using museum resources and the guidance of the Kemper professionals.

Students look at artworks from the "vault" during the annual KSC Vault Party on April 12, 2013.

Students look at artworks from the “vault” during the annual KSC Vault Party on April 12, 2013.

As a member of the KSC, I feel like I am part of the museum staff when I work with them to allocate funds, hang up artworks, and advertise events. Each year the KSC tries to organize at least two events. In the fall, the event changes but in the past, we planned an environmentally conscious ‘happening’ using recycled materials, as well as stationed student-friendly activities at exhibition openings. Each spring, we plan our annual Vault Party, an event where we curate our own one night show, hire a band, and serve food and drinks to students and members of the community. Last April, we broke records with an attendance of over 250 people at the Vault Party! The best part of the night was seeing my friends and colleagues explore the artworks the KSC and I chose to be on view.

In my other role as a student docent, I work closely with the museum’s Education department and plan and deliver my own tours to groups of students and/or adults. It is so much fun to customize tours based on their needs. For example, with groups of kindergarten students, tours often consist of hands on work with brushes and palettes to understand the experience of making art. One of my favorite tours was when I discussed Max Beckmann’s “Artists with Vegetables” with a group of kindergarteners and got to hear all their ideas about what the artists could be doing in that room. It’s amazing how many of them picked up on the somber tones of the painting without knowing anything about its context! By carefully planning each tour with the Education department and then delivering them myself, I feel like I have a hands-on role in day-to-day activities at the museum.

Student docents lead tours for WUSTL parents during Parent & Family Weekend

Student docents lead tours for WUSTL parents during Parent & Family Weekend

As a student, the Kemper allows me to work with staff and act in the role of a museum professional. Every meeting and event I attend makes me even more excited about the museum, my field of study, and my passions. I am so lucky that I am so involved with the Kemper and can’t wait to master the new exhibitions opening this fall and begin promoting them this year!

By Anne Stanford (Friday, August 30, 2013)

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