Cement, Systems, and Sun: A Student's Summer with the Wellin
Alex Fergusson '20
Photo Credit

Janelle Rodriguez

Cement, Systems, and Sun: A Student\'s Summer with the Wellin

Near the end of last spring, I was beginning to find myself in a pickle in terms of summer employment. After a few unsuccessful applications and skyped interviews at strange times (a product of being abroad) I saw an email from the Wellin asking if I would be returning to my Docent position in the coming fall. I have worked with the museum since the first week of my freshman year and could not fathom my life at Hamilton without the Wellin, so I began to respond saying I would return in the fall. Just before I sent the email, I figured I would ask about the chance at returning early to work over the summer. I had previously spent last summer on campus working for the school’s orientation programs and greatly enjoyed summer on the hill, so figured it would not hurt. Luckily for me, I received a response very quickly that there was an opportunity for me to come back to the Wellin when I returned to the country.

I was told via email that I would be working on a couple different projects for the museum, with a mention that part of the time would be spent working on an installation sculpture that would be featured in the upcoming exhibit for the fall. That installation became the center of my attention for the first three weeks of the summer as I worked with 6 other students, preparators, and the artist Elias Sime on a larger-than-life sculpture based on one of the Saunder’s Peonies from the root garden. Unfortunately, travel plans left me unable to make it to campus on time for a small orientation and beginning of construction but once I arrived I jumped right in helping the early stages of creation for the installation: ripping recycled newspaper into small pieces to be mixed into the hypertufa that would be used to cover the entire sculpture, chopping computer chips that would be added to the petal portion of the sculpture, cutting 4 inch diameter wood blocks to be used in a mold for the brass work of the arch in the piece. Once these preliminary tasks had been mostly completed, the crew began the work of applying the hypertufa mixture to the wire and wood frame built under a tent on the Selch Terrace outside of the Museum. Unfortunately, all of the other students working on the piece left after three weeks and so at that time I transitioned into the other work I was doing for the summer. That said, the piece was left unfinished, and I resumed working outside with a small group of preparators two days a week shortly after I originally stopped.

While not working on the installation, I shifted to a desk job inside the museum with a focus on conceiving and designing interactive stations to be paired with the exhibit the Wellin will be displaying in the Spring of 2020. Since 2017, the museum has made an effort to include an interactive aspect to the exhibit, which serves the double purpose of creating a space to display the senior art thesis final projects. I began this work by researching all 40+ of the artists that will have work in the show as well as reading some relevant books on the graphical representation as art and human comprehension of information (for why that is relevant, come check out SUM Artists when it opens in January of 2020!). I then met with Building Manager, Chris Harrison, to discuss the layout of the space and practicality of all the ideas I conceived of while researching the artists. Continued edits and thought went into the project, as more meetings came about, including discussions with Johnson-Pote Director, Tracy Adler, and new Museum Educator and Docent Program Supervisor, Marjorie Johnson. 

In addition to these primary projects, throughout the summer I have been asked to help out with various smaller tasks, such as touching up the walls of the spring’s WellinWorks space in preparation for Hamilton’s Reunions weekend, hanging paper stencils of pieces for Sime’s show to help with the planning of the exhibit space, and discussing the training process for new and returning docents. 

Sadly, the summer is drawing to a close and so is my time with Wellin in this capacity. I have spent this past week wrapping my part on the various projects and have begun to transition to the work I will be doing during the academic year, which will focus on engaging the campus community, as well as continuing to help with some docent training activities I have done in years past. Working here over this summer has granted me the opportunity to work closer with various staff members with whom I have not previously had the chance, something I have truly enjoyed. Though I am eager for the fall semester of classes to begin, I will look back fondly at my time at the Wellin this summer. 


Sculpture Students 2019

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