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Mentoring Students

May 14, 2021
woman standing beside shadow box on wall
Nichole Wolz next to her artwork Naturally Artificial in the 46th Annual Juried Student Exhibition. (Courtesy photo)

The UW Art Museum offers opportunities for students to learn, grow and create. 

By Michelle Sunset, Assistant Curator 

The University of Wyoming Art Museum provides more than art-viewing experiences for students. As an academic museum first and foremost, the Art Museum hires and mentors cohorts of student employees and also organizes the Annual Juried University of Wyoming Student Exhibition. Both behind the scenes and on the front line, student employees accomplish important work at the museum. Upon entering the Centennial Complex, you might be greeted by Drew Yerkovich of Green River, Wyo., or Finn Jackson of Cody, Wyo., at the front desk. They are just two of six student employees working on projects integral to the museum’s mission, most of whom work with Collections Manager Dara Lohnes-Davies. This semester’s cohort of student collections assistants also includes Emma, Isabel, Nichole and Ki.

Emma Comstock of Lander, Wyo., is a history major who has always loved genealogy and being the keeper of her family’s stories. She is one of the rare students who arrived at UW knowing that archives work was in her future, and she is currently working with the museum’s institutional history records.

Isabel Leininger of Green River, Wyo., is a Bachelor of Fine Arts candidate who has been working on a number of collections management projects, including sorting the museum’s databases. She has grown increasingly interested in pursuing collections management work in the future, remarking that “being an artist is important, but collections management is just as important.”

Nichole Wolz of Wright, Wyo., is fully immersed in the Art Museum as both a collections assistant for the past two years and an exhibitor in the student exhibition for the third consecutive year. Initially fulfilling an internship requirement for her museum studies minor, she has worked on several projects. One of her favorite tasks is writing descriptions for objects in the museum’s collection, of which she has written 334 entries to date. Entering the juried student exhibition has helped the studio art major realize her work is legitimate and given her the confidence to submit her artwork elsewhere. Most recently, she was accepted into the Remarque print show and portfolio exchange in New Mexico. She will also represent UW by showcasing her work in collections at this year’s American Alliance of Museums conference in June.

The museum’s newest employee is Ki Radcliffe of Bentonville, Ark., who is assisting with the Rapa Nui scanning project in partnership with UW Libraries.

In 2021, the annual juried student exhibition celebrated 46 consecutive years of building students’ confidence and résumés while showcasing the artistic talent of UW. The Art Museum selects a juror from outside Wyoming and invites students from all departments across campus to submit their artwork. This year, the exhibition included 49 artworks by 35 artists. During the spring opening and awards ceremony, the museum presented over $12,000 in awards provided by UW administration, departments, individual donors and businesses.

The Art Museum is grateful for its student employees and the important work they do. Many in the past have attended graduate programs in museum studies and are now working successfully in the field. Dara Lohnes-Davies began as a student employee at the museum. She then studied at the University of Leicester and has brought her knowledge and skills back to Wyoming as the Art Museum’s collections manager. Former student employee RJ Lara became the first UW student accepted to the prestigious Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, and he is now the executive director at the Stanley Home Museum in Estes Park, Colo. With so many impressive alumni, we look forward to seeing the future accomplishments of this current cohort and to continue to work with UW’s talented students.

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