Visualizing the Liberal Arts

Project Website:

Program Associate:
Aisling Quigley


In March 2009, Carleton College received a three-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a new initiative called Visualizing the Liberal Arts (Viz).

From 2012

The Viz Program Associate position represents a microcosm of the initiative as a whole. Like the initiative itself, the position required interdisciplinary, cross-campus collaboration and was incredibly multi-faceted and far-reaching. The three main sections of the initiative were: exhibitions, staff support, and faculty support.  I compartmentalized my job duties among these three categories, though the lines between the sections were sometimes blurry – an indication of how the initiative succeeded in bringing departments and individuals together.

I subdivided my work even further to address the concerns of various departments. Within the exhibitions category, for example, I worked on curricular exhibitions in multiple on-campus venues: Gould Library, the Perlman Teaching Museum, and the Weitz Center (2011-2012).  Within and among these categories, my typical day consisted of various different tasks. To be honest, there weren’t many “typical” days, because my experiences varied so greatly. Some weeks were intensely focused on exhibitions (research, preparation, mounting, and installation) while other weeks were heavily focused on conference preparation.

I certainly experienced personal and professional growth during the two-year appointment. Initially, I was delighted to stay “behind the scenes,” doing research, organizing grant materials, taking minutes at the Steering Committee meetings, and developing the initiative’s website.  With the encouragement of faculty and staff involved in the initiative, however, I had the opportunity to gain confidence in my ability to contribute to meetings and play a significant role in the initiative.

During the summer of 2011, I collaborated with Laurel Bradley in designing and organizing a faculty/staff curatorial workshop. I collected materials and thus expanded my own understanding of exhibitions. I also developed an accompanying website that lay the groundwork for documenting future workshops.

With the opening of the Weitz Center for Creativity, I assumed a managerial role in three new, blank-walled rooms. I prepared promotional material for the spaces, coordinated the construction of new cases with Victoria Morse, Susan Jaret McKinstry, and Margaret Pezalla-Granlund, and purchased a cart and rudimentary installation tools in consultation with other exhibition specialists. Throughout the academic year, I advised students and faculty on the use of the spaces, and assisted with the preparation and installation of curricular exhibitions in the rooms.

I expanded my pedagogical role by organizing and leading or co-leading workshops for faculty, staff, and students during the 2011-2012 academic year. I helped organize and fully documented the Winter Break workshop in December 2011, led a label-writing workshop for students in February of 2012, co-led a workshop on InDesign formatting in March, and presented at the “Visual Learning: Transforming the Liberal Arts Conference” in September.  During this final year, I also sat on the search committee for a temporary Art Collection Database Specialist and attended a training session on the EmbARK database.

My position culminated in taking a major role in the organization and coordination of a national conference at the Weitz Center, “Visual Learning: Transforming the Liberal Arts.”  The conference was an incredibly rewarding experience. I created a lively conference website, including pre-conference newsletters and participant pages, met professionals from various institutions and fields, and was delighted to discover the similarities between our initiative and current projects at colleges and universities throughout the United States. I enjoyed witnessing and documenting presentations and conversations shared at the conference.

Finally, I am converting our expansive website into a navigable, long-term resource for future projects. Although the website will no longer be actively maintained, it is our hope that the exhibitions and assignment archives, as well as the grant documentation and exhibition-planning pages, will serve to help future proponents of visual learning.