Exhibition Project Proposal

Research Project Guidelines

Virtual Exhibition of African American Art from The Johnson Collection

Our class will work together to curate an exhibition of art by African American artists, using artworks that are part of in Spartanburg (primarily created in the 20th century). Each will select artworks to write about, conducting research about the objects and also utilizing art historical and critical race scholarship to interpret these works for the public. You will expand your discussion of these works in a longer research paper based on a related theme that you develop.

At the end of the semester, our final exhibition will be displayed virtually using , an online virtual reality software that will allow the public to view this exhibition, and read what you write about the artworks. You will also create audio guides so that visitors can listen to you discuss the artworks.

We are using only works from The Johnson Collection in our exhibition for two reasons. First, we have their permission to reproduce images of the artworks they own (allowing us to avoid copyright issues when posting images online). Second, I plan to borrow these works and install the exhibition physically in our Upstate campus art gallery in the future (not all of these works are available now, many are loaned out for other exhibitions).

Learning Objectives:

  • Develop skills of visual analysis, contextual analysis, and interpretation of works of art.
  • Develop the skill of writing for a broad public (interpreting art for broad audiences).
  • Demonstrate the ability to conduct college-level research by locating relevant scholarly peer-reviewed sources, and integrate that research into your writing.
  • Demonstrate the ability to revise your writing thoughtfully, responding to feedback to improve your final work.

Important Dates and Deadlines as listed in the Course Schedule:

  • Part 1: Friday, Jan 28 – Top choice list of artists/artworks due
  • Part 2: Friday, Feb. 25 – Rough drafts and sources due
  • Part 3: Friday, April 1 – Full Draft and Bibliography due*
  • Part 4: Friday, April 29 – Final Revised Projects due

All deadlines are by midnight. Submitting your assignments on time ensures you will receive timely feedback from me in order to move on to the next stage of the project. Remember that you may turn in these assignments up to 48 hours late with no questions asked, but you need to reach out to me if it will be any later in order to earn credit.

*The “full draft” is what most students would consider a final paper that you would normally turn in, where you have attempted to do all parts of the assignment but probably haven’t edited or revised it. I have you submit it several weeks before the end of the semester because many students submit incomplete work, or have not followed the guidelines. Turning this in early gives you the opportunity, and the time, to rework and resubmit the complete assignment without it significantly lowering your grade. The best approach is to follow instructions and ask questions to clarify from the start, so you don’t have to re-do the work.

The Basics:

This project has 2 components – 1, a research paper, and 2, “wall labels” that offer interpretations of the artworks to be included in our exhibition. The research paper will discuss these artworks in relation to a broader theme that you develop related to cultural, social, political, and/or philosophical issues.

The Research Paper

  • Structured as a formal research paper with introduction and thesis or essential question, supporting body paragraphs, and conclusion.
  • Makes an argument or pursues a compelling research question in an organized way, using both art objects and relevant sources as evidence.
  • Includes detailed visual and contextual analysis of multiple art works related to the theme—these artworks will include those in our exhibition, in comparison with other art historical examples
  • Focuses on how larger issues in society and culture produced the work, and how it interacts with the viewer. Does not focus on the biography of a single artist. Your role is to consider how the art works culturally, socially, historically, and politically.  
  • 1,000-1,500 words (about 4-5 double-spaced pages)

Artwork Wall Labels (these are basically like the wall labels in museums – they will be extracted from your longer research paper and condensed into shorter statements)

  • Interpretations—the ideas you express about the artworks and what they mean—are backed up with visual evidence and research.
  • Demonstrates visual analysis skills, describing the work and pointing to relevant features (both formal/stylistic elements and subject matter) that help viewers to engage with the work
  • Discusses the artwork in relation to its historical context, and relevant cultural and political issues that affected its production
  • Discusses the artwork in relation to relevant art historical styles or movements
  • Includes minimal biographical information, focusing more on the social context of the work.
  • 200-250 words each

All documents and resources that you need will be available in the “Research Project” tab on Blackboard. Look to the Project Checklist documents to be sure you complete all requirements for the option you choose.

Project Options:

Your project level should correspond to the grade you are aiming for in this class (if you are aiming for a B in the class, complete the B-level project).

Advanced – A-level

Students who choose to do the “advanced” project will write about 2 works of art for our exhibition, and must utilize more scholarly research in their papers, citing 3-5 peer-reviewed academic articles and books related to their topic. These papers and artwork labels must also be revised after the full draft is turned in to develop self-editing skills and to improve the quality of your writing and ideas.

Proficient – B-level

Students who choose to do the “proficient” project will write about 2 works of art for our exhibition, and must still utilize scholarly sources, but only 2 peer-reviewed academic articles and books must be cited in the paper. These projects require a completeresearch paper draft that follows all the guidelines, but students are not required to revise their papers beyond completion of the basic requirements. Students are required to revise their shorter artwork statements (wall labels) that will be displayed online.

Adequate – C-level

This is the option for students who don’t want to do scholarly research. If you don’t want to find and read academic sources, this option requires that you use reliable non-academic sources (such as museum websites, arts journalism available online, or textbooks). This level of research is adequate for course credit, but does not achieve the higher learning outcomes associated with scholarly research. C-level projects will involve producing artwork statements for our exhibition, but their inclusion in the final exhibition depends on their quality.

Learning Objectives:

Level Learning Outcome
Adequate Demonstrate the ability to follow guidelines, completing the assignment according to specifications in the checklist
Adequate Develop and pursue a research topic that is compelling to you by generating good critical questions, showing your engagement with course content.
Adequate Develop skills in visual analysis and comparison, contextual analysis, and interpretation of works of art in relation to the culture that produced them.
Proficient Demonstrate media literacy, the ability to find and cite reliable sources and distinguish between scholarly and non-scholarly sources
Proficient -Advanced Demonstrate the ability to conduct college-level research by locating relevant scholarly peer-reviewed sources, and integrate that research into your writing.
Proficient -Advanced Demonstrate the ability to revise your writing thoughtfully, to edit and improve your work, responding to instructor feedback

Getting Started

Step 1: Research Tutorial and Proposal (Week 3)

The first steps of this project are to complete a research tutorial in Week 3, and choose the artworks you wish to write about and include in our exhibition. The research tutorial is designed to help you navigate the library’s resources and find sources and scholarship to consult when you write about these artworks. You may already know how to conduct this research, but many students are unfamiliar with the resources, so I have provided a guide with links to help you accomplish the research requirements of this project.

You will submit a proposal form that includes your top choice of artworks you wish to write about, choosing from the Checklist of works by Black artists in TJC (The Johnson Collection).

Steps 2-4 will be drafts of your project in stages. After you submit your project proposal and you have been assigned your artworks, you will conduct research and begin writing about these works.

You will find the checklist of everything to include in these parts in the Checklist document for the option you choose.

**If for some reason, you would not like to be involved in this project, please email me and suggest a different research topic related to our course that you would like to pursue instead. I want you to be able to write about topics that are interesting to you, and you need not participate in this project if your heart isn’t in it.