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New student art fellowship to help document, preserve, ‘discover’ Austin Peay’s art collection

Katie Boyer with some of the photos she's working with this summer.

(Posted June 30, 2021)

Michael Dickins – director of Austin Peay State University’s The New Gallery – tries to spend time every summer working on the University’s permanent art collection.

This summer, he’s getting help from an Austin Peay art student, Katie Boyer, APSU’s inaugural Hazel Smith Summer Research Fellow.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for a student to have such hands-on experience of documenting, researching and handling works of art,” Dickins said. “It also helps me in fulfilling my mission of making the University’s Art Collection more accessible to the public.

“Katie came to us as a curatorial scholarship recipient this year and did such a great job, I wondered, ‘Hey, are you going to be here for the summer?’” Dickins said. “And now she’s getting paid to work with the collection. This opportunity would not be possible without the generosity of Mark and Martha Em Raby.”

A recent endowment from the Rabys made the new annual summer fellowship possible and provides an Art + Design student the opportunity to work with Dickins and the University’s art collection.

Boyer’s summer will include continuing the work she started last year on an online database for the University’s art collection. She’ll also document and preserve pieces stored in the collection while preparing newly acquired pieces for an upcoming exhibition.

The fellowship helps her to pursue a career in curatorial work after she graduates. She’s a graphic design major and a photography minor in the Department of Art + Design.

“This will allow me to harness all these things I’m interested in, the photography and graphic design, doing research and discovering these things,” Boyer said. “I definitely see myself doing this in the future.”

The Raby gift provides funding for the position each year, and Austin Peay’s Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts provides a matching amount.

Boyer works to catalog some of the University's art collection.

Online database and major discoveries

Much of Boyer’s previous work was on the online database, which will allow people to search for and view select pieces from the University’s Art Collection. After this summer’s project, Boyer will return to work with the online database, and Dickins hopes to open the database to the public soon. Boyer has added about 65 pieces, mostly pieces from the Nan and Jim Robertson Photography Collection and the Ned and Jacqueline Crouch Folk-Art Collection, to the database so far.

“We started with the photography and folk-art collection, getting some of those in, as we had good documentation of those pieces,” Boyer said. “With this summer’s work of documenting and updating our museum database, we’ll be able to add many more pieces online so people can eventually go in and see many of these great works that we have in the collection.”

While working with the collection this summer, Boyer and Dickins have made some discoveries. Those include:

These pieces were buried deep into stacks of flat files, and none of the works were accessioned into the University’s collection, but now they are.

“I’ve been working with the collection for seven years now, and I’m still baffled by the discoveries it provides us,” Dickins said. “This fellowship has allowed for the extra personnel and focus that is often not afforded to us during the busy-ness of the semester.”

Those pieces will join more than 125 other works that Dickins has accepted into the University Collection in the past five years. Selections from this grouping will be in a “Recent Acquisitions” exhibit set to open on Aug. 18 at The New Gallery.

A photo taken by fashion, celebrity and art photographer Albert Watson recently found in APSU’s art collection.

Endowments to honor Claudell Wootton, Hazel Smith

In 2019, Mark S. and Martha Em Raby made a generous donation to the Austin Peay State University Foundation to establish the Claudell Wootton Art Education Endowment, an endowed scholarship program benefiting APSU students. They chose to make their generous gift to honor the memory of Martha Em’s mother, Claudell Wootton.

In the late 1990s, they established the Hazel Smith Student Art Collection to memorialize Martha Em Raby’s great-aunt, Hazel Smith, and her contributions as Austin Peay’s first art instructor. They have continued to support this fund over the years. The money helps to buy a three-dimensional piece from the annual juried student exhibition each spring (the Hazel Smith Student Art Collection Award). This year Dickins used that money to buy Rebecca Martinez’s “Alejandra.”

Endowments are permanently restricted funds managed by the Austin Peay State University Foundation. The amount of each scholarship award may vary and will be determined based upon the value of the endowment and the Foundation spending plan.

To support APSU fundraising initiatives, contact the Office of University Advancement at 931-221-7127.

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