Museum Meets Residential Learning Communities
With funding from the REAL program, Kelsey Elinski ‘22 worked to bring art from the de Saisset Museum into residence halls on campus.
By Catherine Joy '23
The de Saisset Museum on campus is incredibly close to students living in residence halls—only a five minute walk from Graham Hall. However, former Community Facilitator (CF) Kelsey Elinski ‘22 (Art History & Psychology) is working to make art from the museum just a few steps away for students living in Graham and other Residential Learning Communities (RLCs) on campus.
Through the REAL program, Elinski was able to complete an internship with the de Saisset this past summer. Her time was centered around a self-named project– Museum Meets RLC, which “brings high-quality reproductions of artwork from the permanent collection of the de Saisset, relevant to the RLCy themes, into the Residence Halls.” It always surprised Elinski that so many students didn’t know about our on-campus museum, and believes “getting physical art in the residence halls will really make the presence known to first years.”
Elinski has loved art history for as long as she can remember, but never considered it as a major until the two-part Cultures & Ideas core course she took her freshman year: Art of the Indian Subcontinent. Even after declaring, it was still her “for fun” major, supplementing Psychology. Her courses at SCU have challenged her to think outside of the “Western art history canon,” exposing her to a diverse array of artwork from several different cultures and time periods. “As I took more and more classes, I realized that I didn’t want my Art History education to end with my time at SCU, and that’s when I started looking into museum careers,” Elinski says.
Due to the pandemic, Elinski worked a hybrid schedule at the de Saisset: she’d work from home off-campus doing research and organizing spreadsheets in the morning, then go into the museum later and discuss what she had done with her supervisor. Alongside Museum Meets RLC, she worked on several mini projects throughout the summer that helped her “gain an understanding of what happens in museums behind-the-scenes,” such as on-site work like handling art in the collections storage room and browsing through artist and exhibition files.
“It felt a bit odd with the building so empty,” Elinski recalls. “Instead of visitors staring at art, it was just me in an office staring at spreadsheets.” Unfortunately, the de Saisset was closed to the public throughout the duration of the summer. However, towards the end of her internship, Elinski was able to assist with the fall quarter exhibition, Metaphor, Myth, and Politics, which started when the museum opened back up to the Santa Clara community in September. She is grateful that Lauren Baines and Chris Sicat, de Saisset Interim Director and Exhibitions Project Coordinator, respectively, really valued her opinion when making suggestions for the layout. “That’s definitely the kind of encouragement I needed to know that I am capable of a career in this field,” she explains.
Elinski’s time at the de Saisset has solidified her hope to pursue a career in museum programming and education. After completing her REAL internship, Elinksi has stayed on staff as a student worker. “I have helped with current exhibitions at the museum including creating labels and social media content for the solo exhibition of artist Kara Maria,” Elinski explains. “I’m also working alongside a group of student workers to plan this year’s College Night at the Museum, which the de Saisset puts on every spring quarter.”
Elinski definitely recommends the REAL program to other students. “My internship at the de Saisset allowed me to develop a project based on my own interests, whereas internships at other institutions often have projects already in mind.” She is grateful to have combined many aspects of her on-campus lifed at SCU into one project– living in McLaughlin Walsh Hall as a first year, and then living and working as a CF in Graham Hall during her sophomore and junior years. The student culture and different themes of the specific RLCs “provide a great framework for selecting art to display,” she explains.
Miriam Schaprio’s The Picture God (1989) was chosen for Graham Residence Hall (Alpha RLC), and represents the community’s theme of innovation, integrity, and impact. Sister Corita Kent’s Enriched Bread (1969) was selected for McLaughlin-Walsh Residence Hall (Unity RLC), and represents their theme of civic engagement. Elinski hopes that the Museum Meets RLC project will be continued so that the artwork can be rotated every school year, and is hoping it expands to other RLC’s in the future.