Image from new Yager Museum exhibit, Sept. 2017

New Yager Exhibitions Explore Native American and Modern Art

September 19, 2017

Hartwick College’s Yager Museum of Art & Culture opens two new exhibitions this Fall. Along the Rails: Willard Yager, Native American Art, and 20th Century Tourism traces the 1913-14 rail journey of the Museum’s namesake through the Native American art and artifacts he acquired in the Southwest. In a Modern Vein: Contemporary Art from the Yager Museum Collection presents highlights of the Museum’s contemporary collecting over the past seven decades.

The Yager celebrates both exhibitions with a free public reception on Thursday, September 21 at 6 p.m.

Hartwick students developed Along the Rails last spring as part of the Museum Studies course “Creative Exhibits,” taught by Museum Coordinator Douglas Kendall and freelance exhibition designer Nisha Bansil. The students used primary documents from the Willard Yager papers in the College’s Paul F. Cooper, Jr. Archives to reconstruct Yager’s route and document where he acquired the Native American works that he shipped back to his Oneonta museum.

“Yager initially followed the route of the typical rail tourist of the day,” Kendall explained. “But he also went off the beaten path, visiting pueblos and acquiring pottery and baskets directly from Navajo and Hopi artists and artisans.”

Seven current and former students took part in the exhibition project: Carlie Doggette ’17, Arantza Orengo Green ’17, Emily Gutierrez ’18, Zsofia Polak ’18, Rebecca Smith ’17, Amelia Smollens ’17, and Karl Wietzel ’17. They tackled all aspects of exhibition development, from initial concept, budgeting, and collections research, through interpretive planning and design. Over the summer, Doggette and Polak assisted Bansil and the Museum staff with installation and marketing of Along the Rails.

“The Museum Studies minor at Hartwick gives the students real-life experience in museum operations,” Kendall added. “Whether or not they go into the museum profession, they gain skills that are valuable in complex projects of all kinds.”

“The chance to work on an exhibition at the Yager was a real privilege,” said co-curator Wietzel, now a first-year student in the Cooperstown Graduate Program, one of the nation’s leading programs for museum professionals. “It seems that learning while working towards a tangible end is often a rare opportunity at the undergraduate level. Fortunately, this isn’t the case at Hartwick.”

In a Modern Vein features works by major 20th century artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Alexander Calder, as well as many fascinating works by lesser-known artists in the Museum’s collections.

“The Yager is known for its Italian Renaissance works and American paintings by Rockwell Kent and Childe Hassam,” Kendall noted. “And we just concluded a very successful show of Warhol photos and screen prints. But the Museum and the College have been collecting contemporary works since the middle of the 20th century. This exhibition lets us highlight works by well-known icons of American art along with works by former Hartwick faculty members, regional artists, and other artists championed by earlier Museum curators and directors.”

Both exhibitions will be open throughout the 2017-18 Hartwick College academic year. The Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, noon – 4:30 p.m., when the College is in session. The Museum is closed Sundays, Mondays, College holidays, and when the College is not in session. Admission is free of charge.

For more information on the Yager Museum, these exhibitions, or the opening reception, visit the Museum’s website or Facebook page, call 607-431-4480, or e-mail Kendall at kendalld@hartwick.edu.