Interview: Montana Flynn, Undergraduate Curator


Originally, my interest in the Tudor dynasty drew me to the Portrait of the Infanta displayed in the Art, Architecture, and Design Museum’s description of the opening reception for the “Duke and the Masters: The Sedgewick Collection” Exhibition (2014). The connection between the two is due to the possible identity of the Infanta pictured: Catherine of Aragon, first wife of King Henry VIII of England, prior to her marriage to the English monarch (Borobia, Mar; “Portrait of an Infanta, Catherine of Aragon by Juan de Flandes”). In order to learn more about this exhibition and a past Curatorial Intern’s experiences both during her time at the museum and beyond, I interviewed Montana Flynn, the exhibition’s undergraduate curator, via email. Below are my questions and her responses:

Portrait of an Infanta

“Portrait of an Infanta” by Juan de Flandes. 15th c. oil on panel, 12 x 8.5 in; The Sedgewick Collection of Old Master Paintings.

Santillan-Goode: What were your responsibilities during your time as a Curatorial Intern at the ADA?

Flynn: As a Curatorial Intern at the ADA I had two main responsibilities. Firstly, I conducted research for the main curator Elyse Gonsales. This included doing research on artists and pieces for upcoming shows, finding specific pieces in California, in addition to other small research tasks. My primary responsibility was curating the show Duke and the Masters. After my first two semesters as a Curatorial Intern, I did a semester as an Education Intern.

S: Who did you interact with as a Curatorial Intern?

F: I mainly interacted with the curatorial and exhibition teams and my fellow interns. That included Elyse, as well as the exhibition designer Mehmet. In the course of my internship I also interacted with various grad students, the entire museum staff, as well as various collectors who came to speak and who welcomed them into their homes to show us their personal collections!

S: If you performed activities for the museum outside of your required duties, what were they?

F: Outside of required duties I attended several museum events – bartending, helping set up and break down, and talking to museum goers. I also gave tours and attended the events of interns in other departments.

S: Is there anything you would have changed about your time as a Curatorial Intern?

F: If I could change anything I would have done it sooner. Being a Curatorial Intern was one of my favorite parts of attending college, and I wish I had done it before my Senior year!

S: How did you come up with the idea for the Duke and the Masters: The Sedgewick Collection Exhibition?

F: For Duke and the Masters, I was given the collection that I would be curating, but not the direction. That collection had been on display several times before so I wanted to show it in a new light. Historically, it had been displayed as a collection of Renaissance masters, with that as the focus. At first, that was going to be my focus, but when I heard the history of the collection itself and how it came to be owned by the museum, I decided that would be my angle!

S: Please describe the curatorial process for that exhibition.

F: Once I realized what I wanted to focus on, I spent a lot of time researching the Sedgwick family itself. Their family history, their troubles, reputation, etc. I also researched how they came to acquire the art, the history behind their collection, why they collected those specific pieces, and how they came to donate them to the museum. I chose my favorite pieces from the collection – not only the best of the bunch, but also the ones that had the most value to the Sedgwicks. I then wrote the wall labels, including not only typical information (title, artist, date, etc.) but when appropriate snippets including how the piece came to be owned by the family. I wanted to include not only not only the artwork they collected, but mementos of the people who had donated as well. I searched the library archives and found photos of Duke on campus and on the land he had donated to the school (the Sedgwick Preserve), and included those to round out the family history portion of the exhibition.

S: Is there anything you would have done differently if you could curate that exhibition again?

F: I learned a lot during that process, and if I could change one thing it would be my timetable, and my communication with all of the team members. Curatorial, exhibition design, and installation are all incredibly important parts of curating and exhibition, and there were moments where I should have been more involved. Collaborating with everyone on the team and making sure you are involved in every aspect of the process is invaluable, and unfortunately because of my personal schedule (I worked 4 days a week at the time) and because I procrastinated, I didn’t get to have a hand in some of the end of the process.

S: After graduating from UCSB, how has your time at the ADA influenced your professional life?

My time at the ADA helped me get a position at a creative staffing agency called Creative Circle. Although we do marketing, advertising, and creative (in terms of graphic designers, not fine artists), my experience in the art field, and the experiences I had during my internship, including helping with events, interacting with museum patrons and guests, definitely contributed to me getting a position as a Project Manager at my current company.

F: Have you or do you plan to continue working in the museum field? If so, in what capacity and has a specific (Master’s vs. PhD) post-baccalaureate degree been a critical credential?

I don’t currently have plans to continue working in the museum field. Although I would have loved to! Going to grad school is basically required, and I wasn’t ready to commit to that. I graduated in 2014, and in that time I managed to find a job that pays well and that I like!

-Julianna Santillan Goode, AD&A Intern

Works Cited
Borobia, Mar. “Juan de Flandes Portrait of an Infanta. Catherine of Aragon ca. 1496.” Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Web. 30 November 2015.
“Portrait of an Infanta, Catherine of Aragon by Juan de Flandes.” My daily art display. 2 July 2013. Web. 30 November 2015.

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