Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Welcome to hey, SMA!, my personal project for 2023-24, my second year as the museum programs intern at the Stanley. hey, SMA! is a video interview series with visiting artists designed to succinctly communicate their work and philosophies to a public audience.

If you know me, you know my Cinema major is a much stronger force in my life than my Journalism and Mass Comm one, but I decided it was time to face my fears and dig deep into interviewing for my project this year. I thought about what I would want to see as a patron of the museum, and a series of video interviews similar to the ones I’ve seen of my favorite musicians, artists, actors, and directors felt like something I would love to watch and something I knew I could produce myself.

As a non-art major working in an art museum, I know how hard it can be to understand some of the topics often discussed in museum settings. How many times have I heard the words “embodiment” or “ephemeral” and pretended to know what the speaker was talking about? This was my chance to have my own questions answered under the guise of “explaining complex art concepts to the public.” Surely, that’s what I’m doing in this project, but I consider myself part of the audience as well as the creator. 

Watch my interviews and read more about my experiences with each artist below! More videos will be added as they are released in the coming weeks.

Nnenna Okore: 

It’s been fun to relate topics of personal interest to the artists I’ve been meeting. As an ex-woman-in-STEM (I used to be a Sustainability Science major), it was super cool to discuss some of the art world’s sustainability issues with Nnenna Okore. What I’ve learned in sustainability courses has given me controversial opinions about some art practices, and it was gratifying to meet an artist who had a similar philosophy and uses her work to educate about eco-friendly art-making. We connected over my ever-present urge to touch art, something I constantly joke about at the SMA (please don’t touch the art at the SMA). Her work Spirit Dance, which hangs playfully in the lightwell of the museum, became so much more magical to me after our conversation.


Molly Jae Vaughan:

I interviewed Molly Jae Vaughan during her week-long residency this March, where she collaborated with UI students and community members on a garment for her ongoing work Project 42. It was amazing to watch this collaboration unfold as Molly and her volunteers designed, printed, and sewed a memorialization garment. In this interview, Molly discusses the impact of collaboration, the potential of art for political purposes, and museums’ role in expanding perspectives.




About Abbie McLaren

A photo of student Abbie McLaren, holding a camera.

Abbie McLaren is a junior double majoring in Cinema and Journalism and Mass Communication on the production/design track. She is also an active member of the Presidential Scholars Program as an events co-chair and is on the marketing committee for SCOPE. She enjoys taking photos and making videos, going to movies and concerts, cooking, running, and watching too much TV.

As the museum programs intern, Abbie assists with all aspects of public programming: making scavenger hunts and self-guided tours, shooting and editing lecture videos, putting events on the calendar, and everything in between. Her favorite part of her job is attending events and learning new things from the wide variety of speakers the SMA hosts.