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Because Hamiltonians Adapt


It would be their first joint show, a big moment for them personally and professionally in a productive relationship that goes back 15 years.

Jackie Brown ’04 first got to know Professor of Art Rebecca Murtaugh when Brown, new art degree in hand, took a job as a ceramics intern at Hamilton. She supported Murtaugh in her work with students; Murtaugh, in turn, was an invaluable teacher and mentor to Brown. 

“She helped me develop my portfolio and my practice, and she helped me apply to graduate schools and think about my next step. And she’s helped me pursue teaching as a career,” says Brown, who was recently promoted to associate professor with tenure at Bowdoin College.

As artists and sculptors, academics, and friends, they’ve talked about doing a show together, so when SEDIMENT gallery in Richmond, Va., invited them to do a joint exhibition of ceramic sculptures, they jumped in. Then the coronavirus pushed back. Their show was scheduled to open this month as part of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts annual convention, which was canceled. But the show was delayed, not derailed, and is tentatively scheduled to open late this spring, after some quick maneuvering on the part of the gallery and the artists.

“Instead of us both being able to travel down there and install the work ourselves, and spend time together on site, we’re both shipping the work, and the gallery is working with us to install the work,” Brown explains, disappointed but undaunted.

Murtaugh is hoping they’ll make it to Richmond themselves to see the show. Both are wrapped up in an unexpected creative challenge — figuring out how to remotely teach studio art. Murtaugh and her Hamilton art department colleges are developing plans, as are Brown and her peers at Bowdoin. Naturally, Murtaugh and Brown are turning to one another, in particular for sculpture, which they both teach this semester. 

“I think all of us, at least in sculpture, are trying to navigate what students can use in their home that they might not perceive as traditional art material. Because students can make art out of paper and cardboard and tape and found objects. They can create context and meaning and narrative,” Murtaugh says.

“Artists are scrappy,” Brown observes. “We’re resourceful, you know? We figure it out.  And that kind of resourcefulness is so valuable for students to cultivate.”

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