Whitney Overocker '09 Sets Sights on Venice

Whitney Overocker '09 on Venice's Grand Canal.
Whitney Overocker '09 on Venice's Grand Canal.
The car ride from Albany to Boston was long, but worth it. As a 10-year-old, Whitney Overocker ’09 joined her mother on a trip to see a Claude Monet exhibition. Overocker remembers admiring the resplendent light that Monet cast on lily pads and haystacks and the Notre Dame cathedral. Her childhood awe transformed into an academic interest in the history of art when she took a class on Renaissance Art with John and Anne Fischer Professor in Fine Arts John McEnroe. Overocker is interning this summer at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (PGC) of Modern Art in Venice, Italy. 

The PGC is affiliated with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York City, which also operates art museums in Berlin, Germany and Bilboa, Spain. The Collection is the most important museum in Italy for early 20th century European and American art. Following American art collector Peggy Guggenheim’s death in 1979, the PGC was inaugurated in 1980 and presents her personal collection, along with masterpieces from the Gianni Mattioli Collection and the Nasher Sculpture Garden. It is housed in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, Peggy's original residence on the Grand Canal. 

Overocker’s day begins at 9:30 a.m., half an hour before the museum opens. In that time, she does a lot of maintenance work, taking the protective ‘pajamas’ off of the framed works, washing windows, and cleaning sculptures in the garden. Later in the day, she sells tickets and catalogues, mans the cloak room, and guarding the galleries. She also exercises her knowledge of art history on a weekly basis by giving tours on the life of Peggy Guggenheim, the new showcase called Robert Rauschenberg: Gluts, the 100th Anniversary Exhibition of Italian Futurism, and the permanent collection of Peggy Guggenheim. 

Her work got slightly more hectic during the first week of June, which was the 53rd Venice Biennale, one of the world’s foremost contemporary art exhibitions. Every day that week, interns were required to work from as early as 8:30 a.m. to as late as midnight, organizing and leading special events. But the opportunity to immerse herself in exciting, sumptuous new creations was just as rewarding as her trip to Boston as a young girl. 

“[It gave me] the opportunity to walk around the pavilions of more than 70 countries and witness the coming together of patriotism and art,” she said. She also describes a visit to Milan which included shopping at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and ornate collections such as the Triennale Museum of Design and the Pinocoteca di Brera. “I felt at home.” 

Overocker interned for two months in the Exhibitions department of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. last summer, but this is her first internship that Hamilton has sponsored. Because her prospective job was unpaid, she needed to search for a way to support herself financially while working in a field that would give her practical experience and education. She applied for and received the Richard and Patsy Couper Grant, which is given to students whose interests lie in library science or museums. 

As a recent graduate with honors in art history, Overocker aspires to go to graduate school. She eventually wants to work as a curator of Modern art. During her four years at Hamilton, she tutored Italian and interned for the Department of Education at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute in Utica. She says she feels honored and privileged to be working at the PGC, a job that confirmed her abiding passion for art. 

-- by Allison Eck '12
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