Art History Majors Make History

Art history graduates Lauren Stein ’23, Maggie Walter ’23, and Annika Singh ’23 joined forces to create the first student-led art exhibit at Santa Clara’s de Saisset Museum.

Art History Majors Make History
Lauren Stein ’23 and Maggie Walter ’23 in front of Santa Clara’s de Saisset Museum, presenting their student-led June Wayne art exhibit. Photos provided by Walter.

Not only were Lauren Stein ’23, Maggie Walter ’23, and Annika Singh ’23 the only three art history graduates in their senior class, they were also the first three students in Santa Clara history to fully lead an art exhibit for the de Saisset Museum.

The exhibition, “June Wayne: Artist, Feminist, Social Entrepreneur,” organically grew out of Stein and Walter’s senior capstone project, which involved researching and writing two papers on the legacy of female lithographer, June Wayne. The two quickly became fascinated with Wayne’s unwavering dedication to reviving the medium of lithography—a printmaking process where a design is drawn in reverse on stone and affixed by a chemical reaction.

“We want viewers to walk away from our exhibit being inspired not to take no for an answer when pursuing their dreams,” says Stein. “June Wayne lived as a woman in a time when there were not many opportunities for her; she had to create a name for herself. She refused to pigeonhole her art into one style or theme but rather used her art to express her lived experiences.”

After being interviewed by Stein and Walter for their capstone, Robert Conway, the author of the late Wayne’s annotated catalog, offered to loan them pieces for their senior project. There was not enough time to incorporate the additional work into their capstone, but between the loan offer and an opportunity in the de Saisset’s calendar, the museum asked Stein and Walter to curate the exhibit.

With the new influx of artwork, Stein and Walter spent the rest of their senior year working alongside Singh, an art preparation assistant for de Saisset and fellow art history major, to create a full-fledged exhibition displaying 26 of Wayne’s lithographs for showcase in the fall of 2023. 

“It’s crazy how fast all of this came into fruition, none of us knew this exhibition was going to happen until March of 2023,” says Walter. “This was not on my senior year itinerary at all, but I’m so grateful that it happened. It was such a fast-paced, fun process that we gave our all. Beautiful and great chances brought us together, it went from a capstone project to this huge showcase.”

On a day-to-day basis, along with curating the entire exhibit layout, Stein and Walter used their research to write informative descriptions for each showcased piece of art, as well as created an interactive portion where visitors can experience how intricate the lithographic process truly is. Moreover, Singh helped with the art installation side, as well as graphically designed Stein and Walter’s research and writing into a printed catalog to share Wayne’s story with a wider audience.

The Lithograph Base Pair by June Wayne.
June Wayne, Base Pair, 1970, Lithograph, de Saisset Museum permanent collection, Santa Clara University, Gift of Robert Conway 2014.12.12

“I hope Santa Clara keeps offering this opportunity to other art students because it’s such an invaluable real-world application,” says Singh. “In the humanities, it’s often difficult to explain how valuable your skills truly are to employers. Working on this exhibit and this catalog has given me tangible work experience and skills that I will carry with me forever.”

Stein, Walter, and Singh all share immense gratitude for the faculty and staff of Santa Clara’s Department of Art & Art History, the de Saisset Museum, and the Ciocca Center for the opportunity to professionally showcase their work, specifically Professor Andrea Pappas, de Saisset Assistant Director Lauren Baines, and Exhibitions Project Coordinator Christopher Sicat.

“After curating this exhibit, I really learned what my vocation is and I’ve gotten a better sense of my identity and what I want to do with my life. I’ve had many internships throughout college and all of those strictly felt like work,” says Walter. “Getting to collaborate with such amazing bosses and driven individuals on a shared passion has been life-changing. I now know what a job’s supposed to make you feel like, I know I want it to have meaning.”

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Lauren Stein ’23 and Maggie Walter ’23 presenting their work at the de Saisset exhibit reception.
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