Art+History was an exhibition of commissioned artworks that reflect on the assembled histories of the Nightingale-Brown House. The exhibit featured the artwork of Carla Herrera-Prats and Jill Slosburg-Ackerman.
April 1 – October 2, 2009, open 2-5 PM Monday through Friday
Tuesday, March 31, 2009, 5:30-7:30 PM
John Nicholas Brown Center, 375 Benefit Street, Providence, Rhode Island
Free and open to the public
Art+History was an exhibition and community programming series about the processes of interpreting history. The John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage commissioned Carla Herrera-Prats and Jill Slosburg-Ackerman to make new artworks influenced by the physical and historical parameters of the Nightingale-Brown House. Built in 1792 and boasting gardens designed by the Olmstead landscape design firm, it was home to five generations of the Brown family and now houses the JNBC. By focusing on the interpretation of both the processes and products of making artwork in a historic location, Art+History explored what happens when new hands rifle through and re-fold the contents of a historic home.
The exhibit was curated by Meg Rotzel and Rosemary Branson Gill, graduate students in Brown’s public humanities M.A. program. The exhibit and related programs inspired conversation about how historical narrative is crafted while presenting a distinctive model for engaging audiences in historical sites and museums through contemporary artwork. In Jill Slosburg-Ackerman’s Import/Export, the artist reconfigured photographs, china, and stories from the Nightingale-Brown House in order to reflect on the overlaps, intersections, and disjunctures represented by the house and its collections.
Carla Herrera-Prats also used photography as a departure point in her piece, Keep the word vanishing until the end. Starting with the Brown family’s portraits, Herrera-Prats used the collection to research the uncharted history of the portrait studio. Her investigation moved beyond the house and asked what it means for a family to be remembered through portrait photography. Do we have a similar meaning today? Through questions such as these, the two artists used the there and then of the past to reflect on the here and now of today.
In addition to an art exhibition, Art+History was also a laboratory for re-thinking historical house interpretation, suggesting a way that historic sites and arts organizations can incorporate new voices and audiences in the creation of narratives about shared pasts. To those ends the JNBC conceived an interpretation program that targets children, teenagers, students, humanities professionals, and the general public. This programming included lectures (Fall 2008), a workshop series for young adults, the final exhibition, and elementary school tours.
Please note: We have made a few changes to the original text of the website to reflect that the exhibit is now over.