MA Studentship with York Art Gallery: Genevieve Stegner-Freitag (2019-20)
Genevieve Stegner-Freitag was awarded the 2019-20 Friends of York Art Gallery Research Scholarship, which provides a bursary and an internship at York Art Gallery.
Here, Genevieve talks about her experience working with the Gallery through a six-month period that encompassed time both before and during the pandemic, including work on two Gallery exhibitions, Views of York and Yorkshire and the virtual Views of York.
During the 2019-2020 academic year, I received the Friends of York Art Gallery Graduate Student Bursary and Internship with the York Art Gallery (YAG). In my application for this placement, I created a research project on YAG's York Minster prints from the W. A. Evelyn Collection. This inspired Views of York and Yorkshire, a YAG exhibition which highlighted works from the gallery’s permanent collection.
Views of York: Exploring York through the York Art Gallery Evelyn Collection utilises the gallery’s holdings for a lasting virtual exhibition. This show, found here, examines the changing attitudes and visual representations of York by British artists from 1795 to 1825. It reflects on changing economic policies (such as the Enclosure Laws) and other major political events (like the Napoleonic Wars) and their relationship to visual representations of York.
In the first few months of my placement, I investigated the history of the Evelyn Collection and generic art styles used in the prints made by artists like James Basire, Henry Cave, Sophia Nicholson and C. Stanfield. Because of YAG's extensive holdings, I spent most of my early time in the Gallery examining the Collection through Adlib - a collections management software - and in the art store. I felt really excited when Dr Beatrice Bertram (Senior Curator) and Fiona Green (Collections Facilitator) invited me to curate a section of Views of York and Yorkshire, enabling me to utilise my growing expertise on Georgian and Victorian prints of York. I saw the many steps of the curatorial process via this opportunity. Catering to a diverse public audience, I learned how to alter my writing style (and do some edits on my virtual exhibition) to create educational resources for the show. Working under Dr Bertram was the highlight of my internship because of her guidance and her willingness to include me so actively in the curatorial process.
With the pandemic, my time at YAG veered in a new direction. I devoted more time to researching the history of Northern England. This research contributed to my understanding of why artists opted for Picturesque, Realist or Topographical styles in their artworks – connected to changing taste and social commentaries on economic inequalities and regional differences. At this time, I was also included more heavily in the curation of Views of York and Yorkshire. This show, initially planned for a smaller space, was moved to the larger Madsen galleries after COVID restrictions altered existing plans for incoming exhibitions. More wall space needed to be covered, allowing a greater breadth of works to be included and more flexibility with curation.
I initially designed my project to be about York because I knew virtually nothing about the city before attending the University of York. While I did not enter the city centre for nearly five months during the initial lockdown, I found that both exhibitions brought me closer to the city and provided comfort, as the prints also seemed to do for audiences in the early 1800s.
After attending staff meetings and spending time with people across different departments, I left YAG with an extensive understanding of how a gallery functions and the collaborative spirit that leads to successful exhibitions. I am grateful to YAG and the Friends of York Art Gallery, particularly Becky Gee (Curator of Fine Art) and Professor Charles Martindale (Chair, Friends of York Art Gallery), as well as for their support and guidance.