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Displaying Artists’ Stories

Posted on Jul 24, 2019 by in The OFI Blog |

2019 Benjamin Lawless Intern, Sofia Gerrard, behind a museum piece she learned to mount for display (Photo by Amy Lemon)

Sofia Gerrard is a rising senior at Shorewood High School in Washington State and the 2019 Benjamin Lawless Intern at the Smithsonian. Her memories of visiting the art museum in Honolulu, Hawaii as a young girl encouraged her to apply to be a Smithsonian intern.

“My favorite room at the museum was awash with yellow, a golden ottoman sat in the center, and paintings in a similar hue hung on the walls. To its left was the blue room, where an 18th century dress stood in front of a wall of blue and white Chinese porcelain.” These museum pieces generated fantastic stored in young Sophia’s mind. She was a princess or she was talking with Queen Liliuokalani.

“The paintings all gave me a story,” but as Sofia grew older she wondered if the stories she created in her mind as a little girl were what the artists had in mind. Probably not, she realizes now. However, the stories they tell through their art still has profound value.

Benjamin Lawless’s commitment to creating engaging and inspiring storytelling through a variety of mediums is what motivated Sofia to apply for the internship. His vision, “…spoke to my personal goals of expanding awareness and creating platforms for people to share their stories.”

For her Benjamin Lawless Internship Sofia was placed with Keith Conway, Exhibits Specialist and Mount Maker at the National Museum of African Art (NMAfA). His job is to create armature, mounts & prosthetic supports for museum artifacts. Under Keith’s guidance Sofia learned about exhibition mount finishing, artifact mounting, mount materials and fabrication techniques.

Sofia Gerrard and mentor Keith Conway inspecting a custom mount (Photo by Amy Lemon)

In order to make museum mounts as unobtrusive as possible, Sofia learned to paint the custom made mounts to match the museum objects.

Sofia painting a custom made museum mount (Photo by Amy Lemon)

Before starting her Benjamin Lawless Internship, Sofia was keenly aware that stories can be found in many places including letters, clothing, recipes and even math equations. Her experience as a Mount Finishing Intern broadened her storytelling concept even further.