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Kelly Johnson, Class of 2012

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Studying French and art history allowed Kelly to find her critical voice

Studying in the art history and French departments at Southwestern allowed me to find my critical voice, and led to my continuing studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in the graduate MFA program for Curatorial Practice. To become a curator, the manager and interpreter of a collection of artwork, requires historical and theoretical knowledge about art, but also demands a creative, visionary perspective to establish exciting and relevant presentations of art to the public.
 
I’m currently developing an art exhibition with several women artists in the Baltimore/DC area who access and explore themes of healing and spirituality in their work. I’m interested in how audiences can use this art as a tool to facilitate their own processes of self-healing and creative construction of their life’s meaning. This stems directly from an independent study I completed with Dr. Aaron Prevots in my final semester at Southwestern, following the structure of a previously offered course, Écriture, Identité, which focused on contemporary French women writers including Hélène Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Sylvie Germain, and other influential French feminists.
 
For my final research paper in the independent study, I chose to discuss how writing and reading, especially of feminist discourses, can empower and guide individuals to decompartmentalize their lives and to reflect on the wisdom provided by their own lived experiences. I believe words and images are both powerful resources for self-understanding culturally and individually. The creation and sharing of these symbols of communication allows us to continue to grow and learn from one another. This process of being able to anchor intangible experiences in tangible linguistic or visual language was just one important realization I had during my experience at Southwestern, and an understanding that I aim to bring to my career as a curator.
 
I thoroughly enjoyed pursuing a French minor at Southwestern, with highlights in Dr. Francis Mathieu’s grammar and culture courses and Dr. Prevots’ French culture course. I felt very prepared when I studied abroad for a summer in the beautiful town of Arles in southern France, and I hope to return there in the future for their annual photography festival. I miss the close Southwestern community and campus very much, and encourage current students to take advantage of all the wonderful, talented professors and unique learning opportunities available to them, particularly in the Modern Languages and Literatures department!