Ole Achiever: Taylor Davis ’16

Taylor Davis ’16 at the Walker Art Center, where she works in the membership and development office.

Taylor Davis ’16 has always loved museums and contemporary art.

Davis, a Georgia native, spent Interim of her sophomore year in Manhattan meeting with curators, gallerists, and artists. That experience turned her on to the field of curation.

“It planted a seed,” she says, and so she looked for practical experiences to strengthen her curatorial résumé. As a junior, she interned at Boston’s Museum of Fine Art, working to ensure positive patron visits and helping with the museum’s educational programs.

As a senior art history major at St. Olaf College, Davis independently curated an exhibition in Flaten called Look Again: Expanding Feminist Possibilities. She researched, selected, and wrote about showcased works created by six women artists and one all-women collective, and was awarded distinction for her efforts.

“To be trusted to put on an exhibition and to be given the gallery space with the support of the Art Department was incredible,” Davis says.

It was so incredible that she wanted to do it again, so she proposed an idea to Flaten Art Museum Director Jane Becker Nelson ’04: create a postgraduate program for students interested in museum careers modeled after St. Olaf’s longstanding Fifth-Year Emerging Artist Program.

Becker Nelson was easily won over, and Davis became the college’s first Fifth-Year Emerging Curator. She spent a year preparing an exhibit of mathematically relevant art by outside artists for Flaten Art Museum and writing interpretive text for St. Olaf’s existing collection of similar works.

“To be trusted to put on an exhibition and to be given the gallery space with the support of the Art Department was incredible.”

The exhibit she curated, titled Seeing Math, is on display through January 15. It focuses on art that incorporates mathematical ideas and theories. Davis was inspired by St. Olaf’s existing collection of works that combine mathematics and art, which is supported by the Arnold Ostebee ’72 and Kay Smith Endowed Fund for Mathematical Art.

One of the artists in the exhibit, for example, “creates beautiful hanging Origami mushrooms around themes of interconnectedness and chaos theory,” Davis says. A Math Art Workshop will be held January 6 for math artists of all ages.

While working on this exhibit, Davis also interned at the Walker Art Center, developing content for a mobile app that guides visitors through the center’s sculpture garden.

“I’ve become more confident in my abilities as a curator, from proposing an idea to managing all the details of an exhibition,” says Davis, who now has a full-time job in the Walker Art Center’s membership and development office.

Becker Nelson says Davis’s future is bright. “I have no doubt Taylor will go on to do amazing things,” she says.