Student integrates science and art in curating new Flaten exhibit
When Annelise Brandel-Tanis ‘14 applied to do an independent study, she never expected to have the opportunity to work with oceanographer-turned-photographer Chris Linder on an exhibit for St. Olaf College’s Flaten Art Museum.
An art major with a concentration in environmental studies, Brandel-Tanis initially proposed an independent study working on the theoretical practice of museum studies.
Instead, she was offered a position that has given her a hands-on role in actually curating an exhibit.
Brandel-Tanis has worked with Flaten Art Museum Director Jane Becker Nelson ’04 to curate River Doctors: Taking the Pulse of the World’s Largest Rivers. The show, which runs through April 2, chronicles the effects of deforestation, land use, and climate change on four major watersheds around the world — the Fraser, Kolyma, Amazon, and Congo river basins — and scientists’ efforts to study these effects.
Brandel-Tanis helped organize and prepare the show, with tasks ranging from coordinating email support, designing posters, and working on the layout of the exhibit to refining placards providing scientific background information and keeping in touch with Linder, an award-winning photographer whose work has been displayed in museums like the Smithsonian.
“I learned more about what it means to be a curator in practice than if I had done the independent study,” Brandel-Tanis says.
Her complementary interests in art and environmental studies made Brandel-Tanis the ideal candidate for this project, says Becker Nelson.
“There’s a societal tendency to draw a dividing line between science and art, but Annelise moves fluidly between the two fields,” Becker Nelson says.
In addition to the main exhibit in the Flaten Art Museum, Brandel-Tanis put together a display in Regents Hall of Natural and Mathematical Sciences. The corresponding exhibit, titled Local River Doctors, features the Cannon River Watershed Partnership, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the Cannon River and improving water quality in Northfield, Minnesota.
The Regents Hall exhibit showcases the work of St. Olaf students involved with the organization and features data on the local Rice Creek. Brandel-Tanis says one of her goals with the exhibit is to keep people up-to-date on local environmental issues.
“I want to push the connection between displaying in an art museum and in a scientific setting,” she says.
Brandel-Tanis has always been interested in how people educate and present knowledge about the sciences. This is something she says is really enjoyable about the interdisciplinary nature of environmental science.
“It’s like art in the way you get to take the concepts and work with them,” she says.