WCMA program, Works by Williams, proves successful

Works by Williams is a new program providing students with the opportunity to both receive compensation for and display their work to a wider audience at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA).

Michele Migdal, manager of the WCMA museum shop, piloted the program last year with the goal of making the shop feel more accessible to students. Students can submit works of art for consideration, and WCMA will print chosen works on various stationery and other objects to sell in the museum shop.

“Instead of trying to find products students would buy, I thought, why not make the students instrumental in what we offered for sale? We could create products that promote their creative work,” Migdal said.

Clover Powell ’16 greatly influenced the founding of the program during his summer internship at WCMA in 2015. While primarily working a greeting job, Powell would often draw behind the desk during his spare time. Michele took notice of his drawings and their potential, which gave rise to the idea for Works by Williams.

Powell’s fun, exquisitely rendered depictions of anthropomorphic animals on cards have been a hit at the shop. He’s done everything from a dog standing upright in what seems like an African print hoodie, to a dark, heavily worked pen drawing of what seems to be a foreboding Wild Thing à la Maurice Sendak.

In his statement for his pieces featured in Works by Williams, Powell said he wants “to talk about gender, sexism, racism, fashion, attitude, love and us human beings. I love us.”

Powell doesn’t say explicitly how old his cast of animals is, but it feels like the creatures are college-aged. They look, dress, talk, interact like us, which is what makes his drawings so comic and relevant.

Although the program originally centered exclusively around Powell’s drawings, Migdal has made efforts to expand and sustain the program by commissioning new students for their work. Angela Chan ’17, a photographer, and Neftaly Lara ’19, a printmaker, have been involved in the program. The museum shop has sold cards featuring Powell’s and Chan’s works, and Lara has transformed retired museum vinyl banners into vastly popular accessories that have sold out. Migdal finds Works by Williams extremely rewarding.

“[It has been great] to see the incredible talent we have here at Williams, and to give these talented students a vehicle to display and sell their work. The visiting public loves it as well,” Migdal said.

Powell is similarly enthusiastic, recalling the experience to as an amazing opportunity, and he hopes that more people will become aware of and participate in the program. Works by Williams is accepting submissions for new work, and interested students can submit work to Migdal.

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