Social Media, Technology, and Art Merge Together at the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art

Image Credits: John Peralta, Anyssa Dominguez, Michelle Whipple

The Bay Area is known as a major hub of technology with technology magnates like Apple and Google calling Silicon Valley home. Facebook’s campus is in Menlo Park, Pandora has its headquarters in Oakland, and Twitter calls San Francisco home. With an infusion of technology and social media companies in the Bay Area, it’s no wonder that one of the newest exhibits at the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art merges social media and technology with visual art.

Opening on Feb. 14, 2016 and running through April 24, Instagael is a Student Instagram Exhibit. The exhibit was the brainchild of Museum Administrator, John Schneider. Schneider said the inspiration came from promotional materials mailed from international auction houses. "We received a piece from artist Richard Prince who created an exhibit by taking different people’s Instagram photos and curating a show," he said. Schneider thought why not do a student exhibit like this at Saint Mary’s? The hardworking student workers of the Museum provided critical know-how and experience to make the vision a reality. Schneider believes it is “one of the best cooperative efforts between students and staff the Museum has ever had.” AnaKarina Castrillo '16 is receiving course credit for her work as a co-curator on the project as part of an independent study in the Art Department.

On campus, a massive campaign was launched to collect student Instagram photographs with the best to be featured in the exhibit. Submissions were accepted from Oct. 18 to Dec. 18 and the Museum received hundreds of submissions from undergraduate and graduate students. Students were asked to submit two different images; one for consideration under an artistic category, and one for a creative category. The best submissions were selected, resized, and framed (in an Instagram-inspired border). Now the best Saint Mary’s Instagrammers will have their Instagram photos prominently displayed in the Museum’s Armistead Gallery.

Schneider, who graduated in 2013 with a degree in history, is no stranger to Saint Mary’s. During his time as an undergraduate, Schneider was a student worker at the Museum. After getting his bachelors, he spent a year at the University of Chicago getting his master's in history (specifically the British Empire). Schneider then found himself back in Moraga and began working for the Museum full-time in February 2015. In addition to working full-time at the Museum, Schneider is also pursuing his MBA through Saint Mary’s Executive MBA Program (EMBA).

The Instagram contest for the upcoming exhibit serves many purposes. It helped the Museum build its social media presence by getting more people involved with the Museum’s Instagram account. Instagael also exposes more students to the Museum and to the art world. Schneider believes there is a critical awareness gap in popular social media and art, “I don’t think [the students] realize that their Instagram accounts, their selfies, their food photos, their pictures of themselves on vacation are still life, landscape, and portrait paintings.”

When the project matured, the Museum was sure it could be groundbreaking, putting the Museum and the arts on the map for many students. “It seems that almost everyone has an Instagram account, so why don’t we get people to submit their images for consideration for a show?” Schneider also said many of his friends are going into photography because of Instagram. “Everyone wants to be a photographer in the sense that everyone wants to have a super sleek Instagram account featuring cool images and tons of likes.”

The winners’ images will be printed, mounted, and then hung in the Armistead Gallery. At the conclusion of the show, the students can take their images home with them. For a Museum known for its William Keith landscape collection (one of the largest collections in the world), the Instagael exhibit is a way to bring in new audiences to the Museum. In addition to the William Keith collection, the permanent collection consists of over 4,000 pieces from artists such as Andy Warhol and Wayne Thiebaud.

Instagael also presented a unique learning opportunity for Castrillo, who in addition to doing an independent study at the Museum is its social media intern. Castrillo created and distributed the posters around campus calling for submissions for the exhibit. She also managed all of the submissions as they were processed. Through an independent study, Castrillo will use the exhibit to explore the process of curating in an academic setting and co-curating the show. For Castrillo, the exhibit merges her academic studies with real-world applications for work in a m in the 21st century.

To learn more about Instagael as well as other upcoming exhibits, visit the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art website for more information.

The arts are a vibrant part of the Saint Mary’s experience. Support the arts at Saint Mary’s by making a gift today.