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Catherine LaRiviere: 2017 ARIA Recipient

What was your research project?

My research project for the summer was a systematic survey of the work of Marian Dale Scott, a Montreal artist active from the 1920’s to her death in the 1990’s. My supervisor was Gwendolyn Owens, director of the McGill Visual Arts Collection, but she was initially my professor for the course ARTH420: “Museums: A Curatorial Perspective,” and it was during her class one day that she introduced us to the work of Dale Scott. I was immediately intrigued, not only because I’m from Montreal and felt a connection to this artist through our shared city, but because of the sheer variety of styles in which she worked, which I had rarely seen in my previous Art History classes. In her 70-year-long career, Dale Scott dabbled in almost every painting style imaginable, and was met with success every time. When my supervisor then opened up applications to apply for this project as her ARIA intern, I knew I wanted to help and learn more in the process.

The highlight of my project was one of the cumulations of this research, and that was writing the wall labels for two works by this artist. The first is a mural that can be found on campus in Strathcona Medical building called Endocrinology, and the other is also a mural but in the Spiritual Meditation room of the Montreal General Hospital. In writing these labels, my supervisors also alerted the media relations team of the university as the mural in Strathcona was to undergo some restoration, and so I got the added bonus of being able to speak with reporters and on camera about the research we had been conducting on Scott over the summer.

How has the internship influenced your career path?

This internship was without a doubt, one of the most delightfully challenging things I have done with my time at McGill thus far. I got to learn more about what it takes to run an art collection, both from the research perspective that I was given, but also from the hands-on side that I got to help with on a day-to-day basis. I got to learn about collection management, accessioning artworks, meeting donors, discussing research, collaborating on other research projects, and even giving tours of the art on campus. These were all things I would never had had the chance to learn within just a classroom, and I’m so grateful to both of my supervisors Wendy Owens and Vanessa di Francesco for giving me this opportunity to work with the VAC. They allowed me to discover what I hope will be my future career in museum/gallery/collection curation, and introduced me to even more possibilities for my academic growth here at McGill. Going into graduate school in art history and museology in my next few years will certainly be more enjoyable knowing that I have discovered my passion for it through this internship.

This would not have been possible either without the help of the Goodman Family Foundation and their dedication to sustaining this ARIA internship at the VAC, and for that I thank them infinitely. This opportunity is like almost nothing else offered by museums and galleries and thanks to their generosity, I was able to experience it and lay the foundation for what I hope will be a successful career in the art world.