News Archive 2009-2018

Alumnae in the Art World Paint Inspiring Picture for Students Archives

hallie k harrisburg ’90, one of four alumnae from the art world participating in the Bowdoin Women in the Visual Arts symposium held March 29, 2012, in Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center.


When halley k harrisburg ’90 came to Bowdoin, she had no idea her education would lead to a life in the arts. Then she took an Asian art history class with Clifford Olds, Edith Cleaves Barry Professor of the History and Criticism of Art Emeritus, and “for the first time,” she said, “my world made sense.” She is now director of the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York.

She was one of four Bowdoin alumnae, all distinguishing themselves in the art world in very different ways, who came together Thursday afternoon for a panel discussion on Bowdoin Women in the Visual Arts, moderated by Pamela M. Fletcher ’89, associate professor of art history. They described how chance encounters and eye-opening classes at Bowdoin led them, sometimes unexpectedly, to the work they love.

Matilda McQuaid ’79 credits her Bowdoin education with “teaching her how to see.” She channels that knowledge in her work as deputy curatorial director and head of textiles at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. She has curated exhibitions on “extreme textiles” and contemporary Japanese textiles. “I like transforming the way people look at those objects,” she said.

Melanie A. Taylor ’94, director of exhibition design at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, said her Bowdoin education was “completely expansive.” She never knew exhibition design existed as a profession until Bowdoin hired one during a renovation of the exhibition space at the Museum of Art.

Mara W. Sprafkin ’02 creates art installations in which she covers the walls with hundreds of sheets of paper, each one painted, stamped and printed with repeating patterns and color motifs. She said that it wasn’t until graduate school that she realized all of her art professors and mentors had been men. “It was a long process to learn what it means to be a female artist,” she said.