GREENVILLE, Pa.—Professor of Painting and Curator of Art Sean McConnor, Assistant Professor of History Sheila Nowinski, Ph.D., and student Isabella Bungo ’19 recently wrapped up a 10-week artwork restoration and historical research project funded by a grant from the Greenville Neuromodulation Center Faculty/Student Research Institute at Thiel College, a leading liberal arts college in northwest Pennsylvania.
Bungo, of Pittsburgh, is a history major with a secondary education certification. She is a 2015 graduate of Fox Chapel High School. In September 2017, the Department of Art exhibited a show of women printmakers. Some of the featured prints on exhibition were from Corita Kent, a popular silk-screen artist, who worked in both Los Angeles and Boston. Through Nowinski and McConnor’s combined interest in preserving the College’s Kent collection, they applied for a GNC grant to fully restore the collection. Once framed, many of the prints will be exhibited in February 2019 in the Weyers-Sampson Art Gallery at Thiel College.
Bungo and McConnor used various techniques to remove dirt, repair torn edges and flatten the prints. The prints were photographed and documented before and after their treatments. The pair also contacted the Intermuseum Conservation Association to aid in restoring two heavily damaged prints.
A former employee who was an acquaintance of Kent donated the prints to Thiel College.
“It is important to preserve our collection of art so that future students, faculty, and community members can view these objects for years to come,” McConnor said. “About 10 years ago, I restored eight prints but the remaining collection needed more attention and care. The grant that funded this project set us on a mission to rescue and restore the remaining collection.”
Nowinski and Bungo spent three days researching Kent’s archived papers at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. The papers were written during the same time the prints in Thiel’s collection were produced.
“It has been fascinating to learn more about the career and work of Corita Kent. It’s interesting to find her work at a Lutheran college considering that she was a Catholic nun, but the spiritual messages in many of her works cross many denominational lines,” Nowinski said. “She was at the intersection of the reform movement in the Vatican church, the pop art world, the postwar consumer culture and the 1960s counterculture. After seeing Andy Warhol’s artwork in Los Angeles, she was inspired to work in a pop art style. Her silkscreen prints incorporated advertising slogans, literary works, and scripture. Corita’s work inspired people to find meaning in ordinary or unexpected places.”
The prints in Thiel College’s collection came from Kent’s time teaching at Immaculate Heart College. Bungo wrote a paper regarding Kent’s pedagogical style in the classroom and how she challenged students to see from new perspectives of the world and life around them.
“Having the opportunity to actively look deeper into the archival collection at Radcliffe was an amazing experience. As a secondary education and history student, developing a thorough and hands-on understanding of archival work is really important. My experience with this project is very valuable in the sense that I can pass on that understanding to the students that I will one day teach,” Bungo said. “Working with both professors during this time was very different than the interactions that I have had in the classroom. I connected with both professors on a level that went deeper than in a normal school setting, it was a really neat experience. It’s nice to see the grant help Thiel restore and preserve these prints so that it can be used as a teaching collection.”
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