From Fellowship to Career

8 December 2017

Growing up in Dallas, Fiona Fraser ’18 always loved art and museums. But she hadn’t thought too much about either as a potential career path—an art major just didn’t seem like a practical gateway to lifelong success.

But then, during her first year at Carleton, Fraser’s thinking changed.

“I went to a Career Center talk that emphasized that you can do anything you want—major in anything you love—and be successful,” Fraser says. “That gave me a lot of confidence.”

As a result, she declared an art history major as a sophomore—and even though Carleton doesn’t offer many classes in printmaking, she decided to pursue her particular interest in prints. A class with art professor Fred Hagstrom sparked a special interest in Norweigan artist Edvard Munch.

“Most artists [of the late 19th century and early 20th century] saw printmaking as a way to make money but not to express an artistic voice,” Fraser says. “Munch saw it differently.”

Inspired and emboldened by Hagstrom’s advice to strike her own path, Fraser applied for a fellowship to conduct her own research on Munch’s prints. She received independent fellowship funding and last summer traveled to Norway and Germany to study Munch’s work and immerse herself in thinking more deeply about art, museums, and her own future with both.

“Research opportunities are emphasized for science students, but being able to do these things as a humanities student is just as important,” Fraser says. “Our paths to research aren’t always as clear, though. I’m indebted to Fred for putting fellowships on my radar.”

For two and a half weeks she visited museums in Norway and Germany, and thanks to Hagstrom’s connections, she was granted access to the curators’ rooms, which are off-limits to tourists. “These were such inspirational moments for me, not just to see the final product, but to see the entire process,” she says.

By the end of her time in Europe, Fraser felt a strong calling.

“When you think of museums, you think of the main galleries—but this fellowship helped illuminate that curation has so many different facets,” Fraser says. “I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of curators and look at hundreds of prints, and it was really eye-opening. Curation rooms are so valuable to students, professors, and researchers.” Now Fraser thinks her career might be museum curation.

“Carleton really celebrates experiential learning like this,” she says, “and I’m incredibly lucky to have had a chance to do it.”

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