The night before the official opening of Chicana Fotos — a new art exhibit featuring the early work of photographer/filmmaker Nancy De Los Santos at Wayne State University’s Walter P. Reuther Library — a group of University of Michigan undergrads who co-designed the exhibition were putting finishing touches on the installation, doing some last-minute problem-solving, and eating pizza.
“At one point, we were all sitting around, and I said, ‘I feel like we’ve all shrunk, and we’re now living in our model,’” said U‑M student Emilie Farrugia.
That’s because for the last few months, a dozen U‑M Stamps School of Art & Design students who enrolled in an Exhibition Design class taught by Hannah Smotrich and Katie Rubin have been hashing out ideas regarding which photos to showcase, and how to arrange them within the Reuther Library’s unique gallery space, so as to tell De Los Santos’ story in a cohesive way.
This involved small groups of students building detailed cardboard models, which De Los Santos — a U‑M alumna herself — came to see in person, offering thoughtful feedback. She talked about the stories behind individual photos, from which the students then re-calibrated their ideas, building toward a common vision.