Examining a Rauschenberg Phantoms metal painting with RRF staff. Image courtesy of Brittany Richmond.

In 2016, Bruno Pouliot and Jill Sterrett embarked on journey to expand the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC)’s curriculum in contemporary art conservation education with the support of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Bruno and Jill envisioned the project to be led eventually by Voices in Contemporary Art (VoCA), a non-profit organization that promotes the presentation and preservation of contemporary art through networking, outreach, advocacy. Three years later the collaboration continues to complement WUDPAC’s course design, but has evolved to include both VoCA and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (RRF). The inclusion of RRF enriches the project’s goals by acting as a pilot partner for creating deeper engagement between conservation students, curators, preparators, artist-endowed foundations, and artists. Through access to the staff’s combined knowledge, the collection, source materials, and archives, we have learned that Rauschenberg blurred the lines between materials and genres, appropriately mirroring the blurring definitions of specialties and roles within contemporary art conservation. His opinions on conservation-restoration inform the philosophical considerations of our research goals and allow for a more in-depth evaluation of the role of the conservator tasked with caring for a modern art collection.

As a second year graduate fellow, I am participating in this partnership with my classmate Jennifer Myers, WUDPAC Paintings fellow. In April 2018, Myers and I will present an oral presentation on our involvement in the collaborative partnership at the Association of North American Graduate Programs in Conservation (ANAGPIC) 2019 conference hosted by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, CA.

(Left to right) Julia Blaut, David White, and Jill Sterrett during the kick-off meeting of the 2018-2019 collaboration.
Natalya Swanson