By Jess Dankenbring, ’17

Growing up in El Salvador, Lourdes Figueroa, ’13, often found her father pushing her into business and other practical studies that he believed would get her a job after college.

Figueroa instead chose to press on as an art history and Russian studies double major, and she’s been successful academically. She was given the 2013 Philip Frederick, Jr. Memorial Award in Art History and was named a 2013 Outstanding Senior Major in Modern Literatures and Cultures.

But the decision to pursue art was one that weighed on her somewhat, especially when she thought of the home she left behind in El Salvador.

“When I go back home for Christmas and people ask me what I’m doing, I tell them ‘Oh yes, I’m doing art history and I worked in a museum over the summer and I want to hopefully get a PhD in art history,’” she says. “People are like, ‘Why? You’re going to starve. You won’t ever get a job.’ So I guess there’s always that in the back of my mind, but it also makes me appreciate art because that’s not really instilled back home in our schools.”

Then this past summer, Figueroa received the 2013 Harnett Research Fellowship, part of the UR Summer Fellowships program, which gave her the chance to assist in organizing the exhibition “Clare Leighton: From Pencil to Proof to Press,” her second with University Museums.

“My first exhibit was a Russian-Jewish artist, Felix Lembersky, so it was all oil paintings, and this one is all wood engravings. So the medium that was used was very different,” she says.

Figueroa was directly involved as a research fellow and assisted on the project by taking part in meetings, writing panels, and conducting any other necessary research for the exhibition.

“A lot of the prints that we had didn’t have the dates so we didn’t know where they came from. I had to go through a lot of the books Clare Leighton illustrated, almost like a scavenger hunt, and see where everything goes,” she says.

Figueroa’s deeper involvement in the decision-making process for Leighton allowed her to see all of the moving parts of putting together an exhibition. She says her work on the Lembersky exhibition, along with her art history classes and thesis, helped with the planning and attention to detail needed along the way.

“I never thought about all the work that goes into it,” she says. “There’s so much planning, laying out how the exhibition will look, or coming up with the list of all the objects and all the information with the dates and the publication. For a long time, it seems very passive and like nothing’s happening but when it actually opens, you see the exhibition put together.”