There’s more to showing off an artist’s work than just paint and canvas.

That’s why students in Richard Waller’s museum studies seminar are planning a public exhibition from start to finish — they’re curating the artwork, developing the programming and marketing the event. The end product, “Social Customs Across Cultures,” will be open in the Lora Robins Gallery April 6 through May 26.

Waller, director of the University Museums, divided the class into three groups to tackle curatorial, marketing and programming assignments, giving them hands-on experience working in museums.

“This course, and especially working on the exhibition, gives them an understanding of how museums function and why museums are important in our communities,” Waller said.

Using existing objects in the museum’s collection and working under a broad concept of “context and object,” the teams planned each aspect of the show, starting with a theme. Waller said the concept was meant to generate discussion and varying viewpoints about how people see and understand objects — and how a different context could change the meaning of a piece.

With multicultural campus events this spring such as the music department’s Global Music Festival and the theater department’s production, “Things Fall Apart,” the students created their exhibition around social customs across cultures — be it music and dance, games and sports, or dining and drinking.

“We decided to look for inspiration for our exhibition by looking at other events occurring on campus around the same time,” said Amy Nicholas, ’11, part of the marketing team, “which is great for programming because we can tie all the events together.”

From there, using any works of art and objects from the museums’ collections, the students began compiling pieces — from a Russian chessboard to a set of Japanese Saki cups — and brainstorming ideas for coordinating and publicizing events.

Kathryn Given, ’11, an art history major, was part of the curatorial team. After selecting objects depicting the similarities and differences in social customs, her team created labels and panels for the exhibition.

“The curators hope that the objects we picked allow viewers to make their own comparisons across cultures and also provide them with a different context for viewing these objects that ultimately adds to their understanding of the pieces,” she said. “We hope that all visitors will be able to relate to these universal social customs.”

For the educational and programming components, Julia Czech, ’11, said she and her team members coordinated with the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement to organize an International Day April 12 for fifth grade students from Overby-Shepard Elementary School in Richmond's Highland Park, providing tours and possibly performances.

The exhibition opens with a curators’ talk in the Carole Weinstein International Center Commons, along with a preview and opening reception in the Lora Robins Gallery. Nicholas said they have advertised and publicized the event through Facebook, Twitter, SpiderBytes and The Collegian, in addition to designing digital and print fliers to post around campus.

For Waller’s students, the experience has taught them just how much work — done by people in many different roles — goes into museum exhibitions.

Given has previously interned in galleries and museums but had never experienced the intense hands-on approach Waller used in the class.

“I think having this type of experience will certainly help me when working in the art world,” she said. “I now realize that curatorial is a lot of work but when the exhibition goes up and people understand our theme and vision, the entire process will have been very rewarding.”

Czech said she now has a greater appreciation for the responsibilities of museum staff and educators after experiencing the complications and frustrations that come with trying to coordinate events.

“This experience has taught me more about what it takes to work in a museum than I could have ever learned through reading a book or listening to lectures,” she said.