Art history majors Layla Hedges, ’12, and Mary Ellen Stanley, ’11, were both considering a career in the museum world when the University Museums gave them the unique opportunity to co-curate an exhibition.

With support from University of Richmond faculty and staff and research assistance from Elizabeth Moore, ’11, Hedges and Stanley organized “The Art of Hans Gassman” for The Wilton Companies Gallery at UR Downtown.

Hedges and Stanley sought to learn as much as they could about the relatively unknown German artist Hans Gassman (1907–2002), who immigrated to the U.S. in 1947. “Certain details of Gassman’s life were either obscure or very difficult to find,” Stanley said.

The students began their research with primary sources, including a mural for the Franklin Federal Savings and Loan Association building on Seventh and Broad streets, the current headquarters of UR Downtown. Gassman completed the mural, “The Circulation of Money,” in 1956, and it now serves as the centerpiece of UR Downtown’s conference room.

In addition to researching the technique and iconography of “The Circulation of Money,” Hedges and Stanley studied Gassman’s paintings, prints, sketches, and other archival materials, currently on loan to the University from The Wilton Companies.

“One of the biggest challenges with this project was the sheer amount of material that came with it. Going through over 500 pieces of art and then organizing, photographing, and accessioning the objects took the longest amount of time,” Hedges said.

Hedges also traced the artist’s steps to Norfolk and Virginia Beach to see Gassman’s other murals in person. “I was able to learn about the entirety of a career,” she said.

Hedges and Stanley chose 45 examples of the artist’s work for the exhibition, a stunning display that will remain on view at UR Downtown through October 2011.

“My favorite part of the experience was selecting the works for the exhibition and organizing the layout for the gallery space,” Stanley said. “It was very rewarding to see all of the works installed and arranged so beautifully. It made all the hard work and research worth it.”

This fall, Stanley will pursue her master’s degree in museum studies at Baylor University, while Hedges will return to the University for her senior year with a clear career path in mind.

“Working on the Gassman exhibition helped me to confirm that I wanted to pursue museum work after I had been considering it for some time,” Hedges said.