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New H-L ramp gallery exhibit highlights ordinary moments of student life

May 5, 2023

Cora Dow
REVAMPING THE RAMP: Students' photos line the walls of the H-L Ramp Gallery's new exhibit: "Snapshots of Life at Bowdoin." The gallery was curated by student curators Cora Dow '24 and Alexandra Camargo '25.

After trekking past rows and rows of bookshelves in Hawthorne-Longfellow Library’s basement, students headed for the Hubbard Hall stacks pass by the library’s ramp gallery. Traditionally an exhibition space for student art, this Monday the gallery unveiled its new exhibit, “Snapshots of Life at Bowdoin,” designed by Cora Dow ’24 and Alexandra Camargo ’25. The exhibit’s photos, all of which were submitted by students, depict everyday moments on campus.

“We wanted something that was created by students. So we came up with this [exhibit] that was the favorite photo in your camera roll outside of your academic life,” Dow said.

The photos range from a snapshot of students giving haircuts to a still-life nighttime image of Hubbard Hall.

“I wanted [students to] represent something about Bowdoin that is meaningful to them and, hopefully, fulfill some curiosity of what other students are up to,” Dow said. “I think it’s cool to see the perspective of students’ lives who I have never met or will [never] be a part of.”

Many other ideas were considered for exhibition in the ramp gallery, such as showcasing student art depicting dreams, growth during college and hopes for the future.

“We had a long brainstorming process,” Dow said. “This [exhibit] was the only one that had students submit photos from their camera rolls, not because it was easy but [because] … there’s a lot more student accessibility.”

The decisions for the art gallery also had to be approved by the library staff. Nevertheless, Social Sciences Research & Instruction Librarian Beth Hoppe, who oversees the ramp gallery, emphasized her position as a supporting role. Hoppe explained that she mostly let the student curators focus on creative aspects of exhibition design while providing more logistical support in exhibition installation and in helping to accommodate fire codes.

“I was pleased to see exhibits that tried to reach out to students who wouldn’t necessarily think of including themselves in an art exhibit. That made it a lot more accessible to any student who wanted to participate and share their view of what life looks like at Bowdoin,” Hoppe said. “So many of the other spaces tend to cater to students who consider themselves artists, so it was nice to provide space for students who might not.”

In fact, the curation team believed the ramp gallery was a perfect setting for emphasizing the theme of accessibility.

“The [ramp gallery] is inherently a site for thinking about accessibility. It’s an art gallery, but the ramp ends with stairs,” Hoppe said. “[So we’re] thinking about how to make sure the stories and voices being seen are not just reiterating and reifying the same kinds of inequities.”

While there are serious considerations behind curating the ramp gallery, there were also more light-hearted moments.

“It was super fun seeing the submissions roll in the first couple of days, opening up the Google Form and seeing what people had submitted,” Dow said. “There’s so many people uploading that we don’t interact with even though [Bowdoin] is such a small place—it’s interesting to see the whole student experience instead of just academics.”

In the future, Bowdoin students will continue to take the lead in designing ramp gallery exhibits.

“[Curating the ramp gallery] is very self-directed. It’s not the same student work that a lot of students on campus do. It requires a lot of dedication and creativity. I’ve been impressed with how [Dow and Carmago] produced such excellent shows,” Hoppe said.


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