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Senior Seminar Exhibition Swain

Senior Seminar Exhibition 2014

Swain: A Creative Community

This exhibition tells the story of The Swain School of Design—a small, yet remarkable, institution that “adequately nurtured” the artists who helped to lay the foundation for New Bedford’s contemporary cultural regeneration. This story encompasses Swain’s founding in 1881 through its merger with Southeastern Massachusetts University (SMU) in 1988, now the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

My hope is that the provision herein made will be sufficient for establishing and supporting a school of a high character, where the pupils may receive a thorough education upon the most liberal and enlightened principles, free of any charge of tuition. ………William W. Swain 

In the above quote, extracted from his will in 1857, Mr. Swain donated the funds to create the Swain Free School as a memorial to his son, Robert, who tragically died at the age of eighteen. Swain’s friend, Reverend John H. Morrison, wrote: “He loved to think of the house in which he lived and which no lineal heir of his should animate, as the home of boys and girls who there under the happiest circumstances should pursue their studies.”

Above all else, the Swain School of Design was a “creative community”—a supportive, intimate environment where students and faculty developed a familial bond. They were able to learn from one another, become immersed in their work, and flourish as artists. Although Swain has not been an independent art college for more than a quarter century, many of these characteristics can still be found right here in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. As viewers will discover throughout this exhibition, the Swain School of Design continues to exert a powerful influence on the SouthCoast cultural and art education communities today.

Swain: A Creative Community is the product of the Art History Senior Seminar class, composed of eleven upperclassmen art history majors and minors. Students in this class conducted oral history interviews and extensive archival research, wrote and edited the catalog, developed the exhibition design, and obtained valuable scholarship and professional skills. This class has allowed students to develop their skillset within the fields of art history and museum studies, including research, writing, design, collection care, and visitor relations. Thank you to everyone who made this exhibition possible.

Presentation |  2014 Catalog (PDF)

Participating Students:

  • Trish Birk-Smith
  • Samantha Brescia
  • Audrey Cain
  • Ashley Correia
  • Ryan Gallagher
  • Scott Glowa
  • Betsey Janus
  • Virginia Luongo
  • Maria Middleton
  • Ashleigh Mota
  • Lauren Scharf

Course developed by Dr. Anna Dempsey and Allison Cywin, MLIS

Special thanks to:

  • Judy Farrar, Librarian and Archivist at the Claire T. Carney Library Archives and Special Collection at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
  • Donald Beal
  • Gioia T. Browne
  • Graphic Innovations
  • T.J. Smith’s Victorian House
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