William Maple, an interpretive designer who creates exhibitions through his company Maple & Associates, spoke at the William Rolland Art Center about his career to help students understand the secrets of the art business in an event titled “Secrets of the Exhibition.”
He said he didn’t know what he wanted to do when he was growing up and that he wanted those in the same position to learn from his experiences.
“There’s a whole world of opportunities and jobs out there that are so diverse, but not known,” Maple said.
Maple said he attended a Shakespeare at the Park performance and noticed that there was a class in attendance that related to his job, so he contacted the professor and offered to share his experience. The class was Art Management; he was invited to present to them on Tuesday, March 13. Maple said that he had to learn how to create exhibitions as he went, so he is glad that there are now classes to help guide people who may be interested in it.
“Museum exhibition design is really young; 30 years ago, there weren’t classes in it; there weren’t study programs. It’s wonderful that it’s becoming more professional and taught that there are approaches and there are systems. We made it up as we went; there wasn’t really a knowledge base that we could turn to except visiting other museums,” Maple said.
Maple went over his exhibitions and the experiences he had while creating them, including the challenges he had to overcome. The exhibitions he created that he discussed were the Trail of Tears, the Prisoners of War, the 1968 exhibits and several more. Maple said that, since his field is young and growing, some of his biggest challenges have been proving the value of his work to his employers.
“It’s a new profession. No one knows how to pay you… it’s hard to convey that my time and my team’s time has a price tag. We work with a lot of staff members who are on salary that don’t understand that time is money. The business side of art is a hard thing to balance… it only comes with time and experience,” Maple said.
Maple said that his career can be very rewarding. He said that he loves watching people’s reactions as they walk through his exhibits. In his exhibit on toys from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, Maple said that people would stop even complete strangers and children and tell them about their experiences with the toys. Maple said that museums allow people to interact with ideas and people they may not have been exposed to otherwise.
“We need a place for community… in a museum we can do that, and engage with groups that know nothing about each other,” Maple said.
Rachel Schmid, professor of the Art Management course at California Lutheran University, said that Maple was a great person to bring into the class to shape the students understanding of the museum space and then use it to tell a story.
“The students have to work as a group to curate their own exhibit… they have to do all the budgeting, all the marketing, all the planning… they’ve already selected the artwork and going forward they just have to set up the rest of the exhibit,” Schmid said.
Brianna Pinal, a senior business major, is a student in the Art Management class and said that Maple’s talk with their class was helpful. She said that it was interesting to learn about how there is such a market for interpretive designers for museums. Pinal said what surprised her the most is how difficult creating an exhibit can be.
“Something that really hit me hard is that I didn’t realize how much work goes into creating exhibits… I just have a new appreciation for them after seeing all the little details [Maple] puts into it,” Pinal said.
Pinal said that Maple talked a lot about business and its importance in art, and that she learned that placing business in the realm of art allows for more creativity.
“I think it definitely geared me to think outside the box and think of different perspectives… the business major is more structured and with art involved it allows us to be more creative,” Pinal said.