Bucknell was like this giant sandbox where I got to try a lot of everything. It was the courses I took and the brilliant people I studied in the art department that really fueled my desire to continue tumbling down that rabbit hole.
Margaret Graham '09 stumbled upon her love of fine art while in the dark. She remembers watching with growing fascination as images of classic paintings flickered by on a projector screen during her Art in the Dark class at Bucknell.
"What drew me in was the idea of longevity — that this art had withstood the test of time and was still relevant now," she says. "I'd always loved beauty and colors and had been a bit of a doodler in high school, but studying art formally blew that whole world open for me."
Up to that point, Graham's relationship with images revolved around the pictures she sketched with words as a creative writing major. It was the writing program's poetry workshops and intrinsic ties to Bucknell's Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts that originally drew Graham to Bucknell. But after taking a few courses in the Art & Art History Department, a twin passion for the visual arts began to emerge.
"I was just riveted by all the things I was learning and had so much fun being around other people who were just as excited. Bucknell was like this giant sandbox where I got to try a lot of everything," says Graham, who tacked on a second major in art history. "It was the courses I took and the brilliant people I studied in the art department that really fueled my desire to continue tumbling down that rabbit hole"
After graduating, Graham melded her interests in writing and art through a master's degree in art writing from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 2013, she joined the staff at Voices in Contemporary Art (VoCA), a New York-based nonprofit that generates critical dialogue around contemporary art stewardship.
As program and communications manager, Graham oversees the planning, coordination and execution of the organization's artist interview workshops, public talks and educational programming — in addition to editing VoCA's digital journal and blog. It's a hefty job that interweaves two of Graham's biggest loves: arts preservation and community building.
"We're invested in preserving art for the long term and ushering it into the future. But the art of today isn't simply paper, paint and clay — it's bubblegum, plastic and the internet, too," Graham says. "These materials pose difficult questions in the realm of conservation."
She points to digital-based art as an example. An installation featuring software created on a 1980s Atari that no longer functions may need to be migrated to a new platform, but how might that change the meaning of the art and the intended experience of the viewer? The answers are far from simple, "which is why creating spaces for artists, curators and conservators to engage deeply in conversation is so useful," Graham says.
"I especially love working directly with artists," she adds. "It's great to raise up the voices of those who are using their boundless creativity to influence future generations and create a more complete picture of who we are as humans and what we're capable of."