Interview with the Interns: Focus on Art Deco

As the first career-based, college preparatory high school internship program of its kind, Trinity High School’s Pre-Professional Internship Program places students in grades 10, 11, and 12 in professional settings one full day each week throughout the school year.  Students provide valuable assistance to their corporate mentors at more than 70 Cleveland area facilities, including the Cleveland Clinic, as they build a resume of experiences for college and beyond.  The program prepares students for college as it assists them in focusing their career goals and also encourages graduates to begin careers after college in the Northeast Ohio area as it showcases the wide range of available career opportunities. This season, three students from Trinity High School are interning in the curatorial department at the Cleveland Museum of Art, each focusing on a different project in which they design their own "exhibitions." We sat down to talk to them on their individual interests and experiences related to their internships and exhibition projects. Below, Morgan Psenicka tells us about her project progress.

Early in the year, I toyed with the idea of organizing an Art Deco exhibition. After months of research, critiques, and brainstorming, I came across a fascinating essay about Hollywood’s role in the global popularity of the Art Deco style in the 1930s. Even this concept was then pared down: I chose to analyze an iconic movie-musical, the most popular type of film from the period.

Swing Time, which debuted in 1936, is a movie-musical gem from the height of Art Deco’s prominence in American design. The film is considered by most to be the greatest of the RKO Pictures films featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the lead roles. From its award-winning musical score, iconic choreography, legendary stars, and lavish Art Deco sets, Swing Time captures the post-Depression optimism of the era. 

My exhibition, officially titled The Art of Swing Time, analyzes the film from a unique artistic perspective. This ranges from fashion, such as Ginger Roger’s famous dress from “Never Gonna Dance,"  to the furnishings, like the gorgeous streamlined light fixtures in the Silver Sandal night club. I’ve found works to serve as proxies of the actual set pieces from the movie, which sadly went missing around the time RKO Pictures went bankrupt. A key feature of the exhibition is a Deco-style room where visitors can enjoy the film in its entirety, as well as the Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection of literature on Art Deco. “The Art of Swing Time” is meant to be a sort of time capsule, where visitors can step into the 1930s Hollywood world of Art Deco.

Leopard and Serpent, 1938. Frederick Carder (American, 1863-1963). Cast glass, Overall - h:13.30 w:20.00 d:7.30 cm (h:5 3/16 w:7 13/16 d:2 13/16 inches). Gift of Lillian and Derek Ostergard in loving memory of Dolores Robb Tannenbaum 1999.306

A personal favorite of mine, the Leopard and Serpent is akin to the glass works lining the shelves of the dance studio where Penny (played by Ginger Rogers) works as a dance instructor. Frederick Carder produced beautiful glass works such as this one for 82 years of his life. Like the film, Leopard and Serpent was produced in the wake of the Great Depression. Unlike RKO Pictures, however, Carder and Corning Glass Works continued to find success well into the future.


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