AARON GLASS | CURATING FRANZ BOAS
Aaron Glass (BFA, 2000) has recently curated an exhibition in New York City on Franz Boas. Franz Boas is known as the founding figure of North American anthropology, and the exhibition highlights his work with George Hunt among the Kwakwaka‘wakw in British Columbia. The exhibit was co-developed with the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay, BC, and features designs by Corrine Hunt, a renowned contemporary artist and great-granddaughter of George Hunt. On July 20, the exhibit opened at U’mista to much local fanfare and attendance by Hunt descendants, many of whom are well-known artists in BC.
This Bard Graduate Center Focus Project explores the hidden histories and complex legacies of one of the most influential books in the field of anthropology, The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians (1897), by Franz Boas (1858–1942). Focusing on Boas’s work with his Indigenous co-author George Hunt (1854–1933) among the Kwakwaka’wakw people of British Columbia, the exhibition includes ceremonial objects as well as rare archival photographs, manuscripts, and drawings that shed new light on the book and promote reactiva-tion of the cultural heritage it documents.
The Story Box was organized by Bard Graduate Center Gallery in partnership with U’mista Cultural Centre, a Kwakwaka’wakw museum in Alert Bay. It is on view from July 20 through October 24, 2019.
Aaron has been spending time in Alert Bay, BC for about twenty-five years. “I found that when I first went there as a student to do volunteer work at the U’mista Cultural Centre, a lot of the first conversations that I had with people were about my identity as an anthropologist with German-Jewish roots, like Boas,” shared Aaron in a transcribed conversation between himself and Corrine Hunt, published by the Bard Graduate Center. “People knew him as such, and they made that connection with me, and that’s always given me an additional sense of connection to Boas.”
Aaron started working with the Kwakwaka’wakwmore seriously as a graduate student, while also going to art school at Emily Carr University.
“As an artist, I was doing projects excavating my own family archive, and thinking about ways in which letters, correspondences, photographs and object collections mediate our sense of connection to our ancestors,” said Aaron. “My interest, as an anthropologist, in how this works among Indigenous people, and how it works in general, really became a point of overlap for me in my art practice and in my scholarly work… and everything in between”