Established by Helen and Mark Burish, the Burish Fellowship in Art and Museum Education supports a collaborative fellowship, shared between the Chazen and the art department. Two students were selected for the spring 2021 term for the fellowship, which offers tuition remission and a semester-long, paid internship at the Chazen. Hannah Eccles is one of two Burish Fellows this spring. An art education major, she developed a love of art at an early age, as her parents owned an art gallery in Istanbul, Turkey.
“I think I have to attribute my love of art to my parents,” she says. “They decided when I was 3 to move to Istanbul, Turkey, to run a gallery together. I lived there from when I was 3 to when I was 15 and then came back to the States. Both my parents are practicing artists, and every Friday night we’d have an opening at their gallery. My parents taught me lots of different disciplines and methods and had me keep a sketchbook from when I was very little, so I have a great record of funny things that I would draw.”
The family moved to Madison from Istanbul so that Hannah’s father could pursue an MFA at UW, and her up-close view of the art world continued in this setting. “He went through that program while I was in high school,” she says, “and I actually got to come down and do an independent study with him in his studio.”
Hannah heard about the Burish Fellowship from her academic adviser. “I thought it was too good to be true,” she says. “I want to do art education with kids, so I thought this would be perfect—I could have access to amazing works and a fantastic facility. And I learned a lot going to museums as a kid, and really enjoyed observing and learning things about the world in that way.”
Because of Covid restrictions, however, the entire Burish Fellowship has been conducted digitally this spring, rather than in-person as usual. With such an atypical format, both students are engaging in a lot more readings and writing assignments, but Hannah is still happy with the experience, and feels as though it’s enhanced her entire educational experience.
“I see it affecting the way I understand and participate with material in other classes,” she says. “I’m taking a curriculum class and it has taught me the importance of having really good questions ready to ask students, and how you need to give them space to think about things, and to have time to reflect and engage with materials in different ways, through the avenue of art.”
Although they’ve been unable to spend time much time in the museum this semester, Hannah did have a chance to examine one of her favorite works in the museum’s collection, Nin Mamakadendam, by Tom Uttech.
“I connect with this painting because of its intense, crowded imagery and its focus on birds, which I have a long history of incorporating into my own work,” she says. “I love that no matter how many times I come back to look at it, Nin Mamakadendam always has something new to draw or discover.”
During the internship, she’s learned not only practical lesson planning skills when it comes to incorporating works of art into classroom study, but also quite a bit about the value of museums themselves. “I’ve learned how museums are really meant for the community and meant to educate and better the community,” she says. “Museums are meant to be a place for everybody to come and to be able to participate with the materials there. And they’re meant to be a place where people can grow and have a place to feel safe.