NEWTON — Working toward graduation last spring, Bethel College student and Newton native Austin Prouty was looking for a project to do for his senior seminar — a requirement among graphic design majors.
Some students create their own personal brand or start a freelance business, Prouty said, but his path was a little different. Thanks to Prouty's faculty adviser, Rachel Epp Buller, he was presented with a unique opportunity to be part of the design team on Kauffman Museum's "Campaign for a New China" exhibit that debuted in spring 2019.
Epp Buller was leading a class collaborating with the museum on the exhibit — which featured propaganda posters collected in 1976 by the late Robert Kreider, Bethel College professor of peace studies — and invited Prouty to be a part of that. While not officially enrolled in the class, Prouty did end up offering his services in graphic design to the exhibit for his senior seminar, partnering with Kauffman Museum curator of exhibits Chuck Regier.
"I did the visual identity system for it, so the logo and basically any kind of marketing materials you would see from it," Prouty said. “Working on the ‘Campaign for a New China’ exhibit was a tremendous opportunity that allowed me to both showcase and expand the technical knowledge I gained in my time at Bethel College."
That included work on an outdoor banner at the museum advertising the exhibit, promotional materials sent out to Kauffman Museum Association members, gallery guides and several parts of the exhibit itself (including section labels, title and credit panels) — a new experience simply because of the interconnected nature of the work.
Prouty and the "Campaign for a New China" design team's work was recently recognized with the Mountain-Plains Museum Association's Publication Design Award at the organization's annual conference, accepted by Kauffman Museum curator of education Andi Schmidt Andres. The MPMA is made up of member museums in a 10-state region.
Working as part of a team was part of what drew Prouty to the exhibit, while backstory was another hook to get him involved in the project.
"It's very rare for you to make something just for yourself, so it was important for me to find a project that allowed me to work with a team and collaborate with other people so it wasn't just me making just what I wanted to make with minimal input from others, kind of get that extra perspective on it," Prouty said. "I've always been kind of drawn to design work that has research behind it or a grounding in history. That was a part of the class that Rachel Epp Buller taught."
“Campaign for a New China” is under development to become another Kauffman Museum traveling exhibition. Details about the exhibition and links to the award-winning publication are on the Kauffman Museum website.