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Wheaton Student Elise Colón Awarded Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship

October 29, 2021

Wheaton College Junior Elise Colón was awarded the Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship through the Art Institute of Chicago.

Elise ColónWheaton Junior Elise Colón was awarded the prestigious Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship with the Art Institute of Chicago. This two-year program, offered at different museums around the country, gives undergraduate students from historically underrepresented groups experience working in a museum with curators and other museum staff on art exhibitions, collections, and programs.

“To have been chosen is so mind-boggling and just so exciting,” said Colón, a Latina who grew up in Waco, Texas. “I am completely thrilled.”

As one of just four selected students, Colón will get an insider’s view of museum work at the Art Institute of Chicago. She will also meet regularly with her cohort, as well as her mentor, the Field-McCormick Chair and Curator of American Art Sarah Kelly Oehler. In addition, Colón will complete a 10-week summer internship, and she will participate in an annual meeting hosted at one of the partner museums. Over the course of her fellowship, she will also receive up to about $16,000 in funding support.

Colón, who is double-majoring in Anthropology and Spanish and minoring in Studio Art at Wheaton, fell in love with the Art Institute of Chicago during her freshman year at Wheaton College. “I was there for four hours my first time there,” she said. “I only went home because my friends made me.”

Her fascination with the Art Institute of Chicago led her to apply for its Andrew W. Mellon Summer Academy, a weeklong summer intensive that exposes undergraduates to curatorial work. Although she was admitted into the academy for the summer 2020 session, the in-person academy was postponed until 2021 and offered virtually as a 10-week summer program due to COVID. Over the course of the summer, she learned about curation, she met artists and curators, even meeting the Art Institute president and director James Rondeau.

Involvement in the Andrew W. Mellon Summer Academy gave her eligibility to apply for the Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship.

Colón is also involved with gallery work on campus. Over the last year, she’s helped Wheaton Gallery Manager Sheldon Till-Campbell in his work of organizing the art installations at the College’s Walford Galleries.

“She’s wonderful to work with in the gallery because she’s both a great team player and remarkably clear-headed and insightful about how artworks and the space interact,” said Wheaton College Gallery Manager Sheldon Till-Campbell. “It’s so exciting that’s been awarded this fellowship because she’s the perfect person for it.”

“If you would’ve told me freshman year that I would be doing this fellowship, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Colón said. “I’m just so thrilled.”

--Emily Bratcher