CSU Student Wins State Award for Museum Exhibit’s Impact on Community

Christofer Gass, a Columbus State University senior majoring in art history, recently received a state-wide award for his work on the Columbus Museum’s Common Grounds exhibition. Gass was awarded the Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries’ 2018 Student Project Award at the GAMG annual conference in Rome, Ga.

The Common Grounds exhibition focuses on the last remaining original public green space in Columbus – an area known as South Commons. The exhibition ran from July 1 through November 5, 2017, and was seen by approximately 16,000 people.

Gass’s role in Common Grounds began as an intern and grew into lead curator for the exhibit.  He scoured documents, archaeological reports, and maps for information on the area to develop themes, provide recommendations on layout, and help choose maps and artifacts to display. He was also the primary author for the footnoted exhibition gallery guide and developed a survey that enabled visitors to provide feedback on future uses of South Commons.

“It doesn’t feel like work, because it is fun,” explained Gass. “I like to bring things to life that are part of history – things that people aren’t able to see anymore due to development. Being able to create a snapshot of the past that people are able to understand is really important to me.”

As a geography minor, Gass also worked with Dr. Amanda Rees of CSU’s geography department to analyze the data provided by the visitors to Common Grounds. The results were used as part of a larger research project by Dr. Rees’s urban geography class, which was presented to Friends of the South Commons.  The advocacy group will use the information to seek funding opportunities that would help preserve the South Commons. This real community impact that Gass’s work could have on the future of South Commons helped distinguish his project from others.

On their decision to award Gass the prestigious award, the GAMG’s award committee wrote, “Specifically, the committee felt that the impact of this student’s work on all levels of this important community project raises this nomination above the rest. His dedication to the work and the impressive results in helping shape the future of this space provide excellent examples of solid student-directed work for museums far outside the scope of this specific project.”

Gass was nominated for the award by Rebecca Bush, Curator of History and Exhibitions Manager at the Columbus Museum. Bush worked closely with Gass on the Common Grounds exhibition.

 “When I met Chris, I immediately knew he was a talented and thoughtful student who was eager to dive into the world of museums,” said Bush. “It was a joy to mentor Chris during his internship to create this civic dialogue-focused, engaging exhibition. State-wide recognition for his work is well-deserved.”