Who would have guessed that I would curate an exhibition about sports? And yet, when it relates so closely to something I’m teaching, how could I have resisted? Last winter, the Kansas Humanities Council circulated a call for grant proposals related to the Smithsonian Institution’s Hometown Teams exhibit, looking for partner sites around the state to produce projects on stories of sports and community. Because I teach a section of the First-Year Seminar, and because one of our common reads is Warren St. John’s Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference, and because so many of our first-year students now come to college in part to play sports, this seemed like a perfect potential fit. So I applied, and Bethel College was named one of 26 partner sites – and the only college or university to be included (most are small museums or community foundations).
Our project has been two-fold: bringing in an extensive series of speakers for our convocation line-up – on topics including Mexican-American fastpitch softball in Kansas, the Cherokee ball game Anetso, cultural appropriation and sports mascots, and racial discrimination in sports – and an exhibition at Kauffman Museum. Working with museum staff, area researchers and archivists, and a wide variety of community members, I had the opportunity to curate Root for the Home Team: Building Community through Sports, an exhibition that tells some of the stories from our communities. We’ve been able to use the speaker series and the exhibition as ways to extend learning beyond the classroom, looking at how themes from our book tie into other real-world examples. And my design students were able to meet with the exhibit designers and think about some of the questions that go into three-dimensional design, for a very specific set of audiences.
I am grateful for the collaboration of so many colleagues on this project!