After spending two weeks in the Big Apple this summer, Cadiz resident and University Heights Academy sophomore Riley Harper wants to pursue a career in the art world.

The 14-year-old studied modern museums at Sotheby's Summer Institute while residing in New York City. The two-week pre-college program, which was July 22 through Sunday, was sponsored by Sotheby's Art Institute.

"It was fabulous," she said. "I loved every single second of it."

Intensive study

Riley elected to participate in the modern museum intensive study which focused on modern and contemporary art. The study included behind-the-scenes access and mentoring with the curators at the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"I gained an appreciation for the behind-the-scenes side of the art world," she said. "When you think of art as a career, you may think of paint(ing) something, but there are so many other options. You can be a curator. You can be in the art business. You can work at an auction house ... I definitely want to do this (type of work) in some form or fashion."

Admission to Sotheby's Summer Institute is highly competitive. Applicants are selected based on their artistic ability and strong academic background, along with their ability for critical thinking.

During her stay, Riley and about 40 other Sotheby's Summer Institute students were immersed in the vibrant global art capital with auction houses, blue-chip and emerging galleries, world-class museums, artists' studios, private collections and arts foundations during their course term.

Although the Museum of Modern Art was closed for remodeling, Riley said one of the curators talked with her group about the renovations.

"That was really awesome because MOMA is really huge in New York," Riley said.

Another highlight, Riley said, was visiting the "Camp" exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. According to the museum's website, "Susan Sontag's 1964 essay "Notes on 'Camp' " provides the framework for the exhibition, which examines how the elements of irony, humor, parody, pastiche, artifice, theatricality and exaggeration are expressed in fashion."

"(The exhibit showed) Lady Gaga's style is 'camp.' It's a little crazy," Riley said.

"I've never been inside the Met before. It's huge. I like the modern and contemporary art section of the Met."

Final project

Riley's final project for the modern museum intensive study was to prepare a mock exhibition as if she was a museum curator. Her task was to select 15 pieces of art that she had seen in New York for the mock exhibition. Then, she wrote a narrative explaining her choices and thoughts about why the art is significant. Her mock exhibition focused on psychology in art.

"Traditionally each color has its own meaning and an emotion it is supposed to make viewers feel, however in this exhibition it is shown how with the use of depth and texture some works make viewers feel the opposite emotion than the way they are supposed to feel," Riley wrote in her narrative. "Blue produces a calm or peaceful feeling, red makes viewers feel passionate or angry, yellow represents happiness, black reminds viewers of grief, and white represents pureness or perfection ... The choice to use color was made because of the way it links back to psychology, whereas form or line do not usually convey any emotion or personal connection to the art."

Among the artwork Riley selected for her mock exhibition were colorful pieces like Kwang Young Chun's "Aggregation 18 -- (Star 1)," Constantina Zavistanos' "I Think We're Alone Now (Host), 2016 (2008-16) and Josef Albers' "Homage to the Square: Wait, 1967."

Riley said the mock exhibition was "meant to take viewers on an 'emotional rollercoaster' through the different uses of color, texture, and mediums."

Real-life experience

Classes begin Tuesday at UHA, but Riley's thoughts are still in New York City. The daughter of Dr. Shea Godwin and Bailey Oliver, Cadiz, and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Harper, Phoenix, said she is considering applying for Sotheby's Summer Institute again if different studies are offered next year.

"I'm going to check it out again for next summer," she said. "I would definitely recommend it to anybody."

Riley said she appreciates the real-life experience she gained at Sotheby's Summer Institute.

"I made a lot of really awesome friends. It was cool to be around so many people who love what I love," she said. "I absolutely loved it. I'm really grateful for the opportunity."

Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or

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