Each year Bard Graduate Center hosts two fellowships in partnership with Pratt Institute. These opportunities were developed in collaboration with the faculties of the Master of Science in Library and Information Science and the undergraduate program in Communications Design at Pratt. They provide exceptional students in these programs, especially those who focus on art librarianship and graphic design within museums, galleries, publishing, and academia, with professional experience and invaluable mentorship in BGC’s departments of Research Collections and Marketing, Communications, and Design. The fellowships are dedicated to advancing diversity and inclusion within their respective fields.

Stefany Merkelbach and Naomi Desai are this year’s Pratt Fellows. Merkelbach’s interests in academic libraries, archives, and museum collections aligned seamlessly with the unique, hands-on learning opportunity offered by BGC’s academic art library and study collection. She enjoys collaborating cross-departmentally with a seasoned team of library staff, many of whom are fellow Pratt alums, including collection development librarian Abigail Walker, research services librarian Polly Cancro, and digital collections metadata librarian and study collection manager Barb Elam.

Vy Nguyen (left), BGC’s Coordinator of Marketing and Communcations, and Stefany Merkelbach (right) discuss her current project. Photo by Fresco Arts Team.

“The library team here is so welcoming, [and] they are very interested in making this experience worthwhile for the fellows. They really want us to come away having fulfilled our own interests and [having learned] about ourselves and ourselves in the field,” said Merkelbach.

Photo by Fresco Arts Team.

One of Merkelbach’s recent projects involved the processing, photographing, and shelving of more than 156 dolls donated to the BGC Study Collection to present them in accessible ways for the community. Since working amongst BGC’s video and object collection and touring other museum libraries and special collections, Merkelbach is discovering a career interest in material objects beyond books. Merkelbach’s fellowship spans the entire duration of her two-year master’s program, so she will continue her work at BGC through summer 2025.

Naomi Desai pictured in front of the chronology she designed for BGC’s Sonia Delaunay exhibition. Photo by Vy Nguyen.

Naomi Desai is a senior at Pratt where she majors in communications design with a focus on graphic design and minors in sustainability and social justice. She joined BGC as the graphic design fellow in September 2023. Desai, motivated by an interest in designing for exhibitions and for print and publications, was an exceptional match for this multidisciplinary experience. Under the mentorship of BGC’s art director, Laura Grey, and senior designer, Jocelyn Lau, Desai designs branded marketing materials, including event posters and social media ads. Recently she played a critical role in conceptualizing and executing a three-wall chronology component that orients visitors to BGC’s acclaimed Sonia Delaunay: Living Art exhibition, on view through July 7.

Sonia Delaunay chronology. Photo by Fresco Arts Team.

Guided by Grey and Lau’s perceptive design sensibilities and trust-based team leadership, Desai is further developing her personal career interests in typography and print with two upcoming design projects: the BGCX publication What Are Objects? by Anne-Sophie Lehmann and the program for BGC’s upcoming Qualifying Paper symposium, where graduating MA students present their capstone papers. Desai will conclude her fellowship in fall 2024

Desai and Merkelbach both agree that their fellowship experiences at BGC have been incredibly instrumental in shaping their career pursuits, kindling new professional interests, and fostering personal growth. “There’s so much more to learn outside of school and this is a great place to do that,” said Desai.