The Final Trope: An Exhibition on Tropes in Horror Films

The Final Trope: An Exhibition on Tropes in Horror Films

The poster for the Final Trope, our exhibition opening on October 29.

This semester I’m in the Gallery Management practicum, and the class is hustling to put together our first exhibition, The Final Trope (click through to follow us on instagram). Our work-in-progress marketing blurb follows:

The Final Trope is an exhibition exploring the rich history of the horror genre, and the tropes and clichés that make the genre what it is. The exhibit is told in an interactive, linear fashion, giving the illusion that audiences are walking through a live movie, following a group of five people trapped in the haunted Camp Silver Lake. The space is an immersive experience using props, costumes, posters and artwork that illuminate the ways horror movies reflect society’s stereotypes and our collective biases.

Curator Owen Rodriguez took the curatorial practicum with me last spring, and the Hokin Gallery green-lit our proposals for installation this year. My show on contemporary Chicago drag photography will open in February. In the meantime, we’re overhauling the Hokin Gallery. Part physical installation and part film installation, this exhibition is unique because it breaks through the paradigm of hanging art on white walls. It creates a unique experience for attendees to experience the settings and stereotypes of horror films, with the predominant emphasis being on the “final girl” trope. There are more examples than you can count, but one of the originals was Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in Halloween.

From left to right: Owen Rodriguez, curator; Kelly Schmader (me), head of marketing and events; and Rana Liu, project director.

Due to my recovery from surgery, I haven’t been able to pull my weight on the physical installation, but I returned to class this week with high levels of energy to help, given that the opening is at the end of this month.

For a little more texture about the experience thus far, I asked Rana, fellow MAM cohort member and all-around powerhouse, to give me a run down about mounting The Final Trope. Her perspective follows:

“My name is Rana Liu and I am a second year Master of Arts Management student from Montreal, Canada. I did my undergraduate studies at McGill University where I double majored in Political Science and English: Drama and Theatre. For the exhibition, I have the immense honor to be the Project Director working alongside a passionate team of creatives. The Final Trope is an interactive exhibition showcasing 1980s horror film character tropes. For the past month, we have been transforming the gallery space into a movie set, envisioned and created by our genius curator, Owen Rodriguez.

I strongly recommend students who want a hands-on experience to take this class. Bob, our professor, reminds us every week that this isn’t a class, but an actual professional work experience and I agree! It is challenging work, where we put extra hours in to build the set and run the administrative aspects of the gallery. But there is something about the Hokin Gallery that pulls you in, so much so that I work long hours, and even forget to have dinner (let’s say I am now very familiar with our local Subway!)

As Project Director, my main duty is to ensure all departments run smoothly and communicate with one another. That means I wear several hats: managing our different teams, contributing to production designs, and supporting the curator. From implementing production calendars, creating marketing plans and ensuring a positive workflow, there is never a dull moment. My nerdy self loves all of these components! I am proud to say my friends recently crowned me Email Queen.

The class is a mixture of graduate and undergraduate students, which I find makes this practicum stronger. Graduate students are assigned higher managerial positions with Bob acting as mentor. This structure allows graduate students to lead, where they have more freedom and more responsibility to run an exhibition. I have found the support of an experienced academic member has widely contributed to advancing my managerial skill set.  I have had a chance to apply the knowledge learned from my previous classes in the program in this practicum.

As we approach crunch time, I am the good type of stressed. In horror movie terms, I feel like doing the Psycho scream, but it is an excited scream with a drop of fright as our opening is around the corner. If you want see for yourself, come to The Final Trope opening on October 29!”

Gallery management classmate painting the Hokin walls.