In preparation for an exhibit to be hosted by the University of Texas of the Permian Basin this fall, students in a Maymester class led by History Professor Derek Catsam and Associate Professor of Art Chris Stanley is curating sports artifacts.
Called “Museum on Main Street: Hometown Teams — How Sports Shaped America,” it will be featured in partnership with the Smithsonian Institute.
“Since 1994, the Smithsonian has toured parts of their collections,” Stanley said. “We had never engaged in their processes, and for some reason I got the email this year from Randy Ham and we responded. We thought it was a great idea to bring Smithsonian quality shows to the Permian Basin. The caveat was that our students would be able to co-curate our own local traditions.”
Ham is executive director of Odessa Arts.
“That was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Stanley said. “I think that in the field of teaching when you can give your students an opportunity to have a spot on their resume that says Smithsonian — that’s the best. So that’s how that process started.”
Stanley said the show started in Marshall and it’s going to travel to several towns in Texas ending up in Canadian. It will be in Odessa Oct. 13 through Nov. 17, he said.
“We’re going to house the show partially in our Nancy Fyfe Cardozier gallery, where we’ll be not only putting on the Smithsonian show but then also honoring a Midlander, a gentleman by the name of Doc Dodson, who was a world renowned athletic trainer … (and) an Olympic athletic trainer at the same time. The students that Dr. Catsam is teaching are working on research into sports in the area.”
Permian Basin football was already curated into the show by the Smithsonian, Stanley noted.
There are 10 students in the class.
Castsam said he teaches sports history classes and he and Stanley started talking about this class in the fall of 2017 and the intersection between history and art, incorporating Catsam’s interest in sports.
In the spring of 2017, Catsam said he was scheduled to teach a global sports history class, which was about cricket, rugby and Olympic sports.
“… Nonetheless, the class did these projects as part of this process and they came up with three projects. … One group did the Odessa Boys and Girls Club judo, one did the UTPB sports and one did minor league sports in the area,” Catsam said.
“Chris and I talked and we wanted to do a specific summer course because the summer courses are intense. You meet for three or four hours a day, depending on which summer session you do, so we chose to do them for Maymester where you meet four hours a day, four days a week for three weeks,” Catsam said. “That’s a good hunk of time to get projects done. It’s technically the same class hours as during the regular semester,” but you can get a lot done because it’s so much more intense.
Within the class, there are two groups. One meets in the morning and the other in the evening.
The evening group is focusing on minor league sports and unexplored aspects of athletics in the area.
“This group of seven who meet every day from 8 to 12 picked rodeo. They have found some incredible, amazing things. Then I’m teaching an American sports history class in the fall … and they’ll take on a handful of projects. At least one or two groups will continue with the work that we did, especially in the spring, to sort of refine some of that,” Catsam said.
Catsam said the students are not only learning new things, but new possibilities in terms of working for museums, archives, halls of fame or as researchers.
Jesus Lujan, who is going into senior year as a history major at UTPB, said he had Catsam for two courses previously.
“I’ve always enjoyed his classes,” Lujan said. “He makes us learn and work on our own projects. He doesn’t just let you slide by. … He makes you do your work and you end up learning new stuff that you never knew about.”
Lujan, who is from Pecos, said he’s a big sports fan, so combining history and politics drew him to the course. He added that being able to put the Smithsonian on his resume is a plus, as well.
He’s focused on the Pecos rodeo.
“One good thing about sports, no matter where you’re at someone plays a sport. You can speak different languages, but everyone speaks the same sports language,” Lujan said.