I was inspired to write this post while teaching a continuing education course called “Perspectives in Renaissance Art History.” Teaching recreational classes for adult learners is a wonderful experience, and it presents a challenge that is quite different than the kind of teaching I have been trained to carry out in the college classroom. Students in continuing education courses are not enrolled for credit or a degree. Rather, they have chosen a low-cost, low commitment class (usually only meeting from one to eight sessions), which promises to offer intellectual and social fulfillment. Instructors must think carefully about the level of rigor that these classes should achieve. I knew that I would be teaching a highly educated and well-traveled group of adult learners. Almost all of them would have attended college; many of them would have taken a class or two in art history during that time. The majority of them would have seen the canonical works of art I planned to show in class. I therefore chose to supplement a traditional survey of Renaissance art with a variety of theoretical frameworks and critical questions in the field. I assigned theory-heavy readings and spent class time discussing images. Read more.
One of my earlier blogs discussed the challenges of funding regarding environmental protection and historic preservation. At a time when budget-cutting and austerity measures are having a profound impact on the ability of state and local governments to set aside funds beyond essential services, along with diminishing individual donations to non-profits, the issue of funding is more important than ever. With inadequate financing how can communities and non-profits achieve their desired goals of protecting both open space and vital historic resources? Read more.
101 Spring Street, New York, 2005. Photo by Andrea Steele. © Judd Foundation. Courtesy Judd Foundation Archives.
In June, Donald Judd’s five-story home and studio, in a historic cast-iron building at the corner of Spring and Mercer Streets in New York’s Soho, will re-open to the public after a three-year restoration.
Judd bought the building in 1968 (for $68,000), and in the process helped usher in the transformation of Soho from a derelict industrial area to a vibrant artistic community. Placing his studio on the street level, he arranged the upper floors as family living quarters. After a time, he moved his studio to the third floor; the ground floor continued to be a place for meetings, gatherings, exhibitions, and performances. Throughout the building he installed works by other artists and his own pieces, as well as antiques and other objects he collected — all part of his artistic exploration of the placement of works of art in space, and the concept of permanent installation.
The house has been restored to the period of 1994, when Judd died. Very little is meant to appear changed. The kitchen is still in place, with a little marionette puppet stage that Judd built in one corner. The original elevator is still in use, which holds only four or five people at any given time. But now the floors have been reinforced, the windows covered with UV filters, and the ground-level lights that were originally designed to provide daylight to the basement areas, and which were covered with plywood and according to Judd’s son only let in water back in Judd’s day, have now been beautifully restored. Read more.
The love of money, it is said, is the root of all evil. I think we can all agree, given the recent financial unpleasantness, the statement conveys a universal truth. As an executive director of a non-profit historical organization, I think about money more than I really care to, but it comes with the job. I know of no one in my position who would tell you she or he has all the fiduciary resources they need. But we work with what we have, find places to get funding for particular projects and delay, redesign or abandon when necessary. Read more.
How can the internet change the way that we conduct research in the humanities? This is a question that scholars have been asking since the earliest days of the web, but as our own relationship with the internet develops through the growth of social networks and smart phones, we continue to find new answers to this question. In my February post I discussed the ways that museums are reaching out to involve adults in the exhibition planning process. These efforts usually take place outside of the museum on interactive online platforms. post: Notes on Modern and Contemporary Art Around the Globe takes these efforts to engage the public a step further. post is a new interactive research platform developed by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. It was launched just two months ago and the concept is still relatively new, but hopefully the website will blossom into a lively community of amateur researchers working alongside scholars affiliated with the MoMA and beyond. The idea is that users will contribute to bibliographies and research, as well as engage in meaningful discussions about contemporary art. In many ways the idea is an elaboration on the idea of community curation. But rather than solicit the community to help plan an exhibition, post brings amateur art lovers, scholars, and artists from outside of the museum into the conversation at an earlier research stage. The resulting collaboration will then feed back into the work of the museum. Read more.
The banks of the Delaware, below the battlefield grounds on which Fort Mercer once stood. Fort Mercer on the New Jersey side and Fort Mifflin on the Pennsylvania side were constructed in 1777 to defend Philadelphia during the American Revolutionary War.
Hiking regularly on the weekends, I am always impressed with how much the general public enjoys the outdoor experience. While each individual has his or her own reasons, the benefits are universal. There is the need to get back in touch with nature so as to spend quality time in the woods while enjoying some solitude. Then there are the health benefits as people seek to burn calories and stay in shape. Regardless of the goal or objective, then, it is clear that enjoying the great outdoors is enjoyed by many. Read more.
I attended The Future of Civil War History conference recently at Gettysburg. One outstanding element of the conference involved a series of field experiences, two-hour plus morning tours with various experts covering topics like battlefield rehabilitation or the fighting in downtown Gettysburg, but these filled up incredibly quickly during the pre-registration period. My guess is that the conference organizers could have hosted twice as many of these as they did and they would still have been oversubscribed. Read more.
Over the last few weeks I have been turning over in my mind and bouncing off colleagues the idea of admission fees, pro and con. Museum fees are hot button issue for many reasons. Few museums can claim fees are the sole or even the majority of their budget revenue; they are a part of the funding jambalaya that includes—or should include—membership or similar programs, endowment or investment funds, fundraising event proceeds, planned giving gifts, etc. How big a role fees play in funding varies depending on the size of the organization. Read more.
As a teacher and museum educator, one of my most difficult tasks is helping students move from a mode of passive knowledge consumption to one of critical engagement with information. Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) is a method traditionally used in museums, and I have found that it gives discussion leaders a way to generate critical thinking. This technique for viewing art was developed by Abigail Housen and Philip Yenawine. It was first tested in museums in the early 1990s. Since then, it has been implemented in museums, schools, and universities around the world. The VTS Institute leads periodic seminars and training sessions throughout the country. I first learned about this technique in a museum studies seminar and have since experienced it as a participant in museum tours. I now use VTS as a tour guide in a university museum and was recently challenged to perform the method in a classroom with a slideshow of digital images. This post offers a meditation on the challenges and rewards of using VTS, and especially on adapting the method for classroom use. Read more.
As an avid hiker and outdoor enthusiast, I never take for granted the opportunities that exist to get away from the grind and noise of daily life and head to the woods for some peace and serenity. Notwithstanding its dense population and development, New Jersey has an impressive array of state parks and open space, thus offering ample opportunities for outdoor fun and recreation. Moreover, living in northern Bergen County allows relatively easy access to the Catskills and Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. Thankfully, protection of open space for outdoor recreation and getting back in touch with nature has been set aside for public enjoyment in perpetuity. Read more.