Focusing on research and exploring the art acquisition process, students enrolled in ART275: Museum Collections and Exhibitions put their knowledge to use to select new, impactful artworks for Lehigh University Art Galleries (LUAG).
A diverse group of 14 undergraduate students, representing a wide range of majors, worked throughout the semester to research LUAG's collection, identify gaps that could be filled by new pieces, virtually visit art galleries and dealers, and, finally, select and purchase pieces for the LUAG collection.
“Whether or not students pursue a career in art or museums, they need hands-on, experiential learning opportunities that require them to make evidence-based arguments. This project required that students present their selections to the LUAG senior staff and defend their choices,” said William Crow, professor and director of LUAG. “As a result of the students’ research and acquisition proposals, we are delighted to bring four works of art into the University art collection, which will not only be enjoyed and studied by future generations, but will speak to this particular historical moment, and will capture the perspectives of these 14 Lehigh students.”
A virtual experience
Through virtual visits, students were able to enter galleries and understand more about the work they were considering for purchase.
Led by co-owner Ann Marshall, students visited Durham Press, a publisher of limited edition prints and multiples in Durham, Pennsylvania. Additionally, they visited Raven Fine Art Editions in Easton, Pennsylvania, a fine art print publisher, hosted by director and owner Curlee Raven Holton.
During each virtual session, students learned the stories behind the works and were able to ask questions to better inform their selection decisions.
“Even over Zoom, I was able to examine each of the pieces, learn more about the artists both of these organizations work with, and understand the various ways in which their work would impact the Lehigh community," said Hannah Coleman, '22.
Identifying gaps in the collection
Besides the criteria of adhering to the LUAG Collections Policy and a budget of $25,000 from LUAG’s Fine Arts Endowment, the students were charged with the primary aim of selecting a work of art that speaks to the times in which we live.
"As a class we talked about who LUAG serves, the works of art already in the collection, and what we want LUAG to look like moving forward. It was immediately clear that representation and diversifying Lehigh’s collection was one of our top priorities," said Kate Goodwin '22. "We wanted to acquire a piece of art that spoke to the times while also engaging viewers."
Working in teams, the students researched, discussed, and debated the works viewed to create an acquisition proposal for two pieces from both Durham Press and Raven Fine Art Editions. To best explain their selections, students presented their arguments in class, describing why their works were the best fit for Lehigh. The groups submitted their formal proposals, drawing on evidence and support, to be carefully reviewed by museum staff.
The selected works include Chitra Ganesh's Architects of the Future, a portfolio of four seriagraphs; Hurvin Anderson's Paradise, a woodblock print; and Curlee Raven Holton's Hands Up, Nimbus and Spinning Glory.
These four artworks will be placed on view in the galleries in the fall semester, with accompanying labels and text written by the students that discuss why they selected these works for Lehigh.
"There were many pieces with valuable stories and relevance from artists of different experiences, practices, and backgrounds, and the pressure of choosing a limited number of pieces has proven to be a challenging task, putting into perspective the role of museums and other arts institutions in the making of history," said Rei Ukon '21. "Ultimately, purchasing a piece of art is also deciding which works deserve a place on the gallery walls. I was reminded of the power institutions hold in controlling what stories are told and upheld, and which fade away into history."
In conjunction with LUAG, ART275: Museum Collections and Exhibitions will be offered to Lehigh students every-other year going forward.