Quilted material with images--art by Anna Chupa at Lehigh University

Avian Queen, Anna Chupa, 2019, Longarm quilt

The Creation of Art & Knowledge at a University Museum

A Lehigh University Art Galleries exhibition of faculty work celebrates artists as researchers.

Story by

Kelly Hochbein

Photography by

Images courtesy of LUAG

Universities are committed to creating and sharing knowledge in different ways, says William Crow. To that point, a university museum has a significant role to play—as do the artistic endeavors of faculty members, which, he argues, are a form of research in their own right. 

“The museum is really a platform for thinking about how knowledge gets created in many different ways,” says Crow, a professor of practice in Lehigh’s department of art, architecture and design (AAD), and director of Lehigh University Art Galleries (LUAG). “It’s really important for Lehigh and the broader community to see these working artists, art historians, designers [and] architects as researchers. They are practitioners, but the process of making and creating and designing and constructing—that’s another way of knowing about the world. Sometimes when we use the word ‘research,’ it doesn’t automatically evoke that.” 

3D printed and assembled armchair by Wes Heiss at Lehigh University

Apparition (assembled)

Wesley Heiss

2020

Balsa wood, plastic, glue

Says curator Mark Wonsidler: “If you consider the arc from pure science to applied science, we see the same things in the arts, where people are engaging in an open-ended inquiry with a lot of questions and not necessarily clear outcomes, and they enter into a process of discovery.” 

A spring 2020 exhibition at LUAG featured the diverse work of 15 faculty members from AAD: Anna Chupa, professor of design; LUAG’s William Crow; Amy Forsyth, associate professor of design; Lucy Gans, the Louis and Jane Weinstock ‘36 Chair of Art and Architecture; Eugene Han, assistant professor of architecture; Wesley Heiss, associate professor of product design; Marilyn Jones, associate professor of design; Susan Kart, assistant professor of art history and Africana studies; Peter Lusch, professor of practice; Deirdre Murphy, visiting assistant professor of painting and printmaking; Nik Nikolov, associate professor of architecture; Nicholas Sawicki, associate professor of art history; Jason Travers, professor of practice; Christine Ussler, professor of practice; and Anthony Viscardi, professor of architecture. Exhibited works ranged from painting, drawing and sculpture to architectural and graphic design. The department’s two art historians—Kart and Sawicki—provided written commentary on works from LUAG’s permanent collection that they use in their teaching. 

Stacie Brennan, LUAG’s curator of education, developed programming to showcase the interdisciplinarity of the works. Several featured faculty members were paired with an individual from a different field for a series of conversations called “Art in Dialogue,” designed “to highlight how cross-disciplinary conversations can come to be and how works can inform each other,” Brennan says. 

The museum is really a platform for thinking about how knowledge gets created in many different ways.

William Crow

Crow, for example, discussed with Jessecae Marsh, associate professor of psychology, how humans make meaning from visual imagery. After the galleries closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conversations moved online. Art historian Sawicki discussed with Michael Kramp, associate professor of English and director of Lehigh’s Humanities Lab and documentary studies program, the stories that pictures tell, “using the lens of photography to explore ways images communicate across a range of cultures and histories,” says Wonsidler. Other topics included visual journaling, modern architecture in Catalan culture, and music and visual art. Several of these discussions are posted as videos on the LUAG website. 

Says Crow: “When [conversation] happens in a really authentic, interdisciplinary way, it also contributes back to the individual disciplines. So it’s not just about ‘where do we see connections or overlap,’ but rather, ‘how can a conversation about a painting actually contribute to the field of psychology or to engineering or to another field?’”

Although the galleries are currently closed, LUAG offers online resources and experiences on its LUAG@Home page

Story by

Kelly Hochbein

Photography by

Images courtesy of LUAG

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