A Message From Academic Affairs
Another worthwhile presentation of the exhibition Liberal Arts through the AGES has just closed, made a success by all of the faculty members who incorporated teaching with these art works. It has been rewarding to watch students realize connections between the art and their studies, to see their dawning comprehension that learning is not as compartmentalized as they presumed. They might have looked at Albrecht Dürer's 1510 woodcut Death of the Virgin, and followed questions to conclude that the image is apocryphal in that elevated clergy attend to the last rites of the Virgin Mary. Students then work out how that fits into class study about Martin Luther's discontent with his church's Biblical interpretation and spiritual access of the individual. There are many anecdotes about student reactions that linger, from the student body builder enthusiast who stayed to talk about a printmaker's interpretation of Michelangelo's titan-like Sistine chapel figures, to the outburst of “they really didn't kiss like that back then?!” while we looked at the ultra-detailed passenger narratives in the 1866 engraving The Railway Station.
For most of the students, approaching the exhibition was a different mode of learning and they were encouraged to become confident to discuss what they saw, and the implications thereof. Not all was pleasant to encounter; the blind justice figure in Brueghel's 1559 Justicia ignores an act of torture that has an uncanny resonance today: the students recognized water boarding. We traced the origins of modernity in developments such as photographic technology, changes in patronage, growing middle class recreation, invention of aniline dyes, scientific interest, printed media influences, and cultural interchanges.
This was a pioneering program that went against standard practice: no other museum has re-mounted an exhibit over several years, along with providing a coordinated publication, to serve teaching needs. For us, the involvement has led to significant increased class usage, a total of 34 class tours in 8 weeks in 2008. Attendance figures for this year are still being assembled. Dr. Catherine Carter Goebel, Paul A. Anderson Chair in the Arts and professor of art history, originated and has been editor and faculty curator for these projects. By making the publication a textbook, and building on previous exhibitions, there has been greater inter-disciplinary relevance and usage. On Family Weekend last October, I was pleasantly surprised when I conducted a tour of the Art Museum exhibitions. It is one of several campus program options scheduled against the afternoon football game, so I was prepared for a small audience. This year, when over thirty people assembled, the audience was mainly made up of former L.S. students who were bringing in their parents for that experience. This was an affirmation for the art teaching resources Augustana provides. I thank faculty across campus—in foreign languages , history, political science, anthropology, music, religion, art history, studio art, chemistry, mathematics, English—for their participation.
Sherry C. Maurer
Director, Augustana College Art Museum
Image credit lines: Albrecht Dürer, Purchase with Gift of Augustana College Art History Alumni in Honor of Dr. Mary Em Kirn; Francis Holl after William Powell Frith, Paul A. Anderson Chair in the Arts Purchase; Philip Galle after Pieter Bruegel, Purchase Made Possible by Gifts of Sonja Knudsen, George and Pat Olson, and Paul A. Anderson Chair in the Arts Purchase, with Courtesy of Mr. Harris Schrank.