Archive for the ‘Higher Education’ Category

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Fly Into (Not Over) Indiana

October 14, 2009

Written by Richard McCoy, an Associate Conservator of Objects & Variable Art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Honestly, I don’t work for the IMA’s public relations department, but I can’t think of anyway to tell you about the show that just opened here without sounding just like a “PR Guy.”  Simply put, Sacred Spain: Art and Belief in the Spanish World represents the best any museum has to offer, anywhere in the world. 

 Sacred Spain

From the beauty and significance of the artworks on view, to the scholarship surrounding their context and selection, to the accompanying two-day symposium (which is free and starts this Friday: Sacred and Profane in the Early Modern Hispanic World, to the conservation work done on some of the artworks in the show (both here at the IMA and abroad), to the coordination and effort required to bring here over 70 artworks literally from all over the world, and, finally, to the design of the gallery and the hand-held devices you can use to learn more about the artworks as you experience them, all of this comes together for just three exceptional months right here in Indianapolis.

This exhibition is but more visual and tangible proof that Indianapolis is no longer a fly-over state for the art world; we’re quickly becoming a fly-into state.

As an art conservator at the IMA, one of my main responsibilities is to help make sure the artworks are safe and sound while they travel and are on view — this is a responsibility I share with a host of IMA folks.  My personal experiences with this show were in travelling to Madrid to oversee the packing and transportation of a few artworks from there to here (via a 15-hour truck ride to Paris), and earlier this year I oversaw the photography of The Crown of the Andes, which is in a private collection, and rarely on view.  Spending a few hours in close proximity to the Crown ranks up there as one of the most special days I’ve had working in the museum world.   

The Crown of the Andes ca 1600-1700

But what also makes this show exceptional is that you can see it all free — thanks to a generous donation by the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation. Also, the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue are presented with the collaboration of the prestigious State Corporation for Spanish Cultural Action Abroad, SEACEX.

Finally, to give you some in-depth background about one of the paintings in the show, here’s a video with Max Anderson, the Director and CEO of the IMA, Ronda Kasl, the IMA curator, who for the past 5 or more years has been working to put this exhibition together, talking about one of the paintings in the show, which was conserved right here at the IMA by Christina Milton-O’Connell and Linda Witkowski.

McCoy conserves artworks across all areas of the collection and his research extends beyond the technology and structure of artworks to include artistic intent and execution as it relates to the preservation of contemporary art. His current research includes the investigation of interior channels in African Songye power figures and making conservation public through social media.

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What-are-you-reading-Wednesday: Andrew’s take on Andrew

July 22, 2009

Written by Andrew Glaser. Andrew is a junior majoring in finance at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. This is his second summer working for the Indiana Humanities Council.

I find few presidents to be quite as interesting as Andrew Jackson. Apparently you have to do quite a lot to get your face on the 20 dollar bill. Those acts include:

  • Refusing to shine a Redcoat’s boots at the age of 14 and being slashed with a sword for your defiance
  • Allowing an opponent in a duel to shoot at you first, killing him after that, and carrying the bullet that hit you in your arm for the rest of your life
  • Beating with your walking stick a would-be assassin whose pistols both mysteriously failed to fire

Joking aside, great presidents tend to be remembered and glorified as larger-than-life, but Jackson was a flawed—and contradictory—man. Though he adopted a Native American orphan to raise as his own (the boy died only a few years later), he was a staunch champion of the removal of Native Americans from their tribal lands, arguing that “red” and “white” people could not coexist in proximity. But, as author Jon Meacham insightfully reminds us, “not all great presidents were always good, and neither individuals nor nations are without evil.”

Meacham’s biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion, explores the fascinating life of our seventh president, whose views about the presidency still shape the balance of power among the three branches of the federal government. Hate the spoils system? Blame Andy Jackson. Love the president’s power to veto anything he doesn’t like? Thank Andy Jackson.

This isn’t the first biography of Andrew Jackson, but it’s easily the best and most readable, probably because it focuses primarily on his White House years. (Take it from me—I couldn’t even finish the last AJ biography I read. I can only read so much of 18th century Tennessee political life.)

It’s a must read for any history buff—or any aging man seeking inspiration and/or a reminder that 70-something-year-olds can still pack quite a wallop with a well placed cane hit.

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Making it Relevant: Engaging Emerson

July 17, 2009

“Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote these books.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar

Whether I like it or not, the classics have no value just because we consider them classics. Sure, they deal with timeless questions that we’re still asking today, but why not just ask what people today are thinking? Ralph Waldo Emerson was a man who was fed up with the dogma of the time. People in his day just read the classics, considered them authoritative, and derided everything else.

Well, Emerson thought that was totally lame. He thought people shouldn’t be so obsessed with the classics that they forgot to come up with their own answers to the great questions. So he took a break from hanging out in nature to deliver a totally awesome speech called The American Scholar.

In this profound challenge to the intellectual establishment of our country, Emerson reminded us that the real answers to our greatest questions lie within our own experience. It does no good, he held, to idealize the experience of others for its own sake. We must rely on our own intuition and our own minds to make meaning and find the answers we need.

Emerson wasn’t telling us not to read or to study the classical texts, but to be wary of the kind of thinking that stunts our minds when we they should continue to grow. The American Scholar has stood the test of time because it rouses us out of complacency and encourages us to take a good, hard look at the food we’ve been nourishing our minds on.

All the same, it looks like the joke’s on you, Ralph. You’ve become a classic! You spent all that time urging people to get over the old tomes, and now you are one. Looks like you were so wise and well-respected, people just had to preserve you instead of looking boldly into the future.

This weekly series (by Joshua Eskew, a senior at Marian College studying English and communication, and an intern with the Indiana Humanities Council) will help expose the relevance of studying the classics.

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Valuing the Liberal Arts – Another Viewpoint

July 7, 2009

The recent panic over the declining stock value of the humanities and liberal arts on university campuses might lead some to sell their holdings prematurely. In my personal opinion, however, the portfolio does have a future even if it may require a bit of rebalancing.

The question has usually been phrased in the following form: Can we, or should we, convince young college students to major in English, history, philosophy, art history, or related fields, given today’s job market?

There are arguments in favor of doing just that, such as those recently presented in this column by interns Christian Hines and Josh Eskew. Let’s consider, though, a few other markets for the humanities in higher education:

1) Non-majors. As a college student, I took a course called Chemistry for Non-Majors because my university felt I needed to know some science despite being an English major. Universities should not abandon the ideal vision of the educated person, even if that person is headed for a career in business, engineering, or sportscasting. Someday that graduate may be called on to know about Renaissance free markets, Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions, or the origin of the marathon.

2) Education majors. Students who are preparing to teach humanities subjects in K-12 classrooms are not always required to take many, or any, college courses in those departments. This issue can be controversial, so I will simply point it out.

3) Older students. The leading edge of the wave of baby boomers is comprised of people born in 1946, who are turning 63 this year. Early retirement is being accelerated by layoffs due to the economic crisis. Thus there are a lot of people who came of age in the ’60s, still wonder what it all meant, and have time to go back to school and find out. Preparing students for “the rest of their lives” may soon take on a whole new meaning.

Will any of these strategies fill upper division courses and senior seminars? Given some creative retooling, perhaps they might.