College art museums make major contributions to Ohio’s artistic community
The Five Colleges of Ohio is a consortium founded in 1995 that consists of the College of Wooster, Oberlin College, Denison University, Kenyon College and Ohio Wesleyan University. The group has a shared mission of cooperation and understanding to enhance the quality of the schools and the communities of which they are a part.
One of the ways they do this is through a cooperative approach their art collections and programs. Try thinking of an art museum that is as large as any major Ohio city art museum, and you will begin to understand how the Five Colleges of Ohio galleries come together.
Under the directorship of Natalie Marsh, Kenyon College’s Graham Gund Gallery recently opened its doors.
“Each of the Ohio Five colleges has specializations and areas of collecting for which they are known. There isn’t much duplication across collections. As the Gund Gallery and our new board of directors strategize collecting priorities, we are keenly aware of the strong collections in our area and do not intend to actively collect in ways that duplicate or compete with our consortium partners,” Marsh says.
“The Gund Gallery will primarily focus collecting efforts on 20th and 21st Century art – the same focus of our curatorial program. In turn, we intend to distinguish our collecting through conscientiously acquiring work that serves the rich conversations and depth of critical thinking inherent in the interdisciplinary liberal arts curriculum.”
The Gund Gallery is a dynamic, 31,000-square-foot space dedicated to expanding ways of seeing and learning. The gallery exists to be a cutting-edge producer of challenging new knowledge about the visual.
Through June 23, Israeli-born (1967) and London-based photographer and filmmaker Ori Gersht presents evocative works that simultaneously traverse the relationships between photography and painting while grappling with personal and historical themes of beauty, loss and violence, including the Holocaust and Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Oberlin College’s Allen Memorial Art Museum, under the direction of Andria Derstine, has a collection numbering more than 14,000 works and is visited by more than 40,000 people each year. Founded in 1917, it is the largest of the five colleges museums and it was the first college art museum west of the Alleghenies. Unique to Oberlin is the art rental program. At the beginning of every semester, students camp out in front of the north gate of the museum to get first pick of original etchings, lithographs and paintings by artists including Renoir, Warhol, Dalí and Picasso. For five dollars per semester, students can hang these works on their dorm room walls.
Ellen H. Johnson, a professor of art at Oberlin, started the program in the 1940s in order to “develop the aesthetic sensibilities of students and encourage ordered thinking and discrimination in other areas of their lives.”
Religion, Ritual and Performance in the Renaissance is an academic yearlong exhibition including more than 30 works – sacred and secular, from both Northern and Southern Europe, and dating from the late 13th to early 17th Century – on loan from the Yale University Art Gallery. These works will be hung alongside stellar examples of Renaissance art from the museum permanent collection.
The exhibition is made possible by generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of a collection-sharing initiative. Numerous other installations – of ancient, Asian, African, Islamic, Latin American, European and contemporary art – have been organized by Oberlin students, faculty and museum staff to complement and expand upon this exhibition’s themes through June 30.
The Denison Museum at Denison University is relatively young, but the school’s collection has been in the making for many years. Museum Director Sherry Harlacher oversees collections the contents of which number more than 8,000 objects from multiple areas of the world, primarily Asia, Europe and North and Central America.
A wide variety of media – including stone, wood, paper, lacquer, metal, ivory and oils – is represented in the collection. Currently, the collection of Burmese art includes woodcarving, lacquer ware, bronze, silver and ivory objects. The dates of objects range from the Pyu period (7th to 9th centuries) through the 20th Century. The textiles, Buddha images and lacquer ware comprise the most extensive portions of the collection and number about 1,500 items, many of which are extremely rare. The representation of a broad expanse of periods and materials makes the Denison collection one of the most comprehensive in the United States.
Artist Books Print Project, through May 11, is the current exhibition. The works in this exhibition were created in Denison’s introduction to print course, taught by visiting professor Melissa Vogley-Woods in fall 2012, and address an exploration of memory.
College of Wooster
Working across disciplines and programs, Director and Curator Kitty McManus Zurko of the College of Wooster Art Museum presents six to eight exhibitions annually in the Sussel Gallery and the Burton D. Morgan Gallery. Exhibitions alternate between those featuring course-focused projects and those drawn from the permanent collection of more than 8,500 objects from regional, national and international artists.
The College of Wooster Art Museum’s permanent collection includes prints, ancient pottery, ethnographic materials and contemporary art with the largest single collection of John Taylor Arms Print Collection, which includes more than 5,000 prints and drawings. Some of the artists represented in this collection are Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, Isabel Bishop, Albrecht Dürer, Käthe Kollwitz and Félix Bracquemond.
From April 16-May 13, Object Lessons: Selections from the Permanent Collection will be featured at the museum. Curated by students enrolled in Museum Studies, the exhibit will feature one of the collection’s eight woodblock prints by German Renaissance Master Albrecht Dürer. This is another example of how the entire student body of each school will, through a variety of courses and programs, come to interact with the art collections.
Ohio Wesleyan University
Justin Kronewetter, director of the Richard M. Ross Art Museum at Ohio Wesleyan University introduced me to the Five Colleges of Ohio. The interchange between the member schools was recently on display in an exhibition of sculptures by Kenyon professor of art Barry Gunderson.
The mission of the museum, known by its many friends as “The Ross,” is to provide exhibitions of distinctive quality and content, stewardship and growth of its permanent collection, and lectures and educational support for the benefit of the university and wider central Ohio community. For example, the collection has acquired a number of works by contemporary Native American artists (see The Painter’s Eye in the November edition of CityScene), which reflects the aim of the Five Colleges to embrace and engage the many cultures that make up our world.
Diverse, on exhibit until April 7, is an exhibition featuring the work of Marjorie Bender, N. Penney Denning, Egle Gatins, Elena Osterwalder, Elsie Sanchez, Barbara Vogel and Leah L. Wong. It illustrates how the Ross Museum brings the work of the finest artists in the region to the community.
All five of the schools are heavily involved in their communities with a special emphasis on the art education of children, providing wonderful visual resources for all at no charge. These institutions are an important part of the entire state of Ohio’s cultural heritage and will be a vital part of our future.
Nationally renowned local artist Michael McEwan is a contributing writer. He teaches painting and drawing classes at his studio in the Clintonville area. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.