'Artists Who Teach' showcased in new exhibit at The Westmoreland
With “Artists Who Teach,” an exhibition opening Aug. 25 in The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, chief curator Barbara Jones is putting a new spin on an old idea.
The exhibition will feature more than 100 works by 58 artists who teach at area colleges and universities. It was inspired, Jones says, by a 2011 show she organized at the Greensburg museum with works by a group of artists who taught at Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University.
“(The 2011 show) took a historical look at the subject,” Jones says. “I thought it would be great to do one with contemporary artists. I thought this would be a good way to reprise that idea.”
Jones says she invited all the teaching artists from the schools to participate.
“In my 22 years in Pittsburgh this is the first exhibition in a museum venue, to my knowledge, that specifically highlights the professional contributions of this particular group of artists,” says Delanie Jenkins, associate professor and chair of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Studio Arts. “While most colleges and universities exhibit the work of their faculty for each campus community, this exhibition concentrates the work of faculty from multiple institutions for a broader audience.”
“I didn’t want to jury the show, so we used a democratic system,” Jones says. “They chose if they wanted to be involved.”
The approach was that each participant could submit three works, then Jones said she and curatorial assistant Bonnie West (whom Jones said “handled the enormous logistics” of the exhibition) “would see what fit.”
Vast array of art
Exhibiting artist Susanne Slavick, the Andrew W. Mellon professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon, says the exhibition is “a wonderful opportunity to share our work outside of the studio classroom, in a beautiful museum, close to home. Many of us exhibit internationally and across the country, and we can’t always travel to see each other’s work, so this is also a chance for colleagues and audiences to see a vast array of what is created right here in this corner of Pennsylvania.”
Saint Vincent College art professor Ben Schachter will be showing mixed media collages from his “Aquavit” series drawing on imagery from fountains, ritual Hebrew baths and distillation equipment.
“I enjoy teaching drawing because I help people see the world objectively. But when people view my work, I invite them to see the world through my eyes, subjectively,” he says. “Teaching art and making art are two very different things.”
A video of the artists discussing why they teach will play in the gallery as part of the exhibition.
The Westmoreland also will host a series of three free lectures in which selected artists will discuss their work.
The impact of students
Also coming in September will be “Students of Artists Who Teach,” a show in The Westmoreland’s Robertshaw Gallery.
For this show, Jones says, each artist who teaches was invited to nominate a student to include. “Some declined,” she says. “They said it was too hard to pick just one. We’re hoping this exhibit will show the impact that teachers have on students — and vice versa, because a lot of them say they also learn from their students.”
“Artists Who Teach” represents faculty members from Carlow College, Carnegie Mellon, Chatham University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Robert Morris University, Saint Vincent, Seton Hill, University of Pittsburgh main campus and Greensburg campus and WCCC.
An opening reception Aug. 25 will also serve as a welcome for Anne Kraybill, the museum’s incoming Richard M. Scaife Director/CEO.
The reception is free but reservations are requested.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer.