Nine minutes, 16 students, and four works of art — one of which ultimately will be acquired by the Wellin Museum.
Students in the class From Collecting to Curating: American Art, 1900 to 1950, taught by Associate Professor of Art Robert Knight and Michael Shapiro ’71, former director of the High Museum of Art, were tasked with making an acquisition pitch on behalf of the Wellin Museum.
The project started with a trip to New York City, where students visited galleries and were provided potential options that tied in with the subject of the class, fit well within the Wellin’s collection, and were within the price range. They subsequently voted to prune the list to four works of art, and the class of 16 students divided into teams of four. Back on campus last month, each group made a case for one of the prints to an “acquisition committee” that comprised Museum Director Tracy Adler, Shapiro, and Knight.
The works that students championed included Odes by Michael Goldberg, Untitled, from Salute by Grace Hartigan, Tools by Jacob Lawrence, and The Mirror by George Tooker. Students prepared for their presentations by researching each artist’s background and the history of the work itself; analyzing the composition; and reviewing its context relative to the museum and the potential benefit to the Hamilton community and other interdisciplinary connections.
Each group’s main arguments were as follows:
Group One (Adriana Mullin ’21, Amanda Ghiloni ’22, Lydia McGinn ’22, Madeline Justiniano ’21) – Odes by Michael Goldberg
- Intersection of art and literature
- Valuable resource to represent the time period
- Relevant to on-campus publications
Group Two (Emma Fighera ’20, James Carhart ’21, Satchel McLaughlin ’22, Olivia Munnelly ’20) – Untitled, from Salute by Grace Hartigan
- Unique look at printmaking
- Adds to the number of female artists included in the Wellin’s collection
- Marks the transformative nature of abstract expressionist art
Group Three (Mary Bei Prince ’20, Lila Reid ’20, Hillary Bisono Ortega ’21, Samuel Guindon ’21) – Tools by Jacob Lawrence
- Enhances the inclusive nature of the Wellin’s collection
- Depicts the exhaustion of working in a material society
Group Four (Kathryn Kearney ’21, Jesse Gross ’22, Eliana Sill ’22, Sunny Chen ’20) – The Mirror by George Tooker
- Offers philosophical depth through addressing life and death
- Exhibits a different technique of stylized, cylindrical shapes
- Unique depiction of femininity
The acquisition committee ultimately selected Jacob Lawrence’s Tools. A Hamilton alumus interested in this class contributed the funds for the purchase.
The pitch was an opportunity for students to engage in experiential learning, enhance their oral presentation skills, and demonstrate initiative to represent the work in proper fashion before the committee. Students were excited to know that they played a part in growing the Wellin’s collection by finding a work that appeals to members of the Hamilton community and beyond.