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In 1832, when Yale University was still a young New England college, the artist Colonel John Trumbull sold a significant group of his American history paintings and miniature portraits to the University for an annuity and was then invited to design and teach art within a building that would house his artworks. The Trumbull Gallery—the Gallery’s first building—was constructed on Yale’s Old Campus under Trumbull’s oversight and became the first college art museum in the country. This distinguished artist taught late into his old age, engaging his students with original artworks. Since then, the tradition of teaching directly from works of art has been sustained and expanded at Yale within its ever-growing arts area.
This fall, two of our exhibitions and many public programs prominently feature practicing artists. The dialogue between artists and students resonates strongly in The Ceramic Presence in Modern Art: Selections from the Linda Leonard Schlenger Collection and the Yale University Art Gallery, an exhibition that brings together art produced by sculptors, painters, ceramists, and other artists, many of whom are also devoted teachers. There will be multiple opportunities for students and visitors to observe how one generation of artists learns from the next. A second exhibition, Donald Blumberg Photographs: Selections from the Master Sets surveys a focused selection of the photographer’s work made over the course of almost sixty years, clearly demonstrating how an artist can develop and strengthen ideas, themes, and ways of working within a specific medium through-out an entire lifetime. Having taught photography in innovative ways for decades on both the East and West Coasts, Blumberg is an exemplar of what a great artist-teacher can be.
Another artist of our time who valued his engagement with students and young artists is Sol LeWitt. The Gallery has been deeply engaged with LeWitt’s work for many years, and I am pleased to say that we are carrying forth his legacy, too. This summer, John Hogan, our Mary Jo and Ted Shen Installation Director and Archivist for Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings, worked with yet another group of young artists and scholars to install two of LeWitt’s works for The Ceramic Presence in Modern Art exhibition. The group of young men and women working alongside Gallery staff members included some of the twelve New Haven Promise interns working at the museum for the summer; can you imagine a more inspiring experience for active young learners?
Artists also play a vital role in our artistic and teaching mission via projects sponsored by our Happy and Bob Doran Artist-in-Residence and Hayden Visiting Artist Programs. Visitors may have caught a glimpse of Paul Discoe, the current Happy and Bob Doran Artist in Residence, hard at work transforming a previously overlooked outdoor space just outside the Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Lecture Hall into a new tea garden. Discoe’s creation, which will continue to be installed over the course of this semester, will provide a new aesthetic experience for those seeking a spot for quiet contemplation.
This fall, you may also find acclaimed South African artist William Kentridge, HON. 2013, spending time on campus with students. Kentridge is at Yale to perform his opera Refuse the Hour. As an Andrew Carnduff Ritchie Lecturer, this remarkably talented artist will offer students, faculty, and other members of the community a chance to learn firsthand how he approaches his own creative process and undertakes successful collaborations with other artists working across multiple disciplines.
An increasing number of Yale students in the schools of architecture, art, drama, and music are members of our dedicated corps of Gallery Guides and Wurtele Gallery Teachers. As they provide close-looking tours to the more than 14,000 schoolchildren who eagerly come through our doors each year, these young teachers are themselves realizing the value that comes from surveying our art collection again and again, gleaning new insights and ideas with each tour. And now, I am very happy to say, our Gallery Guides and Teachers as well as our Education Department are being led by Ryan Hill, the new Nolen Curator of Education and Academic Affairs, who is himself an artist. Please welcome Ryan this fall, along with Mark D. Mitchell and Barbara Plankensteiner, who join us as the Holcombe T. Green Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture and the Frances and Benjamin Benenson Foundation Curator of African Art, respectively.
I think John Trumbull, were he to roam about the Gallery on any given day this fall, would be pleased to see all the artists, students, teachers, and visitors enjoying free access to one of the finest arrays of art any university could hope to hold in stewardship and teach from daily. Please keep coming our way to look, learn, and linger whenever you have time to do so, and when possible, get to know some of the artists who work in our midst.
The Henry J. Heinz II Director
Jock Reynolds, the Henry J. Heinz II Director