Mellon Faculty Seminar

The Tang Teaching Museum’s first faculty seminar, Object, Exhibition, and Knowledge was supported by a three-year Luce Foundation grant in 2006, and was organized in part by artist Fred Wilson.

In 2009 the Tang launched The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-sponsored program Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning through Museum Exhibitions, a new faculty seminar that involved group travel to interrogate diverse museum offerings in different cities across the country, funds for individual travel and course support, and a semester-long seminar to explore teaching with the museum. Group readings inform and direct faculty members’ investigation of museums and offer theoretical grounding for on campus seminar discussions. Discussions of current exhibition projects at the Tang also serve the aim of embedding theory in experience while supporting the Tang’s rigorous program of faculty-curated exhibitions.

In 2013 a two-day “Mini-Mellon” program was added offering a second option for faculty to interact with the program over a shorter time than the full semester seminar. Over the years the program has grown to become a key component of what makes the Tang a unique teaching resource and a feature of faculty development across the college.

The Mellon Faculty Seminars are led by Mimi Hellman, Associate Professor of Art History, Mellon Faculty Seminar Coordinator and Faculty Liaison to the Tang Museum; and Rachel Seligman, Tang's Assistant Director for Curatorial Affairs.

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Skidmore Faculty Participants
Carolyn Anderson, Theater
John Anzalone, Foreign Languages (French)
Lisa Aronson, Art History
Michael Arnush, Classics
Alison Barnes, English
Susan Bender, Anthropology
April Bernard, English
Erica Bastress-Dukehart, History
John Brueggemann, Sociology
Janet Casey, English
Aditi Chandra, Art History
Carolyn Chernoff, Sociology
Jennifer Cholnoky, Geosciences
Dan Curley, Classics
Jennifer Delton, History
Terence Diggory, English
Abby Drake, Biology
Jordana Dym, History
Michael Ennis-McMillan, Anthropology
Debra Fernandez, Dance
Leslie Ferst, Art
Mary Ann Foley, Psychology
Barbara Garbin, Foreign Languages (Italian)
Ray Giguere, Chemistry
Bina Gogineni, English
Sarah Goodwin, English
Rubén Graciani, Dance
Kate Graney, Government
Daniel Guri-Flores, Economics
Mimi Hellman, Art History
Catherine Hill, Management and Business
Patricia Hilleren, Biology
Mark Hofmann, Mathematics & Computer Science
David Howlett, Religion
David Howson, Arts Administration
Heather Hurst, Anthropology
Regina Janes, English
Kathleen Leavitt, Art
Tom Lewis, English
Andrew Lindner, Sociology
Fabian Lopez, Art
Leslie Mechem, Classics
Margo Mensing, Art
Scott Mulligan, International Affairs / Management & Business / Arts Administration
Jackie Murray, Classics
Daniel Nathan, American Studies
Tillman Nechtman, History
Kyle Nichols, Geosciences
Mary Odekon, Physics
Mehmet Odekon, Economics
Pat Oles, Social Work
Iona Park, Art
Jerry Philogene, American Studies
Maeve Powlick, Economics
Monica Raveret Richter, Biology
Dawn Riley, Education
Phyllis Roth, English
Patricia Rubio, Foreign Languages (Spanish)
Rik Scarce, Sociology
Marla Segol, Philisophy and Religion
Sonia Silva, Anthropology
Denise Smith, Exercise Sciences
Gregory Spinner, Religion
Peter Stake, Art
Joan Swanson, Education
Kim Tauches, Sociology
Nicky Tavares, MDOCS
Marc-André Wiesmann, Foreign Languages (French)
Megan Williams, American Studies
Garett Wilson, Theater
Marc Woodworth, English
Adrienne Zuerner, Foreign Languages (French)
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Luce Seminar

Skidmore College seeks ways to provide faculty with opportunities to develop their interests and expertise in using the museum in teaching and research. The Luce Seminar was established to support this effort by offering faculty a structure in which to develop a working knowledge of the critical vocabulary of museums.

Since Skidmore College seeks to realize an innovative model for a teaching museum, the college has sought ways to provide faculty with opportunities to develop their interests and expertise in using the museum in teaching and research. Established to support this effort, The Program in Object Exhibition and Knowledge, generously funded by the Henry Luce Foundation, offered faculty a structure in which to develop a working knowledge of the critical vocabulary of museums.

As faculty explored the pedagogical possibilities that arose from applying this vocabulary to their teaching and research, they refined their ability to use the museum as a site that provokes critical and engaged learning. This faculty involvement with the museum serves the college’s eventual goal of making museum exhibitions as integral to college learning as the library, the science laboratory and the studio.

At the core of the program was the faculty seminar, co-led by Fred Wilson and Skidmore Professor of Anthropology Susan Bender, and coordinated by Alison Barnes of Skidmore's English Department. Over the three years of the program, twenty one faculty members from across the disciplines participated in the seminar.

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The first year of the seminar focused on object exhibition and the practice of reading context driven meanings of objects. Faculty participants considered how they might explore ideas central to their teaching and scholarship through planning exhibits and engaging in interdisciplinary exchanges about objects and object exhibition.

In the second year, faculty participants developed their critical abilities to read and interpret museum exhibitions through a series of museum visits and reading-based discussions. The syllabus for the seminar included visits to the National Museum of the American Indian, Mass MoCA, and the Olana State Historical Site.

The third year of the seminar centered on comparing art and science museums through an analysis of exhibition strategies, narratives, and institutional goals. This involved an active application of the vocabulary developed by faculty participants in the second year. The syllabus included visits to the Exploratorium, the de Young Museum, and SF MoMA, along with discussions that focused on the conceptualization of the Tang exhibition, Molecules that Matter, organized by seminar participants, Ray Giguere, Professor of Chemistry, and John Weber, Dayton Director of the Tang Museum.

Faculty participants from all three years of the seminar attended the College Museum: A Collision of Disciplines, A Laboratory of Perception conference. Throughout the three years of the seminar, participants read and responded to works written by many of the conference presenters.

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Fred Wilson, the Luce Distinguished Visiting Fellow for the Program in Object Exhibition and Knowledge, was in residence at Skidmore College during the spring semesters of the program (2004-2006). In this role, Wilson served as a catalyst for faculty engagement with museums. Through the context of the faculty seminar, he provided insight into museum practices and provoked faculty to deepen their critical and creative responses to exhibitions. He encouraged faculty to develop their own ideas as seeds for future exhibitions and worked with them to find new ways to engage their students in assignments relating to the Tang exhibition program.

An internationally recognized artist whose work is ideally situated to support faculty inquiry into museum exhibitions and their pedagogical potentials, Wilson has taught and worked on numerous projects at colleges and universities. He first came to Skidmore College for his retrospective, Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations, 1985-2000, which was on view at the Tang in 2002. Known for his installations that manipulate museum display strategies and collections to draw attention to biased ideologies embedded in the practices of museums and other cultural institutions, Wilson has an extensive exhibition record, which includes his landmark exhibition, Mining the Museum, at the Baltimore Historical Society and his representation for the United States in the 50th Venice Biennale. Wilson has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts and in 1999 he was chosen as a MacArthur Fellow.

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