My Internship: Curating an Exhibit at the OU Museum of Art

Chris (center) pictured with other Oglethorpe arts students during a short-term trip to New York City, led by Professor Alan Loehle (in background).

I’m a senior at Oglethorpe, with a double major in history and art history. During the spring 2013 semester, I interned at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art (OUMA) and had the opportunity to curate an exhibit that had a very special purpose.

You might not know that Oglethorpe’s art museum has a large permanent collection of precious and rare works of art that has been acquired over the years (and continues to grow). Not many universities can claim to have original works by artists such as Henri Matisse, Joan Miro or Salvador Dali. OUMA has also exhibited original artwork in exclusive exhibitions that are not shown anywhere else. Elizabeth Peterson, who became the museum’s director last summer, believes that the museum is a valuable and essential institution from which students of Oglethorpe should be able to benefit and learn. I’m one example of that.

Chris pictured with library staff member Toni Zimmerman during an exhibit opening reception for the OU community.

The exhibit that I had the chance to curate was dedicated to pieces of art from OUMA’s permanent collection that tied in neatly with two art classes offered this semester, printmaking and figure drawing. I included OUMA’s early sketches of figures from the estate of Delacroix that showed an artist’s analysis of human facial expressions. A beautiful chalk drawing of a nude by Renoir showed the rich color and detail a drawing can demonstrate. Sketches and prints of Parisian streets by Pierre Bonnard displayed how artists can find inspiration around them.

At Oglethorpe, you can study and have firsthand access to genuine artwork that could potentially serve as sources of inspiration for your own art or as a topic for a research paper. The museum also is the setting for concerts and educational lectures—and potential internships. The advantages that Oglethorpe’s museum provides both students and faculty are endless. I know I received an opportunity that I can’t imagine having anywhere else.

Read more about the Oglethorpe Art Department’s short-term trip to New York City to study art in February 2013 (pictured at top).

“Beta Israel: Ethiopian Jews and the Promised Land” now on exhibit at the OU Museum of Art

The Oglethorpe University Museum of Art is now hosting “Beta Israel: Ethiopian Jews and the Promised Land,” an exhibition that explores the mass migration of Ethiopian Jews into modern Israeli society and the integration difficulties they faced. The exhibition features 100 photographs by South African photojournalist Ilan Ossendryver, who lived in Israel for 20 years. The exhibit runs through Sunday, April 21, 2013. 

Over the past 30 years, nearly 100,000 Jews have migrated from Ethiopia to settle in Israel. In the 1970s, there were approximately 100 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel and today there are more than 130,000. As many as 5,000 from this community perished during the early years of this exodus when they were forced to escape on foot and wait for months in disease-prone refugee camps. Others made the journey with assistance during several covert airlift operations, including the 1991 airlift Operation Solomon during which 14,000 Ethiopian Jews made the journey or “aliyah,” a purposeful ascent or going up to the promised land of Israel, during a 36-hour period.

This exhibition explores the mass migration and the incredible challenge of integration in modern Israeli society faced by the Ethiopian Jews, once known as Falasha but more properly called “Beta Israel,” or “House of Israel.” Most were practicing a pre-rabbinic, ancient form of Judaism in which they had no awareness of the Talmud’s existence and so knew nothing of post-biblical holidays such as Hanukkah and Purim. They lived for centuries in isolation in a Third World country and were suddenly thrust into modern life in Israel.

The following lecture and event series will be hosted at the museum in conjunction with the exhibition:

Ilan Ossendryver

Wednesday, February 13, 7:00 p.m. “The Last of the Ethiopian Jews – Reaching Their Dream of Living in the Holy Land,” a lecture by featured exhibition artist Ilan Ossendryver, photojournalist based in South Africa, Israel and Ethiopia, and photographer for the book The Ethiopian Jews of Israel: Personal Stories of Life in the Promised Land.

Wednesday, February 20, 7:00 p.m. “Refugee Resettlement in Georgia: Part of a Durable Solution to the Crisis in the Horn of Africa,” a lecture by Paedia Mixon, executive director, and Safia Jama, resettlement manager, Refugee Resettlement & Immigration Services of Atlanta. Mixon will lead the discussion which will address refugee camps in the Horn of Africa and the challenges facing refugees upon their arrival in Georgia.

Wednesday, February 27, 7:00 p.m. “Act II: With a Rose Between Our Teeth,” presented by The Thoroughly Modern Senior Ensemble of the Academy Theatre. Refreshing, upbeat, musical and moving, The Thoroughly Modern Senior Ensemble offers honest and entertaining views of living, loving and aging. A one-hour collection of short scenes and songs, Act II: With a Rose Between Our Teeth is thoroughly real, poignant, heartbreaking… and thoroughly hilarious.

Wednesday, March 6, 7:00 p.m. “The Arts and Peacebuilding,” a lecture by Frank Dominguez, vice president for Arts for Peace, Ltd. Mr. Dominguez has managed major economic and trade development programs in Russia and Western Europe, held a series of senior international management positions, and worked with leading and newly starting nonprofits and groups in developing high profile events, initiatives and organizations in support of social justice and peace. Arts For Peace is a nonprofit that develops new and innovative programs and events in the areas of music, visual arts, performance, dance and communications, and is committed to establishing bridges between the arts community and the work of the UN, the aims of the UN Charter and the realization of a Culture of Peace.

Dr. Yarden Fanta-Vagenshtein

Wednesday, March 13, 7:00 p.m. “Knowledge, Cognition and Cultural Capital Among Non- and Semi-literate Populations,” a lecture by Dr. Yarden Fanta-Vagenshtein, post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, Department of Human Development and Psychology. In 1985, when she emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel, Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein did not know how to read or write. In 2005, she completed her Ph.D. in education, becoming the first Ethiopian woman to earn a doctorate in Israel. Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein was a teaching fellow at Tel Aviv’s School of Education, Science and Technology (2002-2007); presented key Israeli educational and political issues to world leaders as Emissary for the State of Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel (1997-2005); and served on the board of directors overseeing Israel’s Community Centers for the Ministry of Education (1994- 2000). Her field of research examines how illiterate immigrants’ adapt to modern societies, specifically Ethiopian assimilation in Israel. Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein’s lecture is sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel to the Southeastern United States.

Wednesday, March 27, 7:00 p.m. “The Nightmare Inside the Dream,” a lecture by Morghan Brandon, Oglethorpe University student. To mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Brandon will explore the hopes and dreams of the Civil Rights movement and the sometimes harsh realities of where we are today. Her talk accompanies her independent film/performance project. Brandon is also a founding member of OU’s first black sorority, Epsilon Iota Psi.

Author Len Lyons

Wednesday, April 3, 7:00 p.m. “The Remarkable Unfinished Exodus of the Ethiopian Jews,” a lecture by Len Lyons, author of The Ethiopian Jews of Israel: Personal Stories of Life in the Promised Land. Dr. Lyons, Ph.D. in Philosophy (Brown University), is the author of six books on a variety of subjects, including jazz (three titles published by William Morrow & Co.) and computers (two titles published by Addison-Wesley). Through hosting Ethiopian Israeli students visiting Boston in 2004, he became fascinated with the story of the Ethiopian Jews and their struggle for acceptance in the country that rescued them. He serves on the Ethiopian Jewry Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston.

Wednesday, April 17, 7:00 p.m. “Found in Translation,” a lecture by Rahwa Amha, Oglethorpe University student. Amha discusses her experiences in the U.S. and abroad as an Ethiopian American. Amha, who was born in Atlanta, has also lived for an extended period of time in Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia and explores the cultural shift and adjustment which has become second nature to her.

Admission: $5; free for OUMA members or with a Petrel Pass. More information: museum.oglethorpe.edu. OUMA will host an open house for Oglethorpe students, faculty and staff on Thursday, February 7, 5 – 7 p.m.

Our Country, Our Voices: Oglethorpe Honors Our Veterans

Photo: David Dixon

November 11th is Veterans Day.  It is an occasion to honor the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served our country, to recognize the families who have stood by them in service, and to reflect upon all of the freedoms that these men and women have fought to preserve.

This year, Oglethorpe University, together with various campus organizations and departments, will host a series of events throughout the week to honor our veterans called “Our Country, Our Voices: Oglethorpe Honors Our Veterans.” The events are in conjunction with the OU Museum of Art’s current exhibition “Burden of Proof: National Identity and the Legacy of War,” which runs through December 9, 2012.

Sophomore Antonio Mántica (left) and senior Jef Palframan, president of the OU Veterans' Club, form sheet metal into large "ribbons." Photo: Krista Palframan

On November 4th, the OU Veterans’ Club launched a yellow ribbon campaign to increase awareness of the day’s significance. Club members constructed and installed 10-foot high sheet metal yellow ribbons at the front entrance of campus. They also plan to hand out 1000 personal ribbons on campus and will host a remembrance event, “Lest We Forget,” on Friday, November 9, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. in Lupton Auditorium. (Find out more about their efforts on their Facebook page.)

Usually closed on Mondays, the OU Museum of Art will open its doors to host a Veterans’ Open House, with free admission to all veterans on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 12 noon-7:00 p.m.. Various veterans’ assistance groups will be onsite throughout the day. Plus, the OU Veterans’ Club will be accepting donations for their clothing and coat drive for homeless veterans, and a giveaway of gift items from area businesses will benefit veterans’ services.

Later that evening, veterans of WWII, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan will discuss their experiences and struggles in a panel discussion, “Transitioning to Civilian Life,” at 6:00 p.m.  Many skills learned in combat are not applicable to the workforce, and veterans are generally required to go through an arduous process of re-qualification in order to get work.  Plus, many veterans feel isolated or out of place, unaccustomed to their new lives at home. In addition, policymakers in Washington recently failed to approve a bill that would have eased veterans’ reintegration into the civilian workforce, and recent reports estimate that 88% of veterans will drop out of college.

“It would be wrong of me not to make people aware of this,” said Jef Palframan ’13, president of the OU Veterans’ Club and a veteran himself.  “Our military size is going to decrease… Now starts the work to take care of the guys coming home.”  Admission: $5; free for veterans, OUMA members or with a Petrel Pass. Co-sponsored by OUMA, the Office of Admission and the OU Veterans’ Club.

Other events to commemorate Veterans Day include:

Open Forum/Open Mic: “Empower to Inspire Progress,” Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 7:00 p.m., OU Museum of Art
What does being American mean to you? What are you doing to make your voice heard? Do you feel you have patriotic obligations? Which American alive or dead inspire you, and why? All are welcome to join this open forum and share your opinions, ideas or a story, song or poem. Admission: $5; free for OUMA members and with a Petrel Pass. Co-sponsored by OUMA and Epsilon Iota Psi.

Lecture: “On the Downstream Biological Effects of Agent Orange,” Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 7:00 p.m., OU Museum of Art
Dr. Karen Schmeichel, associate professor of biology at Oglethorpe, will present about the hotly debated and complex subject of the widespread use by American troops during the Vietnam conflict of the defoliant called “Agent Orange” and its far reaching effects. Admission: $5; free for OUMA members and with a Petrel Pass.

Movie Screening & Discussion: Agent Orange: 30 Years Later, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 7:00 p.m., OU Museum of Art
OUMA and ECOS (Environmentally Concerned Oglethorpe Students) will co-host a screening of the award-winning 2009 film by John Trinh with open discussion to follow.  Reel Earth – Environmental Film Festival of New Zealand said, “Despite the horror, the film is at times intensely moving and beautiful, showing also the better side of human nature—qualities like kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.” This event is free and open to all.

Celebrate the Season at Oglethorpe’s First Annual Fall Festival

Oglethorpe University will host its first annual Fall Festival this Friday and Saturday, October 19-20.

On Friday the festival begins with events for Oglethorpe parents, including a chance to sit in on classes from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Later in the day, parents are invited to meet Eric Tack, director of the Academic Success Center, and to attend a seminar led by Dr. Jeffrey Collins about Oglethorpe’s study abroad opportunities. Friday’s activities end with Night of the Arts, an annual event put on by The Tower literary magazine to showcase the artistic talents of Oglethorpe’s students, faculty and staff.  Expect a diverse range of acts, including spoken word, singing and piano.

Saturday’s invitation extends to the entire community! Experience “A Taste of Oglethorpe,” featuring local food vendors and artists from 12 noon-3 p.m. Enjoy face painting, games, a moon bounce, music from OU Radio Live and much more.

At 1:00 p.m., Oglethorpe alumnus Paul Hudson ’72 will lead a walking tour of Oglethorpe, providing interesting facts about our nearly 100-year-old campus. The OU Museum of Art, currently featuring the exhibit “Burden of Proof: National Identity and the Legacy of War,” will be open for visitors from 12:00 noon-5:00 p.m.

Read about all the exciting Fall Festival events and make your plans to celebrate the season here on campus!

OUMA Presents “Burden of Proof: National Identity and the Legacy of War”

Jenny Liu, age 20, Chinese, 2009, Young American Series

Sheila Pree Bright, chromogenic print from digital file, created using a Hasselblad H3D camera, 65" X 48" . Courtesy of the artist.

The Oglethorpe University Museum of Art has opened the doors for its newest exhibition, “Burden of Proof: National Identity and the Legacy of War,” which explores the juxtaposition of the American and Vietnamese experience of the Vietnam War and its aftermath. The exhibit will run through December 9. 

Artists Dinh Q. Lê, Sheila Pree Bright, Keisha Luce and Kirk Torregrossa are featured, as well as Northern Vietnamese propaganda posters from The Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection. The  exhibition was inspired by the campus-wide reading of Tim O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried, a fictionalized account of the author’s time as an American soldier in Vietnam.   

“The cultural, physical, and emotional dissonance explored by these artists raise many questions regarding the burden of war,” said Elizabeth Peterson, curator and director of the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, “It’s a legacy that crosses borders and is carried through generations.”  Peterson joined the museum in August 2012.  

Bright’s Young American series features photographs of young adults in various poses with the American flag. Bright wants the body language of the models and the different positions of the flag to raise questions about what it means to be an American in Generation Y. Each photo is named after the person photographed and is accompanied by a personal statement which reflects the person’s ideas about being American.

Lê’s large-scale photographic collages contrast photos of the Vietnam war with iconic Hollywood imagery to contrast the realities of war with the Western perspective of it. Lê was born in Ha-Tien, Vietnam, emigrated to Los Angeles at age 10, and now splits his time between America and Vietnam. His collages are made up of photos woven together using traditional Vietnamese techniques and are inspired by his own memories of the war, both real from his childhood in Vietnam and imagined, inspired by American war movies.

Untitled from Vietnam to Hollywood (floating figure), 2004

Dinh Q. Lê, c-print and linen tape, 38” x 72”, Courtesy of the artist and PPOW Gallery, New York NY

Luce’s sculpture series Sum & Parts depict the malformed bodies of Vietnamese people living with the effects of long-term exposure to Agent Orange, an herbicide used in the Vietnam War. In an interview with Vermont Public Radio, she says, “they are difficult bodies to look at. Part of what I was trying to do is to bring this type of body—the war body—into the public sphere.”

Thanh, Luu. d., Anh/Mai Mai/Thanh, Luu. d., Anh/Mai Mai/La Ngu Oi/men yeu nhat ("Brother, you are forever most loved"), Unknown

tempera on paper, 24 ¾” x 17 ½”, Courtesy of The Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection

Torregrossa’s photographs help to achieve this goal by allowing viewers to see both the sculptures and the people that inspired them. They document every step of the two month long Sum & Parts journey, and Torregrossa says of his series, “my intent is to craft a story that illustrates not only the horrible long-term effects of chemical warfare, but with resiliency and bravery, how the people involved soldier on.”

During the exhibit’s run, OUMA will also offer lectures on Wednesday evenings. Visit the OUMA website for more information. OUMA is open Tuesday-Sunday, 12 noon – 5 p.m. General admission is $5.00, free for OUMA members and OU students with a Petrel Pass. Students, check it out and earn a Petrel Point!