OU Museum of Art: “An Academic Treasure Trove”

I have always loved Japanese art. So, when I learned that my Asian Politics class was attending the OU Museum of Art’s Japanese art exhibition as part of learning about Japanese history and culture—I freaked. Two things I love had come together: learning and art.

Yoshida's woodcut "Sending Boats" series especially stood out to Jacob Tadych '14 in Dr. Steen's Japanese Literature class. WHY?

Yoshida’s woodcut “Sending Boats” series especially stood out to me. The series of images depicts the life of traditional Japanese fishermen from the same perspective during different times of day.

Both my class, taught by Dr. Stephen Herschler, and Dr. Robert Steen’s Japanese  Literature class took full advantage of having the exhibition right here on our campus at the beginning of this semester. Jiki to Hanga: Japanese Porcelain and Prints helped our classes see art as a reflection of a culture and current events, and to explore how art is a means through which cultures can exchange ideas with one another.

“Learning is more effective when it is attached to the real world and becomes not just theoretical but experiential as well,” said Dr. Herschler. “It was an incredible opportunity…(and) a truly fabulous way for the Asian Politics class to start the semester, using art to learn about not just different cultures but also philosophy, international commerce, and politics as reflected in the techniques, materials, and aesthetics of specific artistic works.”

Porcelain detail: Artist unknown. Arita, Japan, late 17th century. Collection of Oglethorpe University. Gift of Carrie Lee Jacobs Henderson.

Porcelain detail: Artist unknown. Arita, Japan, late 17th century. Collection of Oglethorpe University. Gift of Carrie Lee Jacobs Henderson.

Some of the porcelain pieces on view, for example, showed how Western culture influenced Eastern culture. Traditional Japanese art forms are stoic and minimalistic, but that contrasted with the vibrant pieces created by the Japanese for Westerners to display in their Victorian era households.

The displayed works by master printmaker Hiroshi Yoshida gave students a snapshot of Japanese culture in transition from a feudalistic society to the current industrial power. His use of traditional Japanese woodcuts and the European oil and watercolor painting techniques shows the balancing act that resulted from the mash of cultural ideals following WWII. Yoshida’s works are traditional in their minimalism, but also very impactful in that the cultural transition is gently introduced to the viewer. Most prints in the exhibit showed very traditional scenes, like Mount Fuji and shrines or fishermen on sailboats throughout the day, while others showed the shops at night seeming to suggest the beginning of using electric lights by the intensity of the shadows and the use of Western techniques.

Dr. Steen’s class was studying post WWII Japanese literature, coinciding with the time period of the Yoshida prints. His class used the exhibit as context for discussing the cultural transitions in Japan at that time and the effects on the country’s literature. “Art tells stories and I have my students write about those stories,” said Dr. Steen, who uses the themes of memory, cultural identity and travel to relate the texts back to differences in perspective. “There are many ways to make connections to the ideas that we talk about in class, even if they aren’t directly related.”

Elizabeth Peterson, the director of the OU Museum of Art, is thrilled that the classes were able to use the exhibit to compliment their classroom curriculum. “This is precisely why universities have museums—as more than a lovely place to visit—it’s an academic treasure trove for students.”

Dr. Herschler's Asian Politics Class with Dr. Terry Taylor.

Dr. Herschler’s Asian Politics class pictured with Dr. Terry Taylor, who loaned the Yoshida woodcuts to OUMA for the exhibition. Dr. Taylor gave a lecture to the class about the dedication required by Yoshida to create the woodcuts—all of which came from a selected single piece of wood.

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).

Sophomore Embraces Risk and Reward at Oglethorpe

Mon Baroi '15

If you looked at the list of colleges I considered going to, Oglethorpe was number eight…out of a list of eight that included St. John’s University, Gonzaga University, Wabash College, Guilford College and Earlham College. I chose to come to Oglethorpe because of its proximity to Atlanta and its small classes. And, living up to its motto, Oglethorpe has helped me figure out how to make a life, make a living, and make a difference in society.

When I came to Oglethorpe my freshman year, all I wanted to do was “fast-forward” through the next four years. I wasn’t expecting to begin the process of starting a nonprofit called Oglethorpe’s Tiny Homes, and to work at Pegasus Creative, an on-campus student communications agency.

Two friends and I were sitting around a table during lunch, and after telling them that I wanted to build prototype tiny house that was sustainable, their response shocked me: “Yeah,” they said, “Let’s do it. We can help!” We went to the university administration about our idea and they asked us how they could help us. Oglethorpe shocked me with its spirit of encouragement.

Mon, Cartrez Wilson '15 and Jacob Tadych '14 discuss the Oglethorpe Tiny Homes project.

Although I knew that I wanted to build a house, and had an idea of how it would look, I was lost on what purpose the house would serve. Some of my classes in my major (politics) and minor (nonprofit management) actually helped me realize the purpose of Oglethorpe’s Tiny Homes.

It’s not about building houses, but rather, reinventing the philosophy and people’s perception of what a house should be. One of my politics classes, “New American City,” was focused on the political history of the city of Atlanta. Without this class, I would not have understood the dire need for affordable housing in Atlanta. Many of my politics classes have helped me understand who gets what, when and how in society. Oglethorpe’s Tiny Homes is all about creating affordable homes that increase people’s self worth without jeopardizing their net worth.

Mon with fellow Pegasus Creative member Caitlyn Mitchell '13

One of the most important things I have learned at Oglethorpe is that if you want to make a difference you must take risks and not be afraid of failure. Working at Pegasus Creative, Oglethorpe’s student communications agency, has helped me get better at taking risks and learning from my mistakes. At Pegasus, you are given responsibilities and tasks that the whole Oglethorpe community (and everyone else) can see and be affected by it. For example, I have helped build websites for Oglethorpe that potential students and current students will use. My responsibilities and the risks I’ve taken at Pegasus have helped me not be as afraid of failure.

Coming to Oglethorpe has helped me figure out how I want to live and what I want to do.  Looks like my lucky number is eight.

Editor’s note: Both Mon Baroi ’15 and Jacob Tadych ’14 were recently selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in recognition of the Oglethorpe Tiny Homes project. Read about it here.

First Annual Fall Festival Brings OU Community Together

Hundreds of students, parents and community members came out to celebrate Oglethorpe’s First Annual Fall Festival on a beautiful autumn weekend, making the event a rousing success!

The Fall Festival festivities included Night of the Arts, a historical tour of campus by alumnus Paul Hudson ’72, “A Taste of Oglethorpe” featuring local restaurants, artisans, and children’s activities, and then hot air balloon rides in the evening, sponsored by the Oglethorpe Student Government Association.

“The idea was to transform Parents’ Weekend into a festival atmosphere so that parents and their families could spend some quality time together,” said Robin Brandt, Oglethorpe’s Director of Experiential Learning.

The new tradition will continue next fall!