New York City is filled with excitement and energy, with iconic locations around every corner and block. Its incredible street food and skylines are rivaled only perhaps by its fine art scene. Famous museums housing some of the world’s greatest works, as well as galleries owned by some of Oglethorpe University’s most successful alumni line the busy streets, and so the city serves as the perfect location for onsite learning.
In this year’s edition of the annual New York trip hosted by the art department, Dr. Jeffrey Collins and Professor Alan Loehle led an extensive and exhausting trip through the city—teaching and analyzing the fine art that the city has to offer in a stimulating and engaging manner.
On this three-day trip, with our group of 11 students, we managed to tour the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the 9/11 Memorial, the Judith Charles Gallery, the International Center for Photography, as well as completing an extensive tour of the modern and contemporary architecture of Manhattan, including but not limited to the Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, and the brand new Freedom Tower.
I think that if you ask any of the participants, they would all agree there is something special about seeing art in person. It can never accurately or perfectly be captured in the pages of book, as is the case with any field of study. Imagine seeing a painting the size of your fist on a piece of paper, and then in contrast, seeing it take up the entire wall of a museum. It is absolutely breathtaking!
The true thrill is in seeing and experiencing in person, where art becomes influential and impactful in an almost indescribable way. Our group succeeded in seeing some of the finest works of art in history and in all of the world for that matter, by renowned artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Rodin, and Pollock, just to name a few. Students, as well as our enthusiastic professors, absolutely lit up in conversation over these incredible pieces, and the fountain of knowledge that poured from our insightful assembly was simply unparalleled.
For example, walking up the spiraling ramps of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum and gawking at the spider web patterned and Pantheon-inspired glass ceiling is astounding. Every head was turned to the ceiling, that is, until we set eyes on the expertly curated Italian Futurist exhibit and accompanying Carrie Mae Weems photography display. Later on, standing outside and withstanding temperatures in the teens(!), we expertly evaluated the dazzling Chrysler building with its car and tire themed spire. In the Metropolitan Museum, at the completely opposite end of the modern art spectrum of MOMA, we traveled through the artistic creations and advancements of Ancient Greece and Egypt. From mummies one day to the abstractions of Kandinsky the next, the weekend was filled to the brim with wonder and amazement. To be able to trace in person the influences from the classical world into that of the modern is unlike any experience in the world, and New York, thanks to its countless museums and attractions, is one of the few places that it may be achieved.
All in all, I think that experiential learning of this manner is simply unrivaled. I know that for me, as a visual learner and art history major, it makes the work unforgettable and attainable. Seeing the brushstrokes of the artists, the very marble sculpted by the hands of Romans in mimicry of the Greeks, and the thought processes of the architects in creation of their iconic masterpieces, is a practice and level of involvement that simply cannot be put into words. Sharing the art and watching the realization of its universality and importance among art majors and non-art majors alike is one of the joys that these short trips provide as well. Art is a connecting factor in humanity as we all experienced in this brief and educational weekend, and the plethora of art and artistry in a city like New York is testament to this marvelous fact.