At a symposium preceding the dedication, a panel of art experts examined the role of the Colby College Museum of Art as a center for teaching that allows unfiltered access to original art and can lead to moments in which students are transformed into teachers.
Adam D. Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, pointed to the “purity” of teaching museums, with their focus solely on art, community, and education. The location of a museum on a campus, he added, says a lot about it: “You can read a campus by what is placed where, its accessibility to the community, to the students. And the transparency of the building [at Colby] suggests that art is open to the students.”
He praised Colby’s focused collection and the depth of holdings of such important artists as Alex Katz, John Marin, James McNeill Whistler, and Terry Winters, and stressed the “primacy of artwork to the curriculum.”
For Colby Professor of Art Ankeney Weitz, working in the museum often leads to a “magical moment” in teaching “when students start to see themselves as teachers.” Weitz said this moment is something she’s frequently facilitated in her classes as her students learn to be curators and begin to understand who their audience is.
Martha Tedeschi, deputy director for art and research at the Art Institute of Chicago, is a longtime curator of works on paper. Contemplating art directly—and not just reproductions of it—is an essential experience for students, she said. In a teaching space, students have a chance to take their time and really look at the works. She emphasized the importance of the “proximity of unmediated works of art” in a space like the Colby Museum, and the opportunity it gives viewers to “feel the frisson of the original.”