Student-curated exhibit displayed in Kristin Wigley-Fleming Fine Arts Gallery
Art students at Luther College have curated a show from more than 160 Barbizon prints given to Luther during the past year. The exhibit, "The Barbizon School: An Invented France, " is on display Feb. 8-March 22 at the Kristin Wigley-Fleming Fine Arts Gallery in Luther's Center for the Arts.
The prints were donated by Alexander Platt of Chicago. Platt is music director of the La Crosse, Wis., Symphony Orchestra and several other Midwest musical organizations. He began collecting the prints while an undergraduate at Yale University, and said he was moved to make the gift because Luther’s musical traditions resonate with his own education and career, which began with an apprentice conductorship with the Minnesota Orchestra.
Kate Elliott, Luther assistant professor of art, saw Platt's gift as an opportunity to teach not only about the Barbizon School — a mid-19th-century group of artists working mostly in the French town of Barbizon — but about the process of creating an art exhibit. "Biologists work with plants, music students give concerts, studio artists make art — why aren't we having students work on gallery exhibits?" she asked.
Elliott served as a coach, keeping the curators — eight students in her fall 2012 19th-century art class on track, but they did all the work to curate the show. The students narrowed the selection of prints to about 25 for the show, researched the individual works, wrote the thesis and proposal for the exhibit, created text panels about the prints and wrote the exhibit brochure.
"This class has taught me a lot about how an exhibition runs and functions," said Jess Zottola, Luther class of 2014. "Dealing with different personalities and ideas, as well as learning to think about the exhibition as a whole have all been useful things to learn.
The Barbizon prints largely depict pastoral scenes, and the Luther students have organized this exhibit using three themes: noble peasants, ennobled livestock and landscapes. The exhibit will include seven to 10 prints for each category as well as a salon-style wall with 10 to 15 images.
In conjunction with the show, Gabriel Weisberg, professor of art history at the University of Minnesota and the country's foremost expert on the Barbizon School, will give the Gerhard Marcks Art History Lecture at Luther on March 13. A gallery reception will be held the same day, with the time to be announced.