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Interdisciplinary Art

September 10, 2021
person looking at artwork on wall
A student from Laura DeLozier’s Classical Epic Poetry class looks closely at Vernon Fimple’s painting Approach to the City (1975.125.0)

The Patricia R. Guthrie Teaching Gallery brings diverse disciplines together to learn through art. 

By Assistant Curator Michelle Sunset 

The University of Wyoming Art Museum holds an encyclopedic collection of over 9,000 objects relating to a multitude of disciplines across campus.

The Art Museum engages with people across campus and the Laramie community through partnerships and programming such as the Shepard Symposium, robust exhibitions such as that of artist and scientist Brandon Ballengée in 2016, and ongoing collaboration with the College of Law. One of the museum’s most important partnerships takes place in the Patricia R. Guthrie Teaching Gallery—a space in the museum dedicated to serving faculty and students most directly.

Curator of Academic Engagement Raechel Cook works with three to four faculty members or other partners. Cook works with faculty to select objects from the collection that relate to their curriculum, and then the works are exhibited in the gallery. Over the past eight years, faculty have engaged with the collection in different ways. They might have a particular assignment related to the works on view, or sometimes the artworks might serve as a touchpoint throughout the semester and then culminate in a final project. Cook also offers support to faculty by facilitating class sessions in the gallery and providing research assistance to students and access to studio space for students completing creative assignments. In years past, the artworks and curricula have even connected to plays produced by local theater company, Relative Theatrics.

Striving to work with faculty across disciplines, Cook facilitates learning and understanding through the arts and helps students to make new connections in their chosen fields. Cook also seeks out faculty to use the collection and gallery space each semester. She has made it a point to find classes relating to traditional STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to provide dynamic learning opportunities for students in those departments or those taking general education classes.

This semester, the gallery will be used for a broad variety of courses. Cook is working with Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources Associate Lecturer Maggie Bourque to select works for the class Thinking Like a Mountain. Artwork selected will help students begin to unpack the nature of environmental challenges from multiple perspectives and to better understand our interconnected world. Science and Math Teaching Center Assistant Lecturer Erin Stoesz is also engaging the gallery for General Field Geology. This course will make use of the Art Museum’s many artworks featuring landscapes as well as sculptures made of geologic matter.

History and anthropology Assistant Professor Alexandra Celia Kelly is excited to use the Teaching Gallery for her course Forgotten Africa: Introduction to African Civilizations. Cook and Kelly are collaborating to select objects from the Art Museum’s collection to critique the colonial lens through which Western culture has historically depicted African art as “ethnographic” as opposed to placing value on authorship. While learning about Africa as a dynamic continent filled with peoples of many diverse cultures and histories, students will connect these concepts with real objects. Students will conduct research on these objects, assisting the museum in creating deeper understandings of the African artworks in the collection.

One of Cook’s additional goals has been to make meaningful and intentional connections with Laramie County Community College (LCCC) through the Teaching Gallery. She wants to ensure that the museum’s collection is open and accessible to our broader academic community. LCCC’s Samira Caamano will use the gallery for her Introduction to Chemistry course. She is eager to provide an entry into chemistry for students who might be more comfortable with the arts and humanities.

For museum visitors, the Teaching Gallery offers a glimpse each semester into the broad range of exciting classes offered by UW and now LCCC while providing exciting ways of making meaning with artworks in the museum’s collection. The gallery also highlights unusual juxtapositions of artwork that may not normally be exhibited together. The museum strives to serve and engage our academic, local, state, national and global communities to foster deeper connections that envision new futures for humanity. In fulfilling this mission, the museum seeks out new and engaging partnerships across disciplines to best connect people with art and the world around us.

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