It was the fourth day of NSO, and you found yourself dancing in the Great Stair Hall of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, surrounded by the works of figures like Picasso, Rothko and O’Keeffe. After an evening filled with music and dessert, you bussed back to campus and didn't look back. For many students, interaction with the PMA stops there. Others may visit an exhibition every so often. But for students in the History of Art department and those who taking related courses, their connection with the museum runs deeper. Thanks to the strong relationship between Penn and the PMA, students are able to uniquely access art and material culture through a wide range of courses, symposia, internship and fellowship opportunities.
Given the proximity of Penn’s campus to the museum, it's common for students to have classes inside the galleries. Not only do Teaching Assistants often hold recitations at the museum, but some professors also base their seminars on the museum’s collections. Students can then contribute their research to a future exhibition.
Kendra Grimmett, a PhD candidate in History of Art, was part of Professor Larry Silver’s curatorial seminar “Netherlandish Art—Northern Pictures in the Johnson Collection” last spring. Students researched works of art that will appear in a centennial exhibition of the PMA's Johnson Collection. They also learned about online catalogue strategies, exhibition planning and object display considerations—alongside with the collection's curator, Christopher Atkins.
“One of the benefits of taking a curatorial seminar in partnership with the PMA is gaining privileged, behind–the–scenes access to the museum’s departments and collections,” Grimmett said.
Penn faculty members also collaborate with PMA curators to co–teach courses on current exhibits at the museum; PMA curators even lead their own graduate seminars. History of Art Professor Christine Poggi and Erica Battle, the associate curator of contemporary art at the PMA, collaborated on the course “International Pop Art,” which accompanied the International Pop exhibition last spring. Poggi, who's taught pop art before, wanted to take this new teaching opportunity to learn more from an international perspective. She invited Battle, the receiving curator of the traveling exhibition and a Penn alumna, to co–teach the course. With funding from the Department of History of Art and the PMA, they invited five scholars and curators from other institutions to speak about pop art to the class at Penn and in the museum.