Davis Curricular Gallery adds dimension across disciplines

Walk through the glass double doors in the museum lobby, make a left-hand turn, and visitors to the Colby College Museum of Art will find themselves in the Davis Curricular Gallery. The gallery is a large, rectangular, white-walled room with frames neatly-spaced on the walls, and a sculpture that stands regally at the far end of the room.

However the function of this gallery is slightly different than that of the other rooms in the museum. At the start of each semester, Curator of Academic Programs at the Museum Shalini Le Gall, works with faculty members to select works that relate specifically to themes in various classes and these pieces are on display throughout the term. Departments that utilize the space span across the curriculum, and include classes in anthropology, art, English, environmental studies, French, Italian, history and Spanish.

American Studies Professor Benjamin Lisle has used the gallery in the past. He thinks that the curricular gallery is a valuable piece of the museum, saying “We use the curricular gallery to develop our skills of visual analysis and interpretation.” Other professors use the gallery in similar ways, asking students to analyze the works displayed there and write papers or complete projects that connect these works of art to the subjects of the class.

Essentially, the curricular gallery offers students the opportunity to connect their findings in their class to other areas of academics. Professor Lisle developed on this idea saying “I think it’s useful for students to work with some art historians and curators like Shalini Le Gall and Lauren Lessing—experts who approach visual sources from different angles than I do and bring different questions to these visual texts.”

Philosophy Professor Lydia Moland has also worked with the Davis Curricular Gallery in the past. In the 2013-2014 academic year, Professor Moland and her Philosophy and Art class worked with Mirken Director of Academic and Public Programs Laura Lessing to select art works that related to the year’s humanity theme to display in the gallery. As the theme was Censorship Uncovered, students chose works that had been censored or dealt with censorship. The students designed and produced a visitor’s guide to explain why the particular works were included and did a public presentation evening to unveil the student-curated exhibition. “It’s amazing to have students working with actual art works.  It makes the experience much more immediate and rewarding,” Professor Moland said, speaking on the significance of the project.

The Davis Curricular Gallery is just one of the ways students can use the museum as a learning space. The Langlais Teaching Gallery is another platform for students to connect with the museum and utilize the space as a learning resource. The two spaces differ, though. While the works in the Davis Curricular Gallery are on display throughout the term, pieces in the Langlais gallery are pulled out of storage for one class period. Professor Lisle speaks to the significance of these spaces in the museum, saying, “For me, it makes the museum seem like less of a quiet, sacred place of authority and more of a playground of ideas—another set of texts that should be included in conversations with television shows and magazine advertisements.”