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Helping Bulldogs feel a little less alone through art

Thanks to Hillary Brown (AB ’00, MA ’10), director of communications for the Georgia Museum of Art, for this guest blog. All images provided by the Georgia Museum of Art.

The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia usually hosts tens of thousands of visitors a year with tours and programs, but that’s not possible at the moment. With COVID-19 keeping people in their homes, the museum’s staff, many of whom are UGA alumni, saw an opportunity to serve an even wider audience than usual, bringing programming to visitors rather than the other way around and helping Bulldogs feel a little less alone through art.

Online Exhibitions

The museum worked with Athens firm The Adsmith [owned by Kirk Smith (BFA ’85)] to put existing and upcoming exhibitions online, incorporating 360-degree views of galleries where art was installed. Although these exhibitions do not have the same effect as wandering the galleries in person, they can also stay up indefinitely, reaching a larger group of visitors. The annual master of fine arts degree candidates’ exhibition for the Lamar Dodd School of Art, a tradition dating back decades, was reconfigured into an online format that allowed for greater flexibility and gave graduating students a way to show their work.

The exhibition “Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection” was only partway through its scheduled run and many people were disappointed to have missed the opportunity to see it. The Richard H. Driehaus Museum allowed the Georgia Museum of Art to use the files from its Acoustiguide tour to create a virtual tour of the show, available on YouTube through May 10.

Other exhibitions available online include “The Monsters Are Due on Broad Street: Patrick Dean” (BFA ’97), “Drama and Devotion in Baroque Rome” and “Rediscovering the Art of Victoria Hutson Huntley,” with more to come soon.

Yoga in the Galleries

Shannon Ball (BSED ’96), co-owner of Five Points Yoga, leads “Yoga in the Galleries” via Zoom.

Online Education Opportunities

The museum’s education staff [Callan Steinmann (AB ’07, PHD ’17), Sage Kincaid (AB ’05, PHD ’22), Emily Hogrefe-Ribeiro (PHD ’22) and Madison Hogan (AB ’18)] has been traveling to the building once a week to stream Yoga in the Galleries and Morning Mindfulness programs via Zoom (while maintaining a safe distance from the instructors teaching those courses!). Presenting them online has doubled the number of visitors participating.

A four-part art class on introductory printmaking techniques also moved to Zoom, allowing the museum to teach new skills and pay local artist Brian Hitselberger (MFA ’10) for his time teaching. Curators have recorded mini tours in the galleries to replace the museum’s usual weekly tour every Tuesday at 2 p.m., and, when possible, planned lectures are being recorded and put online. YouTube’s subtitles and the now-asynchronous format of these programs also increase their accessibility.

Step-by-step images of the creation of styrofoam plate art,

Art at Home: Styrofoam Plate Cityscapes project in conjunction with the exhibition “Rediscovering the Art of Victoria Hutson Huntley.”

Online Programs and Events

Many of the new and revised programs point the way forward to better ways of reaching audiences, such as the museum’s new Art at Home page, which includes simple art projects that can be made with easy-to-find materials. The museum already had downloadable teacher packets on its website, with activities and suggested lesson plans keyed to Georgia Performance Standards in art, language arts, history, science, math, engineering and other disciplines.

Family Day, one of the museum’s most popular programs, has moved online, too, with Art at Home activities and kits that can be ordered for free from Athens’ K.A. Artist Shop, sponsored by Heyward Allen Toyota, Heyward Allen Motor Company and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art. The Museum Shop is still fulfilling orders for books, including many of the ones associated with the Tiffany exhibition, and the museum’s blog is updating more often than its usual weekly schedule. Crosswords with the hashtag #museumgames post weekly, and you can find a Daily Inspiration on Instagram Monday through Friday. Weekends bring close-looking activities with interactive components through Instagram Stories. No matter the program, the museum is working on ways to bring it to you and help us all find a window through art.

Donating to the Community

Staff members also went through museum materials, donating personal protective equipment to organizations in need and assembling art kits for Clarke County School District (CCSD) students that could be picked up at CCSD meal-distribution sites. Work continues behind the scenes as well, with preparators framing and unframing art and working to schedule pickups and drop-offs, donations being processed as usual, registrars revising loan agreements and continuing to add objects to the museum’s online collections database (currently at more than 7,000 objects), curators working on reconfiguring the exhibition schedule and writing for upcoming shows, and all busily planning for the future while adapting on the fly.

The best way to keep up with what the museum is working on is to follow its accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Georgia Museum of Art receives large gift of “cutting-edge” contemporary art

This article was written by Hillary Brown and originally posted to UGA Today on March 5, 2020.

The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia received a major gift from John and Sara Shlesinger consisting of 110 contemporary works of art from the Shlesingers’ personal collection, spanning a wide variety of artists and mediums.

A partial list of artists represented in the donation includes Damien Hirst, Daniel Arsham, Shannon Ebner, David Altjmed and Mike Kelley. According to William U. Eiland, director of the Georgia Museum of Art, this gift will fundamentally transform how the museum operates.

“This gift from Sara and John Shlesinger to the Georgia Museum of Art is certainly a quantitative change for our collection, but most important, it is a qualitative one,” said Eiland. “It gives us the means not only to teach and to exhibit the cutting-edge art of the past 25 years, but also allows us to help students and our general audiences to find, to understand and to step beyond that edge. Overnight, due to their generosity, we are able to extend our collection planning and augment our ability to teach in an age when visual-arts education has become more and more necessary.”

Sara Shlesinger grew up surrounded by realist and impressionist art and studied art history abroad, earning a bachelor’s in fine arts from Brandeis University. Meanwhile, John—a 1983 UGA master’s of business administration graduate—knew little about art before marrying Sara, but collected local contemporary art. Interested in starting a collection together and curious about the contemporary art world, they traveled and visited galleries and museums.

In 1997, they decided to purchase an early spin painting by Damien Hirst—now a part of the gift to the museum. The couple first focused on Young British Artists, amassing works by Hirst, Gary Hume, Sarah Morris and Gavin Turk. They then expanded their vision, developing relationships with gallerists, dealers and the artists themselves in order to fully understand and appreciate the art they collect.

After 23 years, the couple have amassed a collection of several hundred works by emerging and established contemporary artists from around the world. Most recently, the Shlesingers acquired works by Katharine Fritsch, Nathaniel Mary Quinn and Atlanta’s own Shanequa Gay.

Chen Yi, “Naomi Wang’s Anniversary,” 2006. Part of The John and Sara Shlesinger Collection

Chen Yi, “Naomi Wang’s Anniversary,” 2006.

Gabriela Palmieri, former vice chair of Sotheby’s North America and now an independent art consultant, has worked with the Shlesingers for years. Palmieri says she can think of almost no other collectors who approach art in the way the Shlesingers do, citing their tendency to take risks and the fact that they buy works because they love them and want to live with them, not as part of an investment portfolio.

“Their tendency to collect works from across an artist’s lifetime will allow UGA students to see the trajectories of different careers. That’s unusual even among people who collect contemporary work,” said Palmieri. “Their desire to educate and instruct was a driving factor in this gift.”

For example, she points to their purchase of one of Damien Hirst’s early spin paintings the year it was made. Created using a mechanism that rotates the canvas and leaving much to the power of chance, these works were a new approach to painting, almost removing the hand of the artist.

In celebration of the donation, the museum plans to have a small exhibition this summer with a larger one to follow that will introduce visitors to the works provided by the Shlesingers.

John Shlesinger is a vice chairman at CBRE, a publicly traded, global commercial real estate firm, and serves on the boards of the Atlanta History Center, Oakland Cemetery and Tech Square Ventures. He was previously a member of UGA’s Board of Visitors and the board of the High Museum of Art.

Sara Shlesinger is a community leader on both a local and national basis. She is a board member at Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum and is on the advisory board for Art 21. Sara has served on the selection committee for the Venice Biennale and on MoMA’s Modern Women’s Fund Committee. In Atlanta, she was on the founding board for the Children’s Museum and is currently involved with various organizations and working in the art world.

Founding SPIA dean receives President’s Medal

This story was written by Sara Freeland and was originally posted to UGA Today on January 13, 2020. 

The University of Georgia will bestow one of its highest honors to Thomas P. Lauth, the founding dean of the School of Public and International Affairs, during Founders Day activities on Jan. 15.

The President’s Medal recognizes extraordinary contributions of individuals who are not current employees of UGA and who have supported students and academic programs, advanced research and inspired community leaders to enhance the quality of life of citizens in Georgia.

“Dr. Lauth provided wise counsel to me and to many others at the institutional level and helped build the reputation of the School of Public and International Affairs at UGA. He guided a new school exceptionally well and provided many years of outstanding service as a dean and faculty member,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I look forward to honoring him for his service to UGA, the Athens community and our state and nation.”

A professor emeritus of public administration and policy, Lauth retired from UGA in 2013. He was a faculty member at UGA from 1981 to 2013, serving as head of the department of political science from 1988 to 2001 before becoming dean.

Under Lauth’s leadership, SPIA quickly gained a reputation for excellence with world-renowned faculty, two research centers, multiple study abroad programs and highly successful students and alumni. Its public affairs graduate program was ranked third in the nation and first among public universities.

An outstanding scholar and educator, Lauth taught courses, delivered lectures and presented papers in China, Korea, Taiwan and Ukraine. He is the author or co-author of more than 50 peer reviewed journal articles and invited book chapters. During his years as an active faculty member, he directed 30 Ph.D. dissertations. In 2010, he delivered the 100th Anniversary Graduate Commencement Address at UGA.

Lauth is an elected fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and the recipient of a lifetime scholarly achievement award from the Association for Budgeting and Financial Management. He was elected president of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration and was appointed to the U.S. Comptroller General’s Educators’ Advisory Panel, advising the Comptroller General on the top fiscal challenges facing the nation.

Since his retirement, Lauth has continued to contribute to the academic culture of UGA as an Emeriti Scholar. He also served as president of the UGA Retirees Association and as UGA’s representative to the University System of Georgia Retiree Council.

Among his contributions to the local community, Lauth represented District 7 on the Athens-Clarke County Citizens Advisory Committee that reviewed all Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) 2020 projects.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in government from the University of Notre Dame and his doctorate in political science from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Founders Week

The President’s Medal ceremony is part of Founders Week, when UGA observes its anniversary as the birthplace of public higher education in America.

The Founders Day Lecture will be held Jan. 15 at 1:30 p.m. in the Chapel and is open to the public. William Eiland, director of the Georgia Museum of Art, will speak on “Colonization and Its Discontents.”

The Founders Day Lecture is traditionally held on or near the date the university was established: Jan. 27. On this day in 1785, the Georgia General Assembly adopted a charter establishing the University of Georgia as the first institution of public higher education in America.

The lecture is sponsored by the Office of the President, the Alumni Association and the Emeriti Scholars, a group of retired faculty members known for their teaching abilities who continue to enhance the university’s academic endeavors through part-time teaching, research and service assignments.