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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Campus collection, a resource underused in classes?

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When they came back to campus this fall, some Carls might have seen the drab, corporate furniture in Upper Sayles and questioned the efforts Carleton puts into creating a pleasing campus aesthetic.

A more observant student might have gone on to ponder the college’s décor in general with questions like, why are the couches in Goodhue so ugly? Can we move the creepy coach portrait in Sevy dining hall? Doesn’t this college have a large permanent art collection spanning centuries and drawn from across the globe that could be implemented in both classrooms and on-campus?

Tucked away into a climate-controlled storage room in Weitz, the Carleton College Art Collection is comprised of nearly 3,000 items, across a wide range of media. The collection has particular strengths in 20th century photography and in printmaking—both Japanese woodblock prints and 19th- and 20th-century European and American works. Formed over many decades of generous donations and occasional purchases, the art collection is only displayed in the Perlman Teaching Museum and in Gould Library. At the Perlman, many exhibitions feature works from other museums, universities and private collections in addition to those from Carleton, and exhibitions are often built to accompany the curriculum.

Carleton’s permanent collection can also be seen in Gould Library, one of very few undergraduate libraries in the country to employ a ‘Library Curator’. The library often displays rare books, manuscripts, and artwork, and is currently home to an exhibition of a diverse body of prints by five of Ayomi Yoshida’s former students.

Outside of the museum or the library, the collection is only available through curriculum or special appointment. Some students feel that the college vastly under-utilizes the collection, especially considering the volume of its special works. Others take a more pragmatic approach to the discussion, seeing the many difficulties of incorporating the collection into everyday settings and classes.

“I feel like integrating the material is going to be hard,” said Jenny Nguyen ’17, an Art History major. “To have a professor force the art into the curriculum where it is not necessarily needed is probably not always going to be a good idea.” Although there are assuredly some technical restrictions to placing artwork around campus, there does not seem to be much current effort to display works. “I think that the college does an okay job with the collection,” said Nguyen. “But where applicable, using more art would be amazing.”

Arguably the most valuable resource available to students on campus, the Carleton College Art Collection offers a unique opportunity to directly engage with fine art objects. Although the collection has become increasingly visible and utilized since the Perlman Museum opened in 2011, it is still unknown to a vast majority of Carleton students; hopefully faculty and staff can take steps in the coming terms to bring this special resource to increased prominence.

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