The Art of Curating

June 12, 2023 10:48AM

Lehigh students learn the behind-the-scenes business of museums and galleries.

Purchasing works of art for a museum or gallery might seem like an exclusive, high stakes enterprise that takes place in a largely hidden world of money, access and fame.

Indeed, sometimes it is, but the more you know, the less mysterious and more accessible the business of art acquisition is. And 16 Lehigh students who took ART275: Museum Collections and Exhibitions in the Spring 2023 semester not only learned the behind-the-scenes business of museums and galleries, but became participants by going to New York City to choose and purchase a work for Lehigh University Art Galleries (LUAG). 

As a result, Lehigh now owns a large, evocative sculptural piece by Lauren Halsey, a rising contemporary artist and activist from Los Angeles, who uses architecture and installation art to explore the life of urban neighborhoods, the idea of community and the Black experience. The 4-by-8 untitled relief sculpture features images of heads and hairstyles inspired by the barber shops and advertisements of Halsey’s community carved into a canvas of gypsum. 

The course was created in 2021 by William Crow, director and professor of practice at LUAG, to offer a unique educational experience.

“We are believers in learning by doing at LUAG and at Lehigh broadly,” Crow said. “Experiential learning is such a fundamental aspect of what we do.  There’s nothing quite like having the experience of going to a major global center of art and talking to the gallery directors and asking questions. That is something I hope the students will carry forward for the rest of their lives. The students will forever be connected to this piece of art that we are acquiring for Lehigh.”

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Image: Gallery owner and director Nicola Vassell discusses artwork with Lehigh students in her gallery in Chelsea.