Sunday, September 04, 2011

F r a g M e n t s

During the course of the summer, I was part of a faculty seminar focusing on plans to incorporate the Phillips Museum with our curriculum. My exhibit proposal is centered on architectural fragments and the relationship between fine art (murals, sculptural relief, stain glass windows, etc.) and the buildings in which they are set. The proposal follows the guidelines for curatorial proposals outlined here.

Phillips Museum Seminar, August 2011

CONCEPT: The campus of Franklin & Marshall College is a collection of fragments, each representing a partially realized utopia. Since no single master plan was ever fully implemented, the architectural coherence of the campus cannot be comprehended without a nuanced knowledge of individual buildings whose original form has been rendered incoherent by additions, restorations, renovations, or demolition. FragMents seeks to highlight a selection art works immured within the body of the college. Those objects include sculptural relief, murals, ceramic tiles, stained glass windows, and statues. Some of the fragments remain in their original location, while most have either been relocated or removed. The exhibit will trace the intellectual trajectory of F&M’s architecture expressed in seven campus utopias: 1850s Gothic Revival, 1890s Radical Theology, 1920s Georgian Revival, 1930s Cinematic Twist, 1950s-1960s Utilitarianism, 1970s Modernist Humanism and 1980s-2010s Postmodernism. Surviving original artworks within each period’s representative building will clarify the idealism and ideology of F&M’s collective history. The exhibit, moreover, will point attention to the unrecognized designers that have touched the campus by illustrating works outside F&M that have received scholarly acclaim. These include Samuel Sloan (Alumni, Gerhart House), Dixon, Balburnie & Dixon (Old Main, Goethean, Diagnothian), Francis Howse Cruess (Seminary), C. Emlen Urban (Stager), Charles Klauder (Hensel, Dietz-Santee, Franklin-Meyran, Harris, Fackenthal Swimming Pool, Heating Plant), William Lee (Fackenthal Library, Keiper, Marshall-Buchanan, Hackman), Fisher, Nes and Campbell (Herman), Minoru Yamasaki (Student Center), Mitchell Giurgola Architects (College House Commons), Einhorn Yaffee Prescott (Life Science & Philosophy), Elkus-Manfredi (College Row), and Robert Stern (New College House). All of the feature

SUPPORT INFORMATION: FragMents will generate a deeper architectural discussion within the College and introduce the community of its architectural heritage. The exhibit will greatly benefit F&M’s architectural curriculum in history, design, historic preservation and archaeology. It will be curated by students enrolled in ART 271, an annual seminar dedicated to Lancaster architecture. The exhibit could also be incorporated in studio classes, such as ART 316: Sculpture and the Environment, ART 232: Casting, or Art in Public, or ART 370: Curatorial Practices. The project seeks to radiate beyond campus and connect F&M’s decorative treasures with similar example across the city of Lancaster. A broader civic perspective will cultivate links with Lancaster’s cultural institutions, such as the Heritage Center, the Quilt Museum, the Historic Preservation Trust, the Lancaster County Historical Society, and the Theological Seminary. The exhibit will also borrow drawings from Philadelphia, the Athenaeum and the University of Pennsylvania Architectural Archives. The documentation and contemplation of building fragments will provide the backbone of an educational program that positions the Phillips Museum as an institution with holdings beyond its physical walls.

DESCRIPTION OF WORKS ON DISPLAY: The exhibit will include a one-time installation at the Curriculum Gallery, a permanent digital exhibit and the possibility of partial installations throughout campus. Three types of physical artifacts will be displayed: original works of art, original architectural drawings and plaster casts. The walls and floors will be covered by support images (maps, photographs, historical footage) that will place the fragments into their historical context. The aesthetics of the installation, however, will exaggerate the spirit of fragmentation as encountered in early museums of architecture, such as the Sloane Museum in London, or the original Cloisters Museum in New York. The installation itself will raise postmodernism’s central problematics of disjunction, irony and inter-textuality.

TARGET AUDIENCE, PROGRAMMING AND EDUCATION: The primary target audience will be the F&M community, including students, staff, faculty and alumni. The secondary target audience will be the architectural community of Lancaster, Harrisburg and Philadelphia, including historians, designers, craftsmen, preservationists and urbanists. If the installation’s aesthetics manage to diverge from the ordinariness of historical exhibits, it will attract some museological press. The exhibit will be accompanied by a colloquium on the history of collegiate architecture. The invited speakers might include Sally Grifith (author of Liberalizing the Mind: Two Centuries of Liberal Education at F&M), David Schuyler (American Studies, F&M), Thomas Ryan (dir. Lancaster County Historical Society), Ron Funk (dir. Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County), Ben Leech (Lancaster Conservancy, and Philadelphia Preservation Alliance), David Brownlee (architectural historian, University of Pennsylvania), Jeff Cohen (architectural historian, Bryn Mawr College), Abigail van Slyck (architectural historian, Connecticut College), Lawrence Biemiller (’80, senior writer, Chronicle of Higher Education) and John Fry (president, Drexel University). The exhibit will be accompanied by workshops and tours exploring individual buildings in greater detail. Christopher Raab will also host workshops on using F&M’s Archives and Special Collections.

MATERIALS NEEDED TO PRESENT WORK: Architectural drawings will have to be framed. Supports must be built to display large architectural fragments. The gallery will need multiple screens to project video and still photos from archival collections.

SCHEDULE: The seminar and exhibition will have to wait till after my junior sabbatical. The seminar is scheduled for Fall 2013 and the exhibit is scheduled for Spring 2014. If possible, the seminar can be coordinated with studio classes that will take up the installation design. A website and digital tour can be developed in Fall 2013.

PARTNERS: Although the exhibit will focus on F&M, I would like to collaborate with the Heritage Center because they are contemplating a similar strategy for the Quilt Museum. In Spring 2012, my Lancaster seminar will work closely with the Heritage Center and I will get a better idea of this partnership. The majority of material belongs to F&M. A small number of documents will be borrowed from the Philadelphia Athenaeum and the University of Pennsylvania Architectural Archives.

BUDGET AND FUNDING: With the exception of installation costs, there should not be any extraordinary expenses.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States