Teach at the intersection of visual culture and museum practice.

We partner with faculty to develop and teach a range of semester-long and winter study courses.

Uncovering Williams
Log mural

The mural in the Log, a venue for students, faculty, alumni, and the community. The mural depicts Mohawk leader Theyanoguin (also known as Chief or King Hendrick) and Col. Ephraim Williams.

Sparked by current controversies around visual representations at Williams, this course–a joint effort of the Williams College Museum of Art and the American Studies Program–interrogates the history of the college and its relationship to land, people, architecture, and artifacts. Students in this course will examine the visual and material culture of Williams and the land it occupies to uncover how the long and complex history of the college reverberates in the spaces and places students, faculty, and staff traverse daily. We take seriously that objects and environments are not neutral nor are the atmospheres that they reflect and produce. Our interdisciplinary approach draws from the methods and theories of American studies, art history, material culture studies, critical race theory, gender studies, and eco-criticism. Topics of discussion may include: the foundation of the college and displacement of native populations; buildings, objects, and monuments linked to Williams’ evangelical history and the role of missionaries in American imperialism; the symbolic meaning of the varied architectural styles at the college; and the visibility/invisibility of the college’s relationship to slavery and Abolitionism.

Cotaught by Kevin Murphy, Curator and Dorothy Wang, Professor of American Studies

Robert Rauschenberg: Art, Archives, and Exhibitions
Photo of a class in the Rose Study Gallery.

ARTH 319 Rauschenberg Archives course co-taught by Professor of Art C. Ondine Chavoya and Curator Lisa Dorin.

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was a leading figure in postwar American art whose work is considered an important bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Pop art. Throughout his career he worked in a wide range of media, collaborated frequently with dancers and performers, and was dedicated to promoting awareness of causes he cared about, including world peace, the environment and humanitarian issues. The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation archives have recently been processed and opened to scholars for the first time. This course will make use of the archives with the aim of shedding new light on Rauschenberg’s art and collaborations in the form of an exhibition that will open at the Williams College Museum of Art in the spring 2017 semester. Students will have hands-on access to archival materials and will collaborate on the development of the exhibition through both individual and group activities and assignments. As a class we will critically explore the role and possibilities of research and archives in curatorial practices and museum exhibitions. Course readings will be drawn from the major monographs on Rauschenberg’s art, texts that highlight various historical, theoretical, and methodological approaches to the archive, and primary source material from the Rauschenberg archive.

Fall 2016

Cotaught by Lisa Dorin, Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and C. Ondine Chavoya, Professor of Art

Acquiring Art: Selecting and Purchasing Objects for WCMA
Acquiring Art: Selecting and Purchasing Objects for the Williams College Museum of Art. Fall 2015

Students in the fall 2015 course, Acquiring Art: Selecting and Purchasing Objects for the Williams College Museum of Art.

A blend of art history and economics, the fall-semester seminar enrolled 15 seniors and three students from Williams’ Graduate Program in the History of Art.

For the first half of the semester, the professors took turns teaching class sessions. Murphy discussed WCMA’s collection and goals as well as what to look for in terms of an object’s condition. “We gave students tools to look at provenance and the history of objects, and to consider questions of authenticity,” he says.

Sheppard, meanwhile, provided an understanding of economic modeling and how the art market works. “We taught them to use data-based analytic models, talked about how auctions function and provided bargaining strategies,” he says.

Then the students assembled into five teams to research art works. They were given three guidelines—the object had to align with WCMA’s collecting priorities; the students had to view the work in person; and it had to fit within a budget of $25,000, provided by the Fulkerson Fund for Leadership in the Arts.