Working to Bring “Abstraction” to Reality

IMG_6593 (1) A hallmark of the Ross School experience for seventh graders is curating a themed art exhibition to be shown at the Ross Gallery. For more than 20 years, this innovative interdisciplinary project designed by Dean of Visual Arts Jennifer Cross has helped students cultivate skills in collaboration, organization, and critical thinking while teaching them new ways to engage authentically with art.

Led by Visual Arts teacher Jon Mulhern and Cultural History teacher Carol Crane, this year’s students have already invested months in preparing for the 2017 show. They have visited and interviewed professional artists, worked together to select works for display, and designed the installation. Currently, the students are working to coordinate the exhibition’s publicity, produce a catalog, and prepare to receive gallery patrons during the show opening.

Each year’s exhibition theme calls students to explore a central idea within a historical context and to discern connections between the works of contemporary artists. The theme of this year’s show, “Giving Color to Emotion: A Show of Abstraction,” features abstract works inspired by natural forms, architectural plans, and scientific drawings. In preparation, students visited the studios of painters Tracy Harris, Eric Dever, and Maria Schön, and sculptor Phyllis Hammond, four contributors to the show.


Students also produce original art in tune with the exhibition’s theme for display in the gallery. Following the students’ visit to his studio last month, Eric Dever hosted a workshop on campus during which the class explored principles of color and worked together to create two three-foot-square paintings. “It was such a great experience,” Eric later wrote to Jon. “I was impressed by the students’ understanding of the art principles we explored in the paintings and in their finished work.”

In the coming weeks, the students will continue to refine and install the show as they get ready for the public opening. To learn more about the history and evolution of the exhibition project, read Jennifer’s article, “Students as Curators,” published in the most recent edition of Visual Inquiry.

The gallery opening for “Giving Color to Emotion: A Show of Abstraction” is Tuesday, June 6, from 4–6pm.” The art exhibit is free and open to the public.