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José Clemente Orozco, fresco “Science, Labor and Art” from the mural cycle “Call to Revolution and Table of Universal Brotherhood”

The New School Art Collection receives $500,000 from the Mellon Foundation to chart a sustainable course for its future

A new $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has provided The New School with an extraordinary opportunity to chart a sustainable course for the future of art collecting and place its central role in supporting thought and critical discourse through the work of contemporary artists and art. do practices. The grant also provides funding for an in-depth preservation study of José Clemente Orozco’s New School Historic Mural Cycle of 1931, Call to Revolution and Table of Universal Fraternity.

The New School Art Collection plays a vital academic and cultural role at the university, acting as a dynamic curricular catalyst for students, faculty and staff. Thirteen site-specific monumental works are installed throughout the public spaces of the New School campus, from the murals and installations in the University Center and Arnhold Hall to the glass mosaics in the Alvin Johnson/JM Kaplan Hall and sculptures in the Vera List Courtyard. . Nearly fifty percent of the more than 2,000 works in the collection are on display through curated installations throughout campus – in lobbies, hallways, classrooms, staff and faculty offices – inviting engagement community on a daily basis.

“The Mellon Foundation has recognized the importance of the collection as an important learning site and rich cultural resource not only for The New School community, but also for New York City and beyond. Their advocacy at a time when support for the arts and humanities is under threat is a game-changer. To be able to place the collection at the center of a university-wide conversation to reimagine a future – and an infrastructure that can support it – as well as continue the work I had begun on preserving our murals of Orozco is an unprecedented experience. an opportunity and a gift,” says Silvia Rocciolo, former Director and Senior Curator of the Collection, who was asked to lead the two-year grant project for The New School.

“Even before joining The New School last August, I was aware of and deeply impressed by the university’s rich and vibrant art collection and its historical ties to our social justice mission,” said Provost Renée T. .White. “The future preservation of these works and their strategic integration into The New School’s pedagogy and academic vision is paramount, and we are extremely grateful to have received this important support from the Mellon Foundation which allows us to embark on this work. important, expertly directed by Silvia Rocciolo.

The grant provides the university with the opportunity to undergo a thoughtful strategic planning process that will inform future decisions about the responsible management of the collection and establish stronger ways to fully integrate it into the academic activities of the university. . “There have been many successful educational collaborations in the past with faculty and students, such as our partnership with the Parsons Curatorial Design Research Lab which led to our first collectible book. I stand in my place with my own day here: Site-specific art at the new school and an accompanying website or student-curated exhibits like Memory is a Tough Place or In the Historical Present. This grant is interesting because it is possible to formalize these kinds of initiatives by integrating the collection into the overall educational mission of the university,” says Rocciolo.

Beginning in the spring of 2022, Rocciolo, in conjunction with a faculty steering committee, will hold conversations with students, faculty, staff, administrators, provost and president’s offices, facilities and finance departments to ensure that a range of perspectives are incorporated into the project . Faculty Steering Committee Members—Julia Foulkes, Professor of History; Lydia Matthews, professor of visual culture; and Radhika Subramaniam, Associate Professor of Visual Culture, were invited for their experience integrating the collection into their teaching, curatorial practice and research over the years.

“Teachers have worked with Silvia or used the collection in their lessons, but that has been defined individually by specific teachers who have noticed the artwork around us,” says Foulkes. “It’s an opportunity to imagine what could be done in collaboration through the constitution of the resources of the collection. For example, we may have a better way of understanding what we have in the collection that could help teachers figure out how they might use it, rather than just relying on what they see in a hallway.

“We are grateful for Mellon’s recognition of the collection as valuable and in need of stewardship. They have been partners and instigators, affirming the importance of a collection like this in an educational institution and in New York,” says Subramaniam. “My own work is partly curatorial, but it is also deeply interdisciplinary, so I am keen to consider not only the place of art collecting in an art and design education, but also how the thought and learning are transformed when art blends with other disciplines, an integral part of educational diversity.

“Receiving this scholarship is an educational opportunity, not only for us as educators to rethink teaching methods, but also for our students. They will again be able to access the collection as a cultural and curatorial resource. Learning how to research, interpret, exhibit, and care for an art collection provides a certain type of training that enhances the career paths of diverse students,” says Matthews. “There are also new environmental/social justice initiatives at the university, as well as newly hired professors interested in interdisciplinary dialogue. Our job is to bring people together around the table and facilitate brainstorming sessions on how to support and imagine multiple forms of engagement with modern and contemporary art.

In addition to providing strategic planning support, the Mellon grant will also fund the development of a study on the preservation of the José Clemente Orozco murals at Johnson/Kaplan Hall. Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siquieros, three of the most prominent Mexican artists of the 20th century, were known as Los Tres Grandes. “These murals are the only remaining public examples of Mexican frescoes in New York and the second of three murals Orozco has produced in the United States. They are one of our treasures and, more importantly, our responsibility” , says Rocciolo.

José Clemente Orozco (left) and Camilo Egas in front of a panel of Orozco’s mural at the New School

Over the years, the murals have suffered degradation due to exposure to humidity and temperature variations as well as general overuse of the room. “Williamstown Art Conservation Center restorers have done annual checkups of the murals since the murals were restored by the Center in the late 1980s. When the restorers last visited, they were worried we warning that if environmental conditions were not taken into account, the murals would not exist in 100 years. The Mellon Foundation’s support of this work gives us a chance to develop a comprehensive preservation study, so that we can fully understand and prepare ourselves for all the work that will be necessary to preserve them.

For Rocciolo, Orozco’s murals framed his curatorial perspective, focusing on artists who responded to the critical issues of our time and fearlessly asserted their own cultural identity. “The Orozco murals are one of our origin stories and, at their core, they are part of an institutional identity that has informed me as a curator by articulating a vision of the collection with works rooted in activism and social justice. The works installed at the University Center – Agnes Denes, Alfredo Jaar, Glenn Ligon and Andrea Geyer – are, for me, an extension of this heritage.