A Living Laboratory

Print from USD's collection


Just inside the front entrance of Founders Hall is an innovative laboratory, one equipped with Rembrandts and Goyas rather than Bunsen burners and beakers. Here, in the Robert and Karen Hoehn Family Galleries and the Hoehn Print Study Room, art students have invaluable access to original print works as they don the mantle of curators, artists and marketers.

“The idea is to create opportunities for students to gain experience and also to gain focus in terms of their professional aspirations,” says Victoria Sancho Lobis, the inaugural curator of USD’s print collection and fine arts galleries.

Just having a gallery and study room on campus dedicated to prints sets USD apart in the regional art world. While nearby museums hold print exhibitions — the J. Paul Getty Museum, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art — none have permanent space dedicated to prints. Sancho Lobis says that in San Diego, the Hoehn Print Study Room is the only publicly accessible print room available.

Exhibitions in the Hoehn Family Galleries feature prints from USD’s permanent collection or prints on loan from other institutions in exhibitions curated by USD or by an outside institution. The current exhibition, “Dreams and Diversions: 250 Years of Japanese Woodblock Prints,” is a concurrent exhibition organized by the San Diego Museum of Art. This four-part presentation, running through June 5, 2011, offers two rotations of masterworks at each institution, featuring pieces by some of the most important artists in the Japanese woodblock print tradition.

The exhibit is being incorporated into classes on printmaking, art history and Asian studies.

“If we have these exhibitions on campus, we can take the entire class into the gallery and teach it on the spot,” says Jessica Patterson, assistant professor of art history. “We try to convey to the students that they need to spend a sustained amount of time looking at the art to process what they see. Having it in the campus gallery allows them to spend that time.”

Faculty also encourage students to use exhibitions as a source of inspiration and invites them to create art in response to the works on display. Nathan Vaughan, a senior visual arts major, developed a photography project in response to a Georges Rouault exhibit, “Miserere,” at USD. His own work was then exhibited with Rouault’s.

“It was quite spectacular,” Vaughan says of the experience. “It allows the work to be active, not static.”

On another level, students take leadership roles in gallery and collections management through a print room internship program. Curatorial intern Rachel Boesenberg is researching the objects in the print collection and is helping organize the print study room as well as a future exhibition.

“This internship is an opportunity to begin seriously considering what I want to do with my career,” says Boesenberg, a senior majoring in art history. “It also means having a leg up on the competition in my application for graduate school.”

Programming intern Willa Kroll is increasing the profile and the accessibility of the print collection and galleries. She is launching a student organization that will generate docent tours and educational events, such as “Prints and Pinot,” a monthly series under consideration that invites faculty and students to the print room to explore a particular theme.

“One of the things I’m deciding is if I’m on the left path toward art or the right path toward marketing, and this is the perfect conjoining of those two opportunities,” says Kroll, a senior art history major.

Inspiring that sort of epiphany is precisely the point of having such a unique resource on USD’s campus.

“What we offer here with our print collection, the print study room and the galleries is very special,” Sancho Lobis says. “We are providing exposure and opportunities that are normally limited to Ivy League campuses. It’s pretty remarkable.” — Trisha J. Ratledge

Art Credit: Utagawa Yoshikazu (1748–ca. 1780). Foreigners Entertained at Gankirō at Miyosaki in Yokohama (Yokohama Miyosaki rō Gankirō ijin yūkyo no zu). Woodblock print, 1861. Published by Maruya Jinpachi. Ōban triptych. The San Diego Museum of Art, 1985.10.

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