DePaul Art Museum reflects the university’s mission
May 17, 2012
DePaul took special care when selecting the works of art gracing the walls and halls of the new DePaul Art Museum.
Each piece in the 15,200-square-foot museum was chosen with student learning and DePaul’s mission in mind. Paul Jaskot, professor in the Department of History of Art & Architecture, described this aspect of the art museum’s role and purpose May 8 at the annual John R. Cortelyou Heritage Society luncheon, honoring DePaul’s planned giving donors.
Jaskot showed the audience why the art museum serves such an important teaching role. Photos, such as the ones projected onto the screen for the crowd, can’t fully depict the material surface of an object, he says.
When surface is part of the lesson, as it is in current lessons on African art, students can look at works in the art museum’s collection and discuss the surface texture and significance. “That’s what you can do in a museum that you can’t do with a PowerPoint slide,” he says.
Many works help students explore history. For example, Daniel Burnham’s sketches of the historic Carbide & Carbon Building give insight into the boom in 1920s-era corporate advertising, he says. “It’s not just a drawing, it’s a moment in time,” Jaskot says.
Reflections of DePaul’s mission are found throughout the museum, he says. Students can explore social justice issues through portraits of immigrants at Ellis Island or photographs of detritus from Hurricane Katrina. They can learn about Rembrandt’s critique on faith in the world around him from his etching “Death of the Virgin.”
The art museum showcases prominent artists over time as well as works by DePaul faculty and students. People may be surprised to learn that it is the only museum in Chicago that systematically collects work of Chicago artists, he says.
But it is not merely a museum. The building houses classroom and multimedia space designed to provide room for community and student discussions on art. Its state-of-the-art design ensures that rumbles from the neighboring El tracks are excluded from conversations, Jaskot says. These spaces have proven to be popular. “In its first year, that space has been used almost entirely to capacity,” he says.