Divinity School Installs Art from Nasher Museum

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Professor Willie Jennings and students react to the new display of art after their "Doctrine of Creation" class.To implement one of the initiatives of the Divinity School Arts and Aesthetics Committee, professors Jo Bailey Wells and Craig Hill have worked with the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University to borrow six paintings to display in the Westbroook basement hallway.

On Sep. 29, students entered their 2 p.m. classes in the Westbrook building as usual from the empty white hallway, a space sometimes described as “the refrigerator.” But when they emerged from class, the hallway had been transformed into a gallery space for contemporary American abstract art, including works by Alice Baber, Paul Jenkins, and Dan Christiansen.

With shouts of “Awesome!” and “Whoa!” students and faculty stopped to admire and linger over the six canvases.  Student Stephanie Gehring said, “It was a little like walking into Antarctica and finding birds of paradise—all this color where I had expected only fluorescent light on bare white walls. There is a sense of presence in that hallway that was not there before.”

Students study the contemporary American abstract paintings on loan from the Nasher Museum.Because of their concerns for the proper care and display, the Nasher does not often grant permission for entities other than museums to exhibit art from their collection. After seeing the Westbrook hallway, though, Nasher officials were satisfied that these pieces would be well-placed and appreciated.

“We rarely have the opportunity to present works of art outside the Nasher Museum, on Duke’s campus,” said Kimerly Rorschach, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum. “We hope students enjoy this installation of beautiful abstract works that we are unable to display in the museum.”

Duke Divinity School has agreed to a two-year, renewable loan for the pieces.