At the Art Gallery, remodeling education

The library in the Yale University Art Gallery's new Nolen Center for Art and Education will be open in December.
The library in the Yale University Art Gallery's new Nolen Center for Art and Education will be open in December. Photo by Zoe Gorman.

Though the long-awaited reopening of the Yale University Art Gallery is slated for Dec. 12, the Nolen Center for Art and Education is already becoming a center of activity within the gallery.

Located on the lower level of Street Hall, the Nolen Center is the physical space given to the art gallery’s newly expanded academic facilities, said Kate Ezra, Nolen curator of education and academic affairs. The Center itself boasts three new object-study classrooms, which are intended to allow students and faculty access to the vast collection of artworks in storage, along with a library and several multipurpose classrooms, Ezra said.

The department itself will comprise seven staff members once it is fully functioning, Department Director for Collections and Education Pamela Franks told the News last Tuesday. Besides these full-time members, the department also includes to a large number of curators who teach courses in addition to their responsibilities in the gallery.

Both Ezra and Franks anticipate that the object study classrooms will have a substantial impact on the number of object-study based seminars taught per semester.

“Each year we have more classes from more departments using the collection,” Franks said, adding that the increased space would allow for more objects to be displayed in the art gallery’s permanent collection, enabling even large classes like the History of Art survey course to use the gallery spaces and hold discussion sections in the object study classrooms.

The new climate-controlled classrooms are fully modernized, Ezra added, noting that each seminar-sized classroom is equipped with facilities for hanging works on the wall, displaying 3-D works on tabletops and ledges, along with an AV setup to view images over the web and on slides. If a class requests a work deemed too delicate to be displayed, Ezra said that the Art Gallery, after consulting with a curator and a conservator, will provide another object that can stand in for the work.

“The professor will call up objects from the collection using the collection database and then we will have them installed in the room for the seminar,” Ezra said.

Ezra anticipates the impact of the Art Gallery’s education department to reach much beyond the Yale community, she said, adding that it will also be a boon for people outside of Yale including K-12 teachers and students at Gateway Community College. The Center’s library, which contains resources on its vast collection of artwork, will be open to the public and will remain accessible even after the museum itself closes for the night, Ezra said.

While the Center officially opens with the rest of the gallery on Dec. 12, Franks said that a dry run of the classrooms has already finished with the help of 19 New Haven high school art teachers.

“They’re a very friendly audience,” Franks said. “They have the perspective to offer us feedback.”

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