The Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library launched an exhibit showcasing the Yale School of Art’s history earlier this month, curated by Jonathan Edwards Fellow Miko McGinty ’93 ART ’98 and Haas Library Associate Director Mar González Palacios.
The exhibit — which provides an overview of the Yale School of Art’s history from its founding in 1869 to now — highlights the school’s importance both at Yale and as an art institution that has produced influential works throughout its history.
“I think that we should all take great pride in our Yale School of Art,” McGinty told the News. “Our exhibition looks at some moments in our history, the exhibition next year at the YUAG will feature artworks themselves and throughout the year, some of the amazing artists who were educated at Yale will be highlighted by the School of Art.”
The Yale School of Art was the first art school to be established to the University, later followed by the Yale School of Drama, School of Architecture and School of Music.
According to the School of Art brochure, the exhibit “illustrates moments in the evolution of the Yale School of Art, the faculty and students who have shaped the school and the spaces they have inhabited.”
According to McGinty, the exhibition is part of a “bigger story about the art world” and women at Yale. The University is celebrating the 50th anniversary of women attending Yale College and the 150th anniversary of women attending the University this year. McGinty said Augustus Street, class of 1812, donated the School of Art’s Street Hall, and his widow Caroline Street endowed the first professorships at the school. According to the exhibit, her “commitment to the School of Art after its opening ensured its early success.”
Early photographs in the exhibit depict both men and women in class. In one photo where students are pictured drawing a nude model, no women are present. The exhibit also displays a letter by Alice Silliman that describes daily life at the school. It also features two cases that memorialize Robert Reed ’60 ART ’62, the first tenured black professor who taught drawing and painting for 45 years.
“We thought that [inclusivity] was really important to highlight,” González Palacios said. “The school had been pretty open and pretty progressive from the beginning, all by having women as some of the first students and students of color. It’s very rare and we both felt that has formed the culture of the School.”
Other art professional schools — including the School of Drama and the School of Architecture — as well as the Yale Norfolk Art School and the undergraduate art program originated from the School of Art. According to the exhibit, Professor William Lyon Phelps “encouraged the study of drama,” which was “a distinct break from the Puritan culture of early Yale.” The first play performed at the University Theater, “The Patriarch,” premiered in 1926. A program from the play includes a list of stage crew, producers and cast members, many of whom were women. The Yale School of Drama officially became its own school in 1955 and the School of Architecture was established in 1959.
“While some parts of the college may have been slow to change, the School of Art was always invested in contemporary practice and the innovation and invention inherent in making art, as it is today,” McGinty said. “It was the dean of the School of Art who created a position [for drama faculty] rather than the English department, which turned out to be a great moment of growth for the School of Art.”
Also on display are important artworks to come out of the school. One example is an influential architectural theory book called “Learning from Las Vegas.” The work was based on a studio taught at the school in 1968 by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour.
“For me, one of the most exciting things was to find works from students that have become seminal,” González Palacios said. “When I show that to the new students in architecture, they get so excited because they can see they might be making history without even knowing it.”
The exhibit will be on view until Jan. 18 in the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library.
Sharla Moody | firstname.lastname@example.org