For the first time, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Vanderbilt offered a series of summer classes taught by Fisk University faculty on the Fisk campus. Jamaal Sheats, director and curator of Fisk University Galleries and assistant professor of art, taught “Art and Context: Learning to Look,” a survey of world art as depicted in visual and written history from the Fisk University Galleries’ Collections and the current exhibition in the Carl Van Vechten Art Gallery.
The Van Vechten Art Gallery currently features the renowned Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Modern American and European Art, with works by Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne, Auguste-Pierre Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Georgia O’Keeffe, and others.
Class was held at the Van Vechten and other historic buildings on campus, including the administration building (formerly the Cravath Library) that houses murals painted by Aaron Douglas, Jubilee Hall with the portrait of the first Jubilee Singers by Queen Victoria’s court painter, Edmund Havel, on display, and the university library housing works by Winold Reiss and the Aaron Douglas Gallery.
“This is a total treasure that everyone in Nashville should come to see, with more than 4,000 priceless works,” said Betsy Hay, board president of Vanderbilt’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. “Professor Sheats is giving us the opportunity to look at paintings and other art works and asking, ‘What do you see?’ He then encourages us to look at ways to change perspective and enjoy art in a broader context, including consideration of what the artist had in mind and the particular time period in which the art was created.”
Sheats, born in Brentwood, Tennessee, said that he “grew up” with the collection and earned his bachelor of science in fine arts in 2002 from Fisk. In 2011 he received a master of fine art in studio art from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Art-Boston. Sheats, whose areas of expertise include metal relief sculpture, was one of eight artists commissioned by the Tennessee Arts Commission to create works for the Music City Center.
Bryan Kent Wallace, assistant professor of physics and director of Physics Laboratories at Fisk, taught “Physics and Astronomy: A Conceptual Look at the Universe in Which We Live” in DuBois Hall on the Fisk campus. He earned a bachelor of science in physics from Grambling University, a master of arts in physics from Fisk, and a doctor of education in learning organizations and strategic change from Lipscomb University.
Wallace’s course examined principles in physics and astronomy that individuals are exposed to every day. “First we focus on physics principles that can be held in the palm of your hand, then expand to the far edges of the universe,” he said.
“We are excited to grow and enhance our curriculum for lifelong learners with this new partnership with Fisk,” said Norma Clippard, the institute’s program director. “Diversity and inclusion are among our most important priorities, and we hope to engage new lifelong learners in a variety of neighborhoods across the Nashville community.”
Ann Marie Deer Owens contributed to this article. Photographs by Steve Green/Vanderbilt: (above) Jamaal Sheats, director and curator of Fisk University Galleries, discussing one of Picasso’s Blue Period paintings from the Alfred Stieglitz Collection of Modern American and European Art; (below) Bryan Kent Wallace, assistant professor of physics and director of Physics Laboratories at Fisk, lecturing to Osher students on some of the fundamental principles of physics and astronomy.