17:02 PM

Museum and the University of Pennsylvania Receive Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant to Expand Collaboration

The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the University of Pennsylvania have been jointly awarded $500,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund an ongoing collaboration over the next three years that provides Penn graduate students in art history with an opportunity to extend their study beyond the classroom through a direct, hands-on engagement with the Museum’s renowned collection. The project allows students to examine individual works of art in detail working alongside Penn professors, Museum curators, conservators and educators. It is a multi-faceted program that combines scholarship, critical theory and object-based learning.

Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said: “We are especially grateful to the Mellon Foundation for its strong support of this type of learning at the graduate level. This rich collaboration takes Penn students behind-the-scenes with Penn’s faculty and our staff to study original works of art in detail and develop an understanding of how this is essential to the training of art historians today. I am pleased that the Museum and Penn can continue the important work that we’ve started together in educating the next generation of curators, conservators and scholars.”

“Our faculty and students are delighted by news of the renewed funding for this program,” said Karen Redrobe, the Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Professor in Film Studies, and Chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s History of Art Department in the School of Arts & Sciences. “This grant gives us the opportunity to deepen and expand our conversations with conservators, curators and museum educators about how to approach different kinds of art objects as material creations.”

Mellon has allocated $276,000 to Penn and $224,000 to the Museum over the next three years. This is the second of two grants from the Mellon Foundation to fund this joint initiative. Since the first grant was awarded in 2012, Penn graduate students have engaged in research, writing and the study of art via Museum workshops that focus on important works in the collection, including Titian’s painting Portrait of Archbishop Filippo Archinto (1558), a rare Renaissance sculpture of David with the Head of Goliath (1490’s), and a suite of nineteenth-century furniture by Benjamin Henry Latrobe recently featured in the Museum exhibition, Classical Splendor: Painted Furniture for a Grand Philadelphia House.

Renewed funding will support the presentation of additional workshops for Penn graduate students at the Museum and regular seminars led by Penn faculty and Museum staff. The workshops include about 15 students. They examine sculpture, paintings and furniture using various analytical tools to help them better understand materials, techniques, and the working processes of artists.

Jack Hinton, Associate Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who led one of the workshops, said: “The importance of the workshop collaboration is about being able to share our treasures with a future generation of scholars. I feel it is a duty of the Museum and of art history professionals to educate students in that way, directly in front of an object.”

This bridge between Penn and the Museum provides students with “a rich and varied toolbox for their own explorations of art's history and meaning,” Penn’s Redrobe said. “This grant allows faculty and students to learn and teach in new ways.”

The Mellon grant also supports Penn’s ongoing effort to attract a diverse group of students, including underrepresented minorities and low-income and first-generation graduate students to the field of art history, and to careers as curators, conservators and scholars.

Support for Penn will also fund stipends for graduate research fellowships and mentorships, as well as instructors for the seminars and workshops, a staff planning retreat and travel fellowships.

For the Museum, the renewed grant will cover positions such as a project coordinator, program director, and will underwrite the costs for the workshops.

Through the Mellon collaboration, the Museum will integrate student writing into its digital publication that coincides with the upcoming exhibition, Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection. The grant will also support digital initiatives closely aligned with Penn’s new Price Lab for Digital Humanities.

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