Sheldon draws stronger ties to Husker academics

Sheldon draws stronger ties to Husker academics

A Nebraska student uses paint swatches to match colors to Norman Rockwell's "The County Agricultural Agent" painting in the Sheldon. The project was part of a Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design class project to create a color palette based on a Sheldon artwork.
Courtesy | Sheldon Museum of Art
A Nebraska student uses paint swatches to match colors to Norman Rockwell's "The County Agricultural Agent" painting in the Sheldon. The project was part of a Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design class project to create a color palette based on a Sheldon artwork.

Sheldon Museum of Art is throwing open its doors and rolling out the proverbial welcome mat to faculty and students at Nebraska.

Launched by Wally Mason, director and chief curator at Sheldon, a new effort is wrapping classroom lessons at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln around artworks in the museum. That includes realigning operating hours and focusing a curator on academic programs.

“One of my goals in coming to Sheldon three years ago was to increase use of the museum’s internationally renowned collection to support the curriculum at the university,” Mason said. “An academic art museum has an obligation, much like a library, to be a collaborative resource on campus.”

Video: Sheldon Engagement

Since being hired as curator of academic programs in July 2016, Carrie Morgan has worked to paint the Sheldon into curricula across the university, particularly in academic programs not traditionally associated with art or museums.

“I saw this position as a wonderful merging of outreach and using art to teach critical thinking and research skills,” Morgan said. “We’re kind of thinking outside of the box, using the artworks in the museum like books in a library to help enhance teaching.”

Carrie Morgan
Carrie Morgan

Faculty who have recently worked with Morgan to create lesson plans linked to Sheldon displays include Cody Hollist and Lisa Kort-Butler.

Graduate students in a marriage and family therapy course led by Hollist, associate professor of child, youth and family studies, examined family interactions depicted within Sheldon artworks. The student observations were then used as starting points to conduct practice counseling sessions with the people within the artworks.

For her course on health, medicine and society, Kort-Butler, an associate professor of sociology, tasked students with identifying Sheldon artworks that would work well in a small exhibition for hospital staff.

“Whatever the curriculum, there are so many opportunities to think about how students can engage with art,” Kort-Butler said. “Whether it’s thinking about how math or engineering comes into play or thinking about it from the social science perspective, how things we study and care about intersect with the kinds of work that artists do.”

To further the new academic alignment, Sheldon reopened after an annual shutdown in August with updated operating hours. For the first time, Sheldon has been open to the public seven days a week. Like nearly every other university-based art museum, including other Big Ten-based museums, Sheldon was previously closed Mondays.

“Being closed on Mondays meant the museum was closed for 20 percent of the time classes are in session at the university,” Mason said. “That just doesn’t make sense. We are a part of the university and we want to be open and accessible when the students are here.”

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Museum staff are developing exhibitions that will, at least in part, align with campus programs, including one exhibition devoted to food, one of the three areas of focus at Nebraska Innovation Campus. The museum is also working directly with faculty members to curate specific exhibitions. And Morgan continues to seek faculty partners willing to join forces with Sheldon.

"My door is always open to faculty who want to discuss ways in which we can tailor a Sheldon experience to fit a particular learning goal," Morgan said. "Working alongside faculty and students has been an amazing opportunity. It’s been especially interesting to watch students grappling with questions, having to think in a different way, using Sheldon artworks to develop a conversation or outcome."

For more information, contact Morgan at cmorgan@unl.edu or 402-472-3541.