In the spring of 2018, a new course, “How to Acquire a Work of Art,” was offered by the Newcomb Art Department and led with creativity and innovation by Associate Professor Michael Plante. The class was made possible through the generous funding of New York City-based art advisor and Tulane graduate Sandy Heller (A&S '94). Heller, a former student of Professor Plante, was an eager participant in the conception and design of the class as well as provided the funds that would allow students to purchase a piece of art.
The seminar attracted students throughout the university, especially those majoring in Art History or minoring in the School of Liberal Arts Management Minor (SLAMM). Over the course of fifteen weeks, students learned about the logistical operations of museums, auction houses, and galleries, as well as gathered skills in cataloguing, research, and composing condition reports and curatorial proposals. They worked under the guidance of New Orleans art professionals, including NOMA curators Russell Lord and Katie Pfohl and local gallery owners Arthur Roger and Jonathan Ferrara.
The experience made a lasting impression on all enrolled in the class. Senior Art History major Molly Magueri raves, “I really enjoyed the hands-on and on-site exposure this class offered in every single meeting. Rarely did we meet in a classroom; instead we met in intimate circles and discussions with curators, gallery owners, collectors, and auction house specialists, where I received a real, in-depth look at the art market that is constantly changing around us every day.”
The course culminated in students being organized into seven groups, charged with researching works of art available in New Orleans. The students made formal presentations to a jury of experts whose vote was to decide which should be purchased and displayed by the School of Liberal Arts. The presentations were so outstanding that the jury was split between two outstanding works of art: Kara Walker’s Pastoral and Robert Cole Scott’s Lake Ponchartrain. In the end, through the generosity of Sandy Heller, both works will be purchased and exhibited while plans for a second “How to Acquire a Work of Art,” course are underway.