Art Museum Trip Helps Frame Issues of Modern Life

Course Connection Brings Together Different Academic Perspectives
A group of Ohio Wesleyan students and faculty discuss art and life as part of a Course Connection trip to the Columbus Museum of Art. Leading the discussion is fine arts assistant professor Janalee Emmer, left. (Photo by Yuki Phan ’14)

A group of Ohio Wesleyan students and faculty discuss art and life as part of a Course Connection trip to the Columbus Museum of Art. Leading the discussion is fine arts assistant professor Janalee Emmer, left. (Photo by Yuki Phan ’14)

The “Toulouse-Lautrec and La Vie Moderne: Paris 1880-1910” exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art provides a kaleidoscopic view of the work of a generation of artists, representing their diverse interests and styles at the brink of the 20th century.

On Feb. 22, modern life melded with the past when an Ohio Wesleyan University group toured the exhibit. The group included students and faculty with interests and backgrounds ranging from politics and government to philosophy, from sociology to zoology, and, of course, art history.

Their visit was part of OWU’s “Modern Life and Its Discontents” Course Connection. And on this day, all were asking the same question: “What does it mean to be modern?”

Fine arts assistant professor Janalee Emmer, Ph.D., led the group around the gallery and emphasized key themes of the exhibit, such as its use of silhouettes, elements of commercialization, and influence of Asian art.

“Toulouse-Lautrec represents bringing art into a new realm, and shows profits of a new era integrated into life in a way that it hadn’t been before,” Emmer said in the group discussion after the tour.

The trip to the museum included students participating in the “Modern Life” Course Connection – a network of classes from multiple academic areas – as well as others just interested in the exhibit. The Course Connection includes a seminar that meets for weekly student-run discussions covering topics as diverse as modernization in Taiwanese short stories, physics, and even puppetry.

“In the seminar, we talk about articles and issues with modernism,” said Jennifer Eltringham, a senior from Colorado Springs, Colo. Eltringham said she enjoys the assorted viewpoints represented in the seminar and is “surprised by something new every week.”

Sophomore Luke Plazek also has said he is benefiting from the network of classes.

“I have learned quite a great deal in participating with the ‘Modern Life and Its Discontents’ Course Connection, said Plazek of Westfield Center, Ohio. “It has been a great way to introduce myself to some concepts in modernity as well as meeting a bunch of professors that were really awesome in helping me feel comfortable and welcome on campus.”

“Modern Life and Its Discontents” is one of eight Course Connection networks at Ohio Wesleyan. Others study issues such as water, social justice, or crime and punishment. All examine the issues from multiple viewpoints such as political, economic, scientific, artistic, and more.

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