Teaching European Art in Context

June 18–23, 2023 Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN

Power and Absence: Connecting Renaissance Art to Diverse Audiences

CIC is pleased to announce “Power and Absence: Connecting Renaissance Art to Diverse Audiences,” a seminar for CIC faculty members in art history, the arts, and other disciplines, such as history and English, who incorporate art history in their courses. It will be especially valuable for those at institutions without large campus museums or proximity to major art museums.

The seminar will be held at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, Tennessee, June 18-23, 2023. Victor Coonin, professor of art and art history at Rhodes College, will lead the seminar that will draw upon the museum’s rich collections.

This seminar will explore representations of difference in European art, ca. 1400–1700. Participants will investigate how to foster classroom and community dialogues that increase empathy and foster greater understanding of the historical power of art to affect different audiences in different ways. One focus will be on historical depictions of men, traditionally shown in roles of power and authority, and women, conventionally assumed to be objectified and disempowered. Women artists and the barriers that have hindered their expression will be highlighted. The presence, absence, and marginalization of persons of non-European descent in Western European art will  be explored, as will the ways the study of historical historical change might suggest bridges to the present.  The seminar will include special access to the collection of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, which is particularly rich in Kress paintings, as well as a tour of the National Civil Rights Museum. Experts from Memphis institutions will share their experiences exhibiting  cultural artifacts while addressing diverse audiences.

CIC’s seminars on Teaching European Art in Context are made possible with the generous support of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Seminar Leader

Victor Coonin is professor of art and art history at Rhodes College, specializing in the field of Italian Renaissance Art. He is the author of two books, Donatello and the Dawn of Resnaissance Art

(2019) and From Marble to Flesh: The Biography of Michaelangelo’s David

(2014). Professor Coonin’s articles cover a wide variety of subjects, including issues of gender and sexuality prompted by a drawing by Michelangelo, the important role of women in the iconography of the Portinari Altarpiece, one of the most important Northern Renaissance paintings, and focused research on various aspects of Michelangelo, Donatello, Desiderio da Settignano, Vittorio Ghiberti, and other Renaissance artists.

Current Status

​Up to 20 individuals will be selected by competitive nomination. Participants must be full-time faculty members who regularly teach art history and whose institutions are members of the Council of Independent Colleges.

Selection of participants will be announced by February 24, 2023.

Location and Expenses

Located at the heart of Memphis in historic Overton Park, the Brooks is a vibrant cultural complex that comprises 29 galleries, two art classrooms, a print study room, and research library. In 1913, Bessie Vance Brooks donated $100,000 to the City of Memphis for the construction of a museum in honor of her late husband, Samuel Hamilton Brooks. The Brooks Memorial Art Gallery opened to the public in 1916. The museum was enlarged in 1955 to secure a gift of thirty-two objects from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. To accommodate the continuing growth of the permanent collection, a further expansion was completed in 1973. In 1983, the institution’s name was changed to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. The final, award-winning addition, which replaced the 1955 wing, opened in 1989. The museum’s collections have grown to over 10,000 works of art and continues to fulfill the purpose of its founder, Bessie Vance Brooks, as a “repository, conservatory, and museum of art . . . for the enjoyment, inspiration, and instruction of our people.”

There is no seminar fee. Participants’ lodging, books, and most meals will be covered with support from CIC and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Participants or their institutions are expected to cover the cost of transportation to and from the seminar. Please note that spouses, friends, and pets are not permitted to stay in the provided housing or to attend the seminar.

Contact Information

​Questions about the seminar should be directed to Stephen Gibson, CIC director of programs, at sgibson@cic.edu or (202) 466-7230.