The museum as classroom

Marquette professors use art for pilot project


Can a museum make you a critical thinker?

Two Marquette professors will test that hypothesis in a pilot program that brings the classroom to a campus art gallery.

Recent research on student museum-going finds a strong correlation between visiting art collections and critical thinking skills, social tolerance and historical empathy, according to Dr. Eugenia Afinoguenova, associate professor of Spanish in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences.

Afinoguenova will explore this research and write about her findings with Dr. Pamela Hill Nettleton, assistant professor of journalism and media studies in the Diederich College of Communication.

As recipients of this year’s Way Klingler Teaching Enhancement Award, Afinoguenova and Nettleton received $20,000 to fund “Clear Picture: Looking at Communities from an Art Museum.”

Dr. Eugenia Afinoguenova, (left) associate professor of Spanish in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences; and Dr. Pamela Hill Nettleton, assistant professor of journalism and media studies in the Diederich College of Communication, at the Haggerty Museum of Art

The idea was presented to the professors by Haggerty Museum of Art leaders, who had been seeking ways in which they could become a creative alternative to a classroom. In interaction with the museum’s permanent collection, Afinoguenova and Nettleton will teach courses dedicated to language, literature, and writing about the arts that use the Haggerty and its exhibits as a learning laboratory. Their students will help develop the exhibition as curators, writers and guides.

Nettleton, who has written about dance, classical music, opera and dining for the past 20 years, added: “It’s so important for a critic to see art from many perspectives and through fresh eyes, and I’m excited for my students to get to experience the Haggerty alongside students studying another major and students who are bilingual.”

Both professors are effusive in their praise for the Haggerty’s leadership and willingness to open itself up and allow professors and students to co-create an exhibition.

“For any museum, this is unprecedented,” Afinoguenova says. “Yet, under Director Wally Mason’s leadership, the Haggerty has demonstrated a unique vision: turn the museum into a learning laboratory.”

According to the professors, the project is designed as a pilot — not just for Spanish and journalism, but also for other departments to use the Haggerty in cross-disciplinary ways.

This article was originally reported by Christopher Stolarski in Marquette Matters, a publication produced by Marquette University for faculty and staff.