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AU and CAS51 Collaborate on Art Lecture Series

Photo of Leonardo Drew presenting at the September 29 lecture by Vanessa Robertson.

On September 29, Leonardo Drew was the featured speaker for the inaugural lecture in the “Kinetic: Conversations in Contemporary Art” series. Drew’s work consists mostly of mixed media wall hangings and sculptures. Critics and collectors of Drew works believe that his art deals with the emotional experiences of African Americans, but he admits that viewing history and the world around him heavily influences his work. “I need to have different experiences,” Drew says. "The more I see, the more apt to change I will be.”

One of Drew’s most admiring collectors is Darryl Atwell, the founder of CAS51, a small local art collectors group. CAS51 is a group that seeks to bring artists and art collectors, both professional and amateur, together.  “Our other goal is to bring more persons, young persons, into the art scene,” says Atwell, “whether it’s going to exhibitions, galleries, or auctions to get more information so they know the importance of art in our community and so they know it’s a valuable asset. Not just a monetary asset, but also a cultural one.”

Atwell and the other members of CAS51 decided in the summer to pursue a program that would bring the nation’s great artists and the art community together for discussion, and he wanted to hold the discussions in a respected academic setting. One of Atwell’s colleagues, curator Jeffreen Hayes, previously worked with Zoë Charlton, a professor in AU’s Studio Art Program. Hayes connected the two, and the “Kinetic: Conversations in Contemporary Art” series was born. “This just shows how important healthy professional relationships are,” says Charlton.

“We are very excited about the prospects this new lecture series presents,” says Peter Starr, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “The collaborative participation among all parts of the art community, from the renowned artists to the art student, is truly inspiring.”

CAS51 chose Drew for the first lecture because he is a dynamic sculptor and installation artist and very approachable. “We thought he would be perfect because of his approach to his practice and the way he relates to people in general,” Charlton says. “He works in a way to which AU students would respond.”

The lecture series allows visiting artists to conduct lectures in their own way. They could give a public performance, hold a roundtable session, facilitate a large audience discussion, or hold a conversation with a collector, curator, or another artist. “It just depends on the artist,” says Charlton. “We want the format to be flexible so that the lecture becomes a way for the artist to engage meaningfully with the students and community.”

The lecturing artists will also meet with AU studio art graduate students and have intensive discussions about professional practice and their work. The series makes a closer connection between the artists and art community and what AU is doing in its Studio Art Program. “It is a way for artists, collectors, and curators to be engaged in the curriculum,” says Charlton. “I was talking to Darryl, and he said, ‘I really want this to be about the students.’ When else would they have the opportunity to talk intimately with an artist like Leonardo Drew?”

By all accounts, the first lecture event was a smashing success. It attracted a completely different audience than previous lectures had. “There were so many artists at the lecture that had never stepped foot on campus and had no idea what we did as a program,” Charlton continues. “Even students from other universities’ programs flocked to the lecture. It’s a great way for this new audience to get involved in what we do.”