Active art

TU gallery director Erin Lehman collaborates to maximize learning opportunities.

Erin Lehman

Forget hushed, empty art galleries.

Under Erin Lehman’s direction, TU’s Holtzman MFA Gallery and Center for the Arts Gallery are welcoming places, abuzz with classes, hands-on exhibitions and activities.

“These are professional galleries,” says Lehman, “but we look for ways to make them useful and accessible to both our students and the wider Baltimore community.”

That’s why Lehman works closely with professor and curator J. Susan Isaacs and Community Art Center director Stacy Arnold to engage audiences of all ages and provide a training ground for TU students preparing for careers in art and at cultural institutions.

“ I want to bring as many voices to the table as possible. ”

Erin Lehman

Of course the galleries display student and faculty works, but they are also temporary homes for exhibits like Collected Watershed (spring 2020) and DISordered Systems (spring 2023). Curated by Isaacs and Lehman, Collected Watershed featured a re-creation of the Baltimore watershed using thousands of locally collected water samples. Designed by nationally renowned environmental artist Stacy Levy, Collected Watershed was a highly collaborative effort. Faculty and students in art, music, biology and science education, and staff from the sustainability office were involved in collecting and testing the water; creating maps, soundscapes and research posters; musical concerts and conferences highlighting the role of art, creativity and the sciences in promoting a just and sustainable ecology in Maryland. DISordered Systems again illustrated the interaction between the arts and more traditionally based research disciplines, highlighting artists who examine and address systemic environmental failure through remediation, confrontation, education, personal lived actions of the artist, or simply by drawing attention and asking the viewer to respond.

“I want to bring as many voices to the table as possible,” says Lehman, “to make visible the interconnectedness of our work across disciplines.”

Exhibits like Collected Watershed, which are open to the public, also create opportunities for TU art history and museum studies students to gain on-the-job experience as interns, graduate assistants and as part of coursework. Students help with everything from exhibit installation to educational family programming and docent work — leading school groups on gallery tours.

Besides running the galleries, Lehman also is an art history lecturer and devoted mentor for students working on independent studies and master’s theses.

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