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GMOA Staff on Double-Duty

 

For Paul Manoguerra, the classroom in which he teaches his special topics art history course is a brief stroll down the hall from his office, located on the third floor of the Georgia Museum of Art (GMOA).

Manoguerra works both as chief curator and curator of American art at GMOA and as a professor at the University of Georgia.

He is well acquainted with both art history and teaching. “I was a Ph.D student at Michigan State University in American studies, and my concentrations were in American art history, U.S. history and museum studies while I was there,” he says.

While earning his doctorate, he taught classes at Michigan State University, Lansing Community College, Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University. Course topics included art history, U.S. History and the relationship between music and art.

After completing school, he found his place at GMOA. “I’ve worked here for almost 11 years,” he says. “I’ve been curating American Art that whole time, and for the last several years been chief curator.”

He has taught three classes in UGA’s First-Year Odyssey program, all focusing on the appreciation of art museums. “The freshmen come in here and we just talk about what is an art museum, why are museums important, what do they do, what role do they serve, contemporary issues of art museums as far as censorship and deaccessioning and those kinds of things,” he says. “And that’s fun.”

This semester, Manoguerra is teaching an upper-level art history course, “Topics in 18th- and 19th-Century Art,” which focuses specifically on 19th-century American painting and the Italian Grand Tour. It is the first art history course he has taught at UGA and also, unfortunately, the last. Manoguerra has accepted a position as director of the Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga University, in Spokane, Wash., and will start there June 1.

“I like it a lot,” he says. “It’s a good group. There are no men in the class at all. So it’s me and 18 young women twice a week, which is a little odd, but it’s been good. They’re good students.”

Manoguerra’s overall goal for the class is for his students to analyze the definition of “American-ness” by examining tourist theory, American exceptionalism, questions of religion and the way Americans view their own history through the lens of another culture.

“That’s the underlying theme of the course,” he says, “the way that American artists in the 19th century as tourists, as travelers, thought about Italy and thought about themselves and what it meant to be an American in terms of their Italian experience.”

The class incorporates the “Americans in Italy” exhibition Manoguerra organized specifically for the class, which is on view at GMOA through April 21.
“The exhibition is there to help me teach and to provide students with an opportunity to learn from real objects,” he says.

Organizing the exhibition also gave him a chance to pull out and display objects in storage at the museum, many of which are works on paper that, because of their sensitivity to light, cannot be shown often.

“They’re essentially in storage full-time, and it was a chance, an excuse, to pull these objects and put them on display to teach from them,” Manoguerra says. “They’re great works of art.”

In addition to the works on paper, Manoguerra also borrowed several paintings from private collections: a Thomas Worthington Whittredge, a Thomas Moran and an Elihu Vedder. The class visits the exhibition to supplement classroom material and will continue to look at specific objects that relate to the readings even after the works come down.

Other UGA classes have used similar teaching methods incorporating the museum, highlighting the advantage of having such an institution on campus and focused on students. “That’s happened a few times in the past, where professors have a class that they’re teaching and they’ve come to us with enough advance time that we’ve been able to pull works from storage or organize a wall display that related directly to their teaching,” Manoguerra says. “And so that’s happened in the past and it’ll happen in the future.”

The other unique aspect of his art history class is the students’ close proximity to the museum. “It is very convenient to have students up here on the third floor. And for our fellow staff members to see students up on the third floor who aren’t interns is nice too,” he adds.

“It gets students in the museum in a very direct, specific and what becomes a very personal way for them, that they have to be in the building twice a week for class.”