By Maren Johnson
In Kappa Sigma’s former house, treasures wait to be uncovered. Now inhabited by the University Archives and Special Collections, the building offers rotating art exhibits for the Sewanee public. Their latest showing is “Communal Spirit: 3,000 Years of Mexican Artistry,” curated by Stephen Vollmer. As a special addition to this exhibition, James Doyle of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York presented a lecture on “Community, Royalty, and Artistry in Ancient Mexico.”
By 5:15 p.m., the room was packed. Most of the members of the Spanish Department attended, along with many Spanish students and an impressive number of other community members.
Doyle is the assistant curator for Art of the Ancient Americas at the museum, where he works with many fascinating examples of Pre-Colombian artwork. In this presentation, he outlined Latin American art history, connecting some of the most impressive pieces in the Met with the art on display in the Archives. When looking at contemporary art, especially those considered folk art, it is vital to understand the history of art in that culture. Many folk artists look to their roots for inspiration and old symbolism that highlight current issues, especially political ones.
Doyle’s presentation, in conjunction with the exhibition in the Archives, represents an exciting moment for the Sewanee community. Having a speaker like Doyle gives Sewanee students the chance to learn from the information housed in prestigious institutions like the Met, whose resources are usually so far away. It also demonstrates the Sewanee community’s commitment to folk art from all ethnic backgrounds. Giving that interest an outlet through folk art, ancient art, and Doyle’s presentation provides a great way for the Archives to display information with the classical liberal arts model of creating connections across subjects.