Lisa Corrin, the Class of 1956 Director of the Williiams College Museum of Art came to The Portland Art Museum the evening of 30 July, 2009 (full disclosure – I am a member of that great class).

The event , very well organized by Dan Root ‘87, was a reception for Ms Corrin and a talk by her: “The Art in the Williams Liberal Arts Education”.

Well, who could stay away? I was one of about 10 Art History majors out of a class of 250. And we were, in those senior level classes, the private tutees of the Trinity. So in spite of the heat, I pulled on a pair of khakis longees, buttoned my way into a seersucker shirt, tied on a pair of Jack Purcells, and drove in the I-84 60 miles from Hood River to the heart of Portland.

The reception featured great hors’ dourves and a bar (G&T, ice and a slice). Ms Corrin is absolutely charming, warm, and wonderful! She was accompanied by her husband Williams Professor Peter Erickson. More on the couple at the bottom of the article.

Lisa Corrin has impeccable credentials and a long list of accomplishments including the Serpentine Museum in London, where each spring features a new lunch pavilion by an artist/architect much enjoyed by me and various combinations of grandkids.

She was warmly introduced by Peter Ferriso, the Director of the Portland Art Museum, which helped set the tone for her talk: Art, The Williams Art Mafia, and the fact that in the rarified air of museum curators, every one knows every one else!

Ms Corrin set the stage quickly. The Williams College Museum of Art is a teaching museum. The 13,000 objects are available for use by every and any department in the college.

She described how this is an active staffed program of the museum with all courses being searched for how the museum can augment and extend the materials using art especially selected and curated for the particular class. And displayed in separate rooms for individual classes. What an outreach program! Art becomes a part of a variety of other disciplines. And exposes students to connections they may never have made on their own! Some even switch majors!

And of course, the variety of classes both history and studio available to those already committed. And the import not limited to the Williams classroom but extending into the local community, other art venues, other educational venues and other communities both here and abroad. Students may become independent scholars and curators in their own right.

Corrin went on to describe working with reduced budgets and her guiding light from a business and artistic point of view: Concentrate on the Collection! I have heard that in other business situations, generally featuring some phrase from the CEO about concentrating on core competencies. Use your own collection to tell the myriad of potential stories they embody. A Teaching Museum proving its point from its own basic strength.

Of course, she also mentioned that the Art Mafia were a great help when you might need a particular piece from some one else’s collection. And on short notice. And lent with a smile! “Some day, and that day may never come… I may call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this, as a gift.”

So is the heritage of the Trinity alive and well? “Arts for Life” is a Corrin belief. And one shared by many of us who have benefitted from Art as a lifetime sport that we play everyday.

“Art in the Liberal Arts” flourishes at Williams. As Ms Corrin remarked “Art at Williams does not languish on shelves, it nourishes the next generation”.

An end note

More on Ms Corrin and Mr Erickson here

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