LUAG strives to further the Lehigh University’s educational and cultural mission: to advance learning through the integration of teaching, research, and service to others. LUAG’s core educational resource is its Teaching Collection, which it uses, along with traveling exhibitions from outside the university, to create settings for experiential learning—a visual laboratory in which students and faculty have direct experiences of works of art and cultural materials. Through first-hand observation, students develop skills to respond critically to works of art and the cultural institutions that frame them.
LUAG refers to itself as a “museum-without-walls”, extending throughout three campuses in the form of galleries, classrooms, sculpture gardens, and open-storage for its teaching collection. In this way, LUAG seeks to integrate visual literacy with the daily experience of the Lehigh community.
As a Teaching Museum, LUAG’s entire operation operates as a multifaceted classroom or visual laboratory in which education is approached through: Museum and Curatorial Studies, Collections Management, Exhibitions and Interpretation, and Partnership with the Community.
Museum and Curatorial Studies
Through problem-based learning and collaboration, LUAG’s Museum and Curatorial Studies curriculum prepares students to be well-informed consumers of visual culture in the broadest sense. LUAG addresses visual literacy through a variety of courses offered by the Department of Art, Architecture and Design and taught by the LUAG Director/ Chief Curator with assistance from the LUAG staff and faculty from across the disciplines.
Here, formal classroom study of Museology (theory) and Museography (practice) are enriched by direct observation of works of art and behind-the-scenes exploration of a working museum operation. Students from a variety of majors advance from the introductory level to more complex and self-directed study involving research, program planning, exhibition design, curatorial issues, collections management, the business of art, and museum education.
In addition, LUAG collaborates with students and faculty from other colleges, academic departments and members of the community-at-large who wish to use the teaching collection for research and classroom instruction.
LUAG teaches across the disciplines with a world-class art collection of over 14,000 objects representing a broad cross-section of art and culture. Collections Management, the process of care and development of the permanent collection, is an integral part of LUAG’s mission.
LUAG practices preventive conservation, upholding professional standards for art storage and handling as outlined by the American Association of Museums. This is a constant undertaking, requiring the maintenance of an optimal storage environment, continuous monitoring, and protection from the agents of deterioration in addition to careful record-keeping and documentation of the works.
To make the processes of Collections Management transparent, the collection is housed in an open-storage/classroom setting. This setting enables LUAG to provide limited supervised access to classes, individual students, scholars, faculty, and staff who wish to use the study collection for research purposes. LUAG’s academic mission mandates that the collection continue to grow, advancing through continuous interpretation and acquisition in order to keep pace with the intellectually rigorous and ever-changing developments in contemporary visual arts.
Exhibitions and Interpretation
LUAG’s Exhibitions are specifically designed to function as a teaching tool, introducing diverse topics in visual art and culture. Approximately twenty exhibitions per year are presented throughout seven galleries on three campuses to provide opportunities for visual literacy to the broadest possible audience as part of the university learning experience.
Exhibitions are drawn from the permanent collection as well as from external sources. They are often developed in collaboration with other university departments and regional, national and international institutions, curators, and artists. All exhibitions have an academic connection. Some function in collaboration with university courses, providing a laboratory for experience and discussion across the disciplines. All exhibitions provide curatorial and exhibition design exercises for students engaged in the Museum and Curatorial Studies curriculum. The exhibition schedule includes gallery talks, lectures and workshops.
Partnership with the Community
Within the University and beyond, LUAG fosters Partnership with the Community to extend its educational mission. As an active member of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries (AAMG), LUAG operates in the public trust, serving its communities by upholding museum standards for the ethical use of its collections and presenting exhibitions in a scholarly manner.
Locally, LUAG participates in the economic and cultural renaissance of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a city of nearly 72,000 people known for its rich colonial and industrial history. As part of the Lehigh Valley region, the area is home to numerous institutions: museums, historical sites, art/community centers, colleges, universities, and artist groups with which LUAG collaborates, exchanging ideas and support and maintaining an active presence on their boards and advisory groups.
LUAG is funded through the University, endowments, gifts from the generosity of alumni and friends, and foundation grants, such as the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. LUAG extends the PCA’s mission to foster the excellence, diversity and vitality of the arts in Pennsylvania, and to broaden the availability and appreciation of those arts throughout the state. Nationally and internationally, LUAG loans works from the University’s teaching collection to other museums and galleries, engaging in curatorial consultation and extending the University’s cultural and intellectual footprint. LUAG also partners with these institutions to bring the highest level of visual arts and culture into the University community.