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Acuff Chair to bring artists, inspire new creative works

Traditionally, a single person occupies the Acuff Chair of Excellence at Austin Peay State University for a semester or two, but this year, the University seems to have stumbled upon an unprecedented package deal.
Traditionally, a single person occupies the Acuff Chair of Excellence at Austin Peay State University for a semester or two, but this year, the University seems to have stumbled upon an unprecedented package deal.

Ian Berry, an art history professor and curator of Skidmore College's Tang Museum in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., was awarded the post for 2009-10, and having someone of his stature is reason enough to celebrate. He has organized several prominent and groundbreaking exhibits featuring contemporary artists such as Paul Henry Ramirez and Nayland Blake, but Berry isn't content to simply visit campus on his own to discuss curatorial practices.

“Every time he comes to visit, he's going to bring two professional artists with him,” Barry Jones, associate professor of art at APSU, said. “That means there are going to be eight artists he brings with him throughout the semester. It's going to be incredible.”

Berry will work with 16 students in a special topics class taught by Jones and Sharon Laor-Sirak, assistant professor at APSU, providing them with a hands-on look of what it's like to work with, inspire and form bonds with artists.

“My main field is working with contemporary art and artists, so when I publish books or make exhibitions, it's almost always with living artists,” Berry said. “It is a complicated mix of being producer and negotiator and friend, and it's a slightly different form of being a curator because the work is not yet made, so we're helping to produce new things.

“Many times, the project is getting involved with an artist, getting to know an artist over a period of time and then making something new happen, which is part of what we're going to do here at Austin Peay.”

Later in the semester, the 16 students in Jones and Laor-Sirak's class will travel to New York City to meet again with working artists.

“Not only are they going to New York, but they're getting a guided tour of the important art sites,” Jones said. “Many of the artists work there, and they will be able to visit them and their studios.”

The semester will culminate with a public exhibition from April 5-16 in the Trahern Gallery, featuring the work of the visiting artists and the APSU students.

“Having these artists come to Clarksville and work with these students, these students will have an amazing experience,” Berry said. “We'll hopefully, over the course of the semester, really transform this community.”

A tentative schedule of visiting artists and events associated with this semester's Acuff Chair of Excellence is listed below:
• Feb. 16 - 7 p.m. - Nina Katchadourian and Hope Ginsberg lecture
• Feb. 17 - 12:20 - 2:20 p.m. - Dialogue with Katchadourian and Ginsberg — SAL lunch
• March 16 - 7 p.m. - Mel Zeigler and Suzzane Bocanegra lecture
• April 6 - 7 p.m. - Rick Lowe lecture
• April 7 - 12:20 - 2:20 p.m. - Lowe dialogue - SAL lunch

For more information, contact Jones at 221-7330 or jonesb@apsu.edu. -- Charles Booth