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Partnerships with faculty are vital to our mission

Posted on April 29, 2020 at 4:00 PM by Adrienne Gennett

“Art, literature, and philosophy are attempts to found the world anew on a human freedom”  ~ Simone de Beauvoir, “The Second Sex”

Today I highlight one of University Museums’ most ardent supporters and collaborators, Dr. Michèle Schaal, Associate Professor of French and Women’s and Gender Studies. When Dr. Schaal first came to campus in 2012 it did not take her long to become acquainted with University Museums. Originally from Strasbourg, France, her passion for art and design was cultivated from an early age. She quickly invited the Museums into her classes, whether it was a tour focused on women artists in the collection, or students researching French objects in the collection to present in French to their peers, each interaction was meaningful and exciting for both the students and the Museums. Schaal’s students are always engaged, present, and ask great questions about the art they are viewing or learning about. 

In 2015, Dr. Schaal co-curated an exhibition at the Christian Petersen Art Museum, “(Re)discovering S(h)elves,” which focused on a selection of women artists who are part of University Museums’ permanent collection, with a group of faculty members supplying label text and interpretation for each work of art. Her dedication to that project led to the acquisition of four photographs from Iowa artist Stephanie Brunia. The works of art were used in the exhibition and one as the cover of the coordinating gallery guide. The photographs became part of the Art on Campus Collection and are now installed on campus in Carver Hall.

I have had the honor to work with Dr. Schaal for the past year and a half as we developed the exhibition, “Creating Global Understanding: World Languages and Cultures and University Museums.” Together we selected works of art, promoted the exhibition to the faculty, wrote interpretative labels, and planned programming with Museums educational staff. This collaboration also facilitated the acquisition of a beautiful print by the artist and activist Favianna Rodriguez, when Dr. Schaal and her scholarly association, Women in French, generously purchased the print for University Museums’ Art on Campus Collection. Throughout this process numerous emails were sent, thirty-three interpretations were written, a gallery guide was created, and one sweet baby girl was born (Dr. Schaal’s daughter). It’s been quite a process! 

The passion Dr. Schaal has for art and education has made for a dynamic relationship that each year grows stronger. I always look forward to the questions her students ask and how they interpret the art within the Museums’ collections, along with what Dr. Schaal’s next big idea will be for an exhibition or collaboration. University Museums would not exist without the generosity of partners like Dr. Schaal, whose commitment to the importance of art in education inspires us every day at University Museums to work harder to demonstrate to the ISU campus the value of art in the education of our students. 


TOP: Dr. Michèle Schaal, Associate Professor of French and Women’s and Gender Studies with her husband Jean-Philippe Tessonnier and daughter Camille.

MIDDLE AND BOTTOM: Images from the Creating Global Understanding exhibition in the Christian Petersen Art Museum, Spring 2020.

Learn more about the Creating Global Understanding exhibition from Associate Curator Adrienne Gennett.

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