About Academic Programs at the Mead

The Mead Art Museum connects people, art, and curricula. Using the museum and its collections as sites and sparks for learning across disciplines and topics, Mead educators work with faculty to develop assignments, projects, and programs that deepen learning objectives. Our portfolio of projects ranges from one-time visits to semester-long course partnerships, and we work well with a range of disciplines, from American Studies to Chemistry to History of Art, and more. 

A group of Amherst College students seated on the floor of museum storage looking closely at a large painting.
Amherst College Students View and Discuss Art in the Mead's Storage Facility

Academic Program Offerings

Fall 2021 Exhibitions and Highlights

The Mead will reopen September 14, 2021 to all campus-approved visitors with two exhibitions: 

What Looms Large offers an embodied return to viewing art at its actual scale—without the interlocutor of a screen. Organized by guest curator, Kate Nesin, this exhibition will focus on several large contemporary paintings from the Mead’s collection, including this year’s student-assisted acquisition of Torkwase Dyson’s work, Space as Form: Movement 8 (Bird as Lava). Dyson draws from the history of Black liberation strategies—in this case, from the US: a square (from Henry “box” Brown, who mailed himself out of enslavement in a wooden crate), a triangle (from Harriet Jacobs' 7 years hiding in the garret of her grandmother’s house before escaping to freedom) and a curve (from Anthony Burns, who stowed away along the hull of a ship). She then builds highly layered and abstract paintings from these geometric languages. She writes, 

"Each human here manipulated and moved through infrastructures of state-sanctioned domination by converting enslavement into a system of self-imposed displacement, structural confinement, and clandestine geographic movement. I’ve culled a geometric shape language from histories of Black liberation strategies to develop a system/structure/scaffolding of self-expression."

Dyson’s work will be installed alongside work by Josephine Halvorson, Sherrie Levine, and Brenna Youngblood, among others. Together they will provoke a range of interrogations and visual experiences. 

A second exhibition The Room that Grew organized by David Little (the Mead’s John Wieland 1958 Director and Chief Curator) will feature photographs by contemporary photographers, Jonathan Jackson (‘19) and Justin Kimball (Conway Professor in New Media; Chair of Art and the History of Art). With selected works from Jackson’s House Servant’s Directory series and Kimball’s Elegy as well as new work by both artists, this exhibition will explore photographic methods—from documentary to performative—and the possibilities in each for approaching, creating, and commenting on truth, memory, and history.

The Mead welcomes class visits Tuesday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the academic year. In special circumstances, other arrangements can be made. To assist the Mead in accommodating all the visitors who seek our services, and to allow our staff adequate preparation time, please schedule your class visit at least three weeks before the desired date.

First-Year Seminar shared experience: dialogues with photography, history, and race

Many first-year seminars visit the Mead as part of onboarding students to the curricular and co-curricular resources available to them on campus. This fall, faculty teaching first-year seminars may opt into a common activity and assignment with contemporary art, designed to deepen and integrate the anti-racism curriculum.This assignment will center on personal and peer-to-peer discussion and development, through close looking at works on view by Torkwase Dyson and Jonathan Jackson, which students may return to multiple times over the course of the semester. Contact Emily Potter-Ndiaye for more information.

Program Offerings

The Mead offers a range of 1, 2, and 3-part course collaborations built around museum and object-based research that deepens your learning objectives. We can draw from what is on view in the galleries as well as the 20,000+ objects in the collections, and have experience in pedagogical strategies from the field of museum education. We also embrace experimentation, and always build from our faculty partner’s learning objectives for the course, resulting in more variety of assignments and curricula than can be detailed here. Most of our programs, however fall roughly into one of these formats:  

Museum Introduction for First-Year Seminars 

The Mead offers facilitated discussion and small group work in the galleries (see shared experience, above) or with a selection of 6 - 10 objects related to your course themes and also with the aim of introducing students to the Mead resources and staff. 

Gallery-based Activity in the Exhibitions

We provide facilitated discussion, small group research, hands-on activities, or performance-based practice (eg, dance improvisation) within the context of an exhibition. These activities may make use of the large open spaces in the museum or the conceptual framework of an exhibition or the museum itself as the object of study. 

Study Room Assignment with Mead Collections

Led by the course faculty member, Mead educators, or a combination of both, these sessions are built on your learning objectives and a curated list of artworks/objects that we bring out from storage for your students to engage with. Can be offered as a one-time or multiple session program, and can also be followed by separate, individual, or small group study room appointments with your students to further their research or complete an assignment. 

Important dates

  • Fall Semester Academic Programs in the Study Room will be offered September 14 - December 7, 2021 (Tues - Fri, 9am - 5pm)
  • The Mead will be closed for installation from July 19 - August 23, 2021.
  • We will open to the campus community for a "soft opening" from August 24 - September 12.
  • Exhibitions will officially open on Tuesday, September 14, 2021.
  • August is a great time to get in touch to start planning your fall class sessions.

Tips for Finding Curricular Aligned objects in the Mead database

  • Create a log-in at museums.fivecolleges.edu to be able to save and share lists as you research
  • Use the Advanced Search if you have precise dates or terms
  • Use the Basic Search to search by topic or description; this will search all the fields at once.
  • Be sure to select “Amherst College” from the Collections dropdown list
  • Still not finding what you’re looking for? Contact Miloslava Hruba (mhruba@amherst.edu). 

Contact Us

To reserve a class visit please contact:

Emily Potter-Ndiaye (she/hers)
Dwight and Kirsten Poler and Andrew W. Mellon Head of Education and Curator of Academic Programs
epotterndiaye@amherst.edu | 413-542-8229

To set up a time for one-on-one research with Mead collections, please contact:

Mila Hruba (she/hers)
Study Room Manager and European Print Specialist
mhruba@amherst.edu | 413-542-2991