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Interview with Lucinda Edinberg, Art Educator at The Mitchell Gallery of St. John’s College

Jul 11 2018

Interview with Lucinda Edinberg, Art Educator at The Mitchell Gallery of St. John’s College

Lucinda Edinberg

Four Rivers staffers Carol Benson and Hope Stewart recently asked Lucinda Edinberg, Art Educator at the Mitchell Gallery of St. John’s College, to converse with us about past successes and plans for future shows coming to the Gallery.

FR: Can you think of a time your understanding or appreciation of an exhibit changed once it was brought into the Mitchell Gallery space? When was a time a work of art surprised you?

LE: Honestly, I am  surprised with every exhibition. Sometimes we have seen the works in their own environments, but I often see things differently when they come to us. I think if I had to focus on one or two exhibitions that I gained the most appreciation for, it would be “The Spirit of Africa” exhibition on loan to us from the James E. Lewis Museum at Morgan State University and “Along the Eastern Road: Hiroshige’s Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido.” These two exhibitions provided me the opportunity to study these cultures more in-depth.  I had no idea that Africa has more than 1500 languages with a mixture of Christian, Muslim, and traditional religions, that often become incorporated together.  And I gained a greater understand of Japanese history with having the full set of Tokaido Road ukiyo-e prints. So much to say about them.

Sometimes, I learn interesting factoids. For instance, we had an exhibition on printmaker Karl Schrag, which was on loan to us from Syracuse University Art Galleries. Schrag spent his early childhood in Karlsruhe, Germany and there was a sketch from his boyhood that included Schloss Karlsruhe (Karlsruhe Palace), upon which the Maryland State Capitol had been modeled. Who knew? 

FR: Is there an upcoming exhibit or program you are most looking forward to? Is there an innovative idea you’d love to try but have not yet had the chance to implement?

LE: We have a terrific season opening planned for this fall that includes a wide range of time periods. We open with master Renaissance printmaker, “Albrecht Durer: Master Prints” and following that exhibition is an exhibition of children’s book illustrations, “Childhood Classics.” We are in the midst of planning some interactive projects for Childhood Classics, which will probably be the first of their kind in the area. We have a graphic designer that has volunteered her time to put it together, so I am excited about introducing some personalized technology into the exhibition. 

FR: Part of the celebration of the recent “Poetry and Picas” event was an immersive poetry experience at sites around Annapolis. Do you know of any examples of how this resulted in a greater appreciation of the Robert Indiana exhibit by the public?

LE: That’s an interesting questions for many reasons, but I think most people did not realize that Indiana was a poet. In fact, the iconic LOVE image that has been seen in sculptures and the USPS postage stamp, was initially created for a book of poetry. So, I hope that people gained an appreciation of him as a multi-talented artist who is not just regarded as a commercial pop artist. We were saddened by his death about a month after the close of our exhibition of his work. But he was aware of the exhibition and “Poetry and Picas: Circus of Words,” and that was very satisfying and we felt very lucky to have had a little part of greatness.

FR: Annapolis has strong ties to its history, but do you also see public art shaping the future of Annapolis?

LE: Public art is such a difficult topic because it is generally “art by committee,” and that alone makes the task large.  I don’t know if public art will shape the future of Annapolis, but it is certainly an important component in adding visual interest that often serves as a sort of “short hand” for historical events. Quantifying and qualifying accuracy, and political climate contributes to what makes a piece of art successful, if the word “ success” can be used.  But there have been some very pleasing installations.  The Harlin illustration of the ship on the wall outside Gate 1 at the USNA is fun and inviting, and the Alex Haley sculpture at City Dock promotes historical inquiry and involvement. The Southgate Memorial Fountain in Church Circle also provides cool visual interest. There have been some interesting photographs and murals about town, but I think those are more difficult to place for historic and aesthetic reasons. I personally feel a little more caution about murals, particularly if the building has historic significance, as I would hate to see that focus shift, but  murals can be fun and can “dress up” a side of a building that might otherwise be unappealing.

FR: Do you envision any new opportunities for the Annapolis arts community to partner and collaborate with the heritage and preservation community?

LE: There have been many in the arts community who are trying to work together to bring about larger audiences. We are so incredibly lucky to live in such a rich environment of history and culture in a smallish town. I think all of us try to re-invent ourselves and take advantage of the talent we have around us. We are very excited about The Mitchell Gallery /St. John’s College collaboration with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra for some chamber music concerts this coming season. The Great Hall, which was built originally as a governor’s residence, is a great venue for chamber music. And, of course, Mellon Hall, where the Mitchell Gallery is located, is also of important architectural significance and will lend itself to new experiences of music as well.

FR: What might be some things you are planning to do this year  to engage new audiences who still may not be exposed to the art and educational opportunities available at the Mitchell Gallery?

LE: We constantly work to get new audiences. Since we are housed within the St. John’s College campus and not directly on the street, it is harder to get passersby. But we work hard to get the word out and bring a variety of work in the gallery to appeal to a wide audience.  I hope to work again with Anne Arundel County Public Schools for some of our exhibitions. That is the easiest access to bring area youth to the gallery, and particularly for those who have less opportunity for cultural outings, organizations like ourselves are often their only chance. But we also work with Senior Citizen groups and I am trying to work on some ideas to make our exhibitions accessible to those with vision and /or mental limitations, as I think they would enjoy the sensory experience.