Philadelphia is full of hidden gems, you just have to know where to find them. One such gem is the Arthur Ross Gallery—a free (yes, totally free) art gallery located inside the Fisher Fine Arts building on the University of Penn campus dedicated to complementing the rich artistry + history for which the university is known. Currently featured is Landscape / Soundscape—an exhibit which pairs inspiring photographs with engaging sound designs, ultimately creating a complete, immersive experience for the viewer. Recently, we met with gallery Assistant Director of Marketing and Development, Sara Stewart, and the exhibition's curator, Heather Gibson Moqtaderi, to learn more about the exhibit + the gallery itself.
hg: let’s start with some history…what brought about the opening of the Arthur Ross Gallery in 1983 on Penn’s campus? What types of art can be found within the gallery?
sara: over nearly 35 years now, this intimate and dynamic gallery has featured art and artifacts from around the world. The Gallery presents three to four exhibitions each year, and remains a non-collecting institution. The Arthur Ross Gallery reaches across disciplines to engage faculty, students, artists, and the public in its multicultural exhibitions. Its outstanding programs and elementary outreach program, serve the University, Philadelphia and the region.
hg: the gallery is housed in the beautiful, historic Fisher Fine Arts Library building on the University of Pennsylvania campus. Explain the relationship between the gallery, library + university and how all three work together to further education in the arts.
sara: the Arthur Ross Gallery really tries to reach out to many different departments and centers across the University community, with faculty and staff engaging with the Gallery. Depending on the exhibition, we will reach out to different departments depending on the interests and connections. We have collaborated with The History of Art Department, Fine Arts, The Dental School at Penn, History, Africana Studies, English, Law school. We also encourage faculty and students to use the space as a teaching tool in their curriculum.
hg: how does the gallery engage with the rotating student body at Penn? Do you feature student work, offer workshops or other types of interactive education?
heather: as a general rule, the Gallery doesn’t feature student work. However, during the current exhibition, we do have student projects displayed on a touchscreen digital display. The digital student exhibition is also available for viewing on the web, and best experienced with headphones (editor's note: click here to experience!).
hg: what are some of your personal favorite collections or pieces on display at the museum?
sara: we have done so many exhibitions, it's hard to pinpoint a favorite, but a couple of note:
William H. Johnson · An American Modern
January 18, 2014 through March 23, 2014
Auguste Rodin · The Human Experience
August 17, 2013 through December 22, 2013
In Material · Fiber 2012
January 27, 2012 through March 25, 2012
Silence Dogood · An Installation by Miler Lagos
January 27, 2010 through March 21, 2010
...and our 30th Anniversary exhibition:
La Tauromaquia · Carnicero, Goya, Picasso And The Bullfight
April 19, 2013 through July 28, 2013
hg: Philadelphia is (thankfully) home to a great many galleries + museums. What does the Arthur Ross Gallery offer its visitors that perhaps they couldn’t find at one of the larger museums on the parkway?
sara: we are a very special + intimate space in one of the most famous buildings in the city. We offer so many different exhibitions from year to year, the space can really change from show to show.
"It’s exciting to see how the exhibition changes the space."
hg: tell us a bit about your most recent exhibition, Landscape / Soundscape (open January 14 thru March 26).
heather: Landscape / Soundscape is an exhibition of both photography + sound art. The photographs on display come from Penn’s University Art Collection and represent some really exciting figures in 20th and 21st century photography: Eliot Porter, Minor White, Ralph Gibson, Erica Lennard, Clarence James Laughlin, and others. I selected landscape photographs representing a range of views, from natural landscapes to abstractions to cityscapes. Then, working with Eugene Lew from Penn’s Music Department, I asked sound artists to create soundscapes that relate to the images. Some of the sound artists are local to Philly—Christopher Sean Powell, Michael Barker, and Eugene Lew himself. But otherwise the sound artists are nationally and internationally-known: Sarah Angliss, Olivia Block, Nadia Botello, Susanna Caprara, Marinna Guzy, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.
hg: how were the “soundscapes” featured in the exhibit inspired by the photos they accompany?
heather: in some cases, the sound artists incorporated field recordings that relate to the locations depicted in the photographs. Others are more musically-based interpretations of the feeling of the place. It is an exciting + compelling mix of approaches.
hg: this exhibit targets two senses in the viewer to create a unique final product—what inspired you to pursue pairing these two mediums? Have you viewed similar exhibits in the past?
heather: I was asked to curate an exhibition from Penn’s Art Collection by the University Curator, Lynn Marsden-Atlass. At first, I was investigating the possibility of a more straightforward landscape photography exhibition.
"The more I stared at the images, the more I began to hear them."
I’ve long been interested in experimental music, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to bridge those interests by pursing this unusual angle. I actually haven’t ever seen this done, although in my research I did find some scattered examples of similar concepts, mostly from museums + gallery spaces outside the US.
learn more about the Arthur Ross Gallery by visiting their website + following them on Twitter, Facebook + Instagram. Visit the gallery for yourself to experience Landscape / Soundscape — on display until March 26th!