Tucked in a corner of campus in a white house on a leafy street are seven works of art that are not as visible as the art in the Berman Museum or as apparent as the outdoor sculpture dotting the campus. But Olivia Schultz’s Summer Fellows project will call attention to this small collection in the Hillel House.
“It’s easy at Ursinus to walk by art,” she says. The project, “Israeli Art: Discovering the Berman’s Hidden Treasures,” could galvanize more interest in the art sited in campus buildings. The summer research will result in wall text panels and a planned gallery opening in Hillel on Sixth Avenue.
Her own journey this summer will attempt to determine the journey the art has taken after leaving the artist. The working term is provenance, the chronology of ownership, custody and location, which she will explore with the guidance of research mentor Associate Professor of Art History Deborah Barkun. Schultz, a rising senior from Bucks County, wants to discover more about these works, which were specifically designated to be located at Hillel when they arrived at Ursinus around 2009. They are on loan from the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation, which is run by the Bermans’ daughter, Nancy, herself an expert in Israeli art. The Bermans were the founding benefactors of the campus art museum, The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art.
The Foundation earlier this year gave to the Museum a significant gift of art which was showcased in the exhibition A to Z: Highlighting the Berman Collection. Schultz was one of the student curators of the A to Z exhibition. She learned the Berman family often has a personal relationship with artists in their collections, and is learning more about that aspect related to the art in the Hillel House.
Three works are by the artist Reuven Rubin; one is a Picasso lithograph (Young Spanish Peasant) and the other artists are Yosel Bergner and Ruth Schloss. One work by an Israeli artist is signed however the signature isn’t clear. “Part of my research is to discover who this artist is and how their work contributes to the Berman’s collection,” says Schultz. The art reflects Israeli landscapes and Jewish themes.
A double major in Art History and Media and Communication Studies, Schultz took a trip to Israel through Taglit Birthright, an organization which offers trips to Israel for young adults. She enjoyed the sharing of cultures. Her summer research will explore “the difference between Israeli and Jewish identities and how the two don’t necessarily always overlap,” she says.
“Olivia’s Summer Fellows research is a significant contribution to the College and to the Berman Museum of Art,” says Barkun. “Her consideration of a range of issues, including religious or national identity, immigration, and practices of collecting and patronage, reveals the interdisciplinary nature of curatorial and art historical scholarship.”
Ultimately, Schultz says, she wants to make a visit to the Hillel House a more educational and enriching experience through art.
The Ursinus Summer Fellows program is an eight-week opportunity for some 70 students to work with a faculty mentor on an independent research project or creative project on or off campus. Fellows will present their research in a campus symposium July 25.