BY PHONG LY
An exhibition at Drake University’s Anderson Gallery will be showcasing the work of three pioneering minds in modernist architecture in the state of Iowa. The exhibition “Mies | Weese at Drake: Where We Live and Work” features previously unseen work by the renowned architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Harry Weese and Ben Weese, who collectively designed six buildings on Drake’s campus.
The exhibition kicked off with an opening last Thursday. A gallery talk was given by the curators at 6 p.m., all of which are Drake students from this semester’s curating course.
Seniors Jodie Herman and Kayla Parker are two of the curators for the exhibition and also two of 12 students in the curating class. Herman, an art history major, and Parker, an art history minor, were assigned to research the history of Goodwin-Kirk (G.K.), one of the residence halls on Drake’s campus.
“We have started all the work here since the beginning of the semester,” Herman said. “This is both of our capstone class, and it is just nice to try and attempt to actually do the things we are learning about in the class.”
The exhibition seemed to be off to a good start with Anderson Gallery packed full of people 15 minutes before the opening. Everyone seemed to be looking forward to what the exhibition had in store for them.
“I think it’s really great that they let us use the space here at Anderson Gallery to do this exhibition,” Parker said. “This really helps us to know how to curate and what curating is all about.”
Parker and Herman did a lot of research about Goodwin-Kirk Residence Hall. They spent a lot of time inside the Drake University Archives finding resources.
“We actually found a lot of Times-Delphic articles dated back in 1950s and 1960s about G.K.,” Parker said.
“We also had access to the construction plans and even the original architectural plan from the Chicago History Museum, and a lot of the photographs from Drake Archive,” Herman said. “We also have a copy of the 1959 planning program for the building.”
The pair of curators said it was a fun experience to know what Harry Weese, the main architect for G.K., had intended for the building as well as his thought process and how he structured it the way it was 58 years ago.
As old as G.K. is, it is not the oldest building on campus. According to Herman and Parker, the oldest building on campus is Old Main, where the administrative offices are located.
“That is where the University began and that was all the University was,” Parker said. “People had food there, they studied there and they lived in there, too.”
Herman said there was actually a building older than Old Main, but it was taken down in the early 1900s.
Besides G.K., Weese was also in charge of the design of Ross Residence Hall in 1959 and Hubbell Dining Hall in 1964. Ludwig Mies var der Rohe was the architect for Meredith Hall in 1961, and Ben Weese, the modernist architect, designed Harmon Fine Arts Center (FAC) in 1967 and the Olmsted Center in 1968.
The professor of the curating course, Maura Lyons, said that when she first came to work at Drake University, she was very interested to know about all these famous architects who had worked and designed buildings for campus. Her first exhibit at Drake was in 2008, “Building a Modern Campus: Eliel & Eero Saarinen.” After that, she decided to do more research on the influence other famous architects had on Drake’s campus in the 40s, 50s and onward.
“There was this idea about continuing documenting the history of this campus architecture, and I want to involve a class in that research,” Lyons said.
Lyons did the preliminary research over the last couple of summers, and this semester she set out to involve a curating class in this year’s exhibition.
“They really worked on all aspects of putting the show together,” Lyons said. “They did the research, they wrote the information for the catalogs and for the labels. They also helped lay out the show, hang the show and even give tours to some groups that are coming.”
Lyons said this is a collaborative work between her and her students.
“I’m very pleased with the results,” Lyons said. “They really did a great job in helping to realize the show.”
Lyons is certain that all her students now have a pretty good idea of how much work goes into preparing for an exhibition.