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Inspiration without Litigation

Curatorial studies course brings art and law students together as one.

"Heroic Battles and Love ... Anyway, Pick Love!" was one of five shows mounted by the curatorial studies class. The small group show, displayed at the Fulton Street Gallery in Troy on May 6, was put together by Acacia Larson, Jake Fallat and Deb Renner of UAlbany and Kevin Manngard of Albany Law School. (Photo by Deb Renner)

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 25, 2016) — Art curators want to see their aesthetic decisions wind up on gallery walls, not court dockets.

For that reason, a curatorial studies course taught this spring added a legal twist: a collaborative effort among UAlbany students majoring in studio art and Albany Law School students who are well-versed in copyright and contract law.

The 17 students in Curating Contemporary Art curated five separate shows in Albany and Troy between April 1 and May 25.

“And by curated I mean everything from finding a venue and discovering contemporary artists to choosing good work and installing and promoting the shows — and pulling off some dazzling exhibitions with free public openings,” said William Jaeger, course instructor.

UAlbany Curatorial Students
Part of the student curator team at the "Commodifying Destruction" exhibit at 733 Broadway in Albany, left to right, Patsy Castiglia and Kevin Manngard from Albany Law School, and art students Cache Taffe, Zahra Thaleb and Will Hoffman from UAlbany. (Photo by Deb Renner)

The 14 UAlbany students, including four MA candidates, were joined by three Albany Law students as equals. “The Albany Law students dove into the new world of contemporary art with intelligence and sophistication and brought their own special skills in contract law to each of the groups when dealing with gallery spaces, fair use in advertising, and artists loaning artwork,” said Jaeger.

Included in the course was an enhanced investigation into the legal and aesthetic definitions of originality, highlighted by a guest lecture on copyright law by Albany Law Professor Robert Heverly.

“But mostly we were all feet on the ground and brainstorming, with hammers and press releases flying,” said Jaeger. The first show, “Commodifying Destruction,” was co-curated by the entire class and featured many prominent area artists. With the help of Albany Center Gallery, its unconventional depictions of industrial, social and artistic decay were situated in a large empty space at 733 Broadway on April 1 and 2.

“Commodifying Destruction” served as a training run for four shows by smaller groups that appeared in alternative spaces: the Daily Grind and Fulton Street Gallery in Troy, and Cider Belly Doughnuts and the Upstate Artists Guild in Albany.

Vincent DiCocco, a senior last spring at Albany Law, appreciated what he and his classmates were able to add to the course. “As artists you want to know how your work is going to be used by others and what limitations are placed on the artwork” he said.

But he acknowledged that the student artists and instructor gave back a wealth in return. “The course is inspirational and inspired me to become imaginative in ways I didn’t think I could,” he said. “Together as a team, we put together great events and promotions for the community. The UAlbany team deserves as much — if not more — recognition.”

“The inevitable end results for the students was getting to know what makes good art good, and how to package it and write about it and show it in professional, cogent, accessible ways — hugely successful from top to bottom,” said Jaeger, himself a modernist photographer whose work has been shown in dozens of area exhibitions and represented in several corporate and private collections.

“The semester was exhausting, yes, but it was education at its best.”

Participating UAlbany students were Zahra Thaleb, James Miers, Caché Taffe, Acacia Larson, Jake Fallat, Deb Renner, Will Hoffman, Gaby Moreno, Alyssa Napolitano, Sammi Rhodes, Erin Gardner, Sarah Williams, Francine Brown and Dwane Hoyt. Albany Law was represented by DiCocco, Patsy Castiglia and Kevin Manngard.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.