Art-full Inquiry and Engagement

Gift to endow the academic curator position at The Gund solidifies the gallery's curricular connections and interdisciplinary learning in the museum.


Pamela Feitler Hoehn-Saric ’80 P’10, ’14 and Christopher Hoehn-Saric P’10, ’14.

At the start of each "Introduction to Experimental Biology" section, students begin their lessons in observation not through a microscope or in a lab, but with a visit to The Gund. At the art gallery, they observe a series of lithographs by Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011), where they tease out the role interpretation plays in both art and science.

Jodi Kovach
Jodi Kovach, the Pamela and Christopher Hoehn-Saric Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and Education of the Gund at Kenyon College.

Such interdisciplinary study is at the heart of Jodi Kovach’s role with The Gund. Now, thanks to a gift from Gund board chair Pamela Feitler Hoehn-Saric ’80 P’10, ’14 and Christopher Hoehn-Saric P’10, ’14, as well as a recent promotion, Kovach will hold the title of Pamela and Christopher Hoehn-Saric Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs and Education of the Gund at Kenyon College.

The breadth of the title reflects the scope of her work.

Last semester, Kovach worked with 53 different faculty members across 26 departments and programs, allowing more than 1,100 Kenyon students to explore the Gund collection in courses from neuroscience to drama and everything in between. She also oversees the Education team of the Gund Associates program and the staff and programming for The Annex, the new satellite space of The Gund, located in downtown Mount Vernon.

“Curricular engagement at The Gund entails a unique collaborative approach. Jodi works with each faculty member to develop a tailored class session that advances learning by using the Collection or our program of rotating exhibitions that enhances the pedagogical and learning goals of the curriculum. She has brilliantly fostered innovative pedagogies to enhance the learning experience at Kenyon and keeping faculty and students engaged in mutually beneficial ways,” said Daisy Derosiers, the David and Francie Horvitz Family Foundation Director of the Gund Gallery at Kenyon College.

"Jodi’s work is inspiring,” Hoehn-Saric said. “Jodi has made The Gund an essential component of the Kenyon experience where students and faculty engage in interdisciplinary research, learning and open discourse around a wide array of subjects. Curricular engagements are at the core of our mission to create new ways to experience and learn from modern and contemporary art in an academic setting, inviting inquiry, connecting students, artists and lifelong learners, and inspiring collaborative action toward a brighter future."

While the Hoehn-Saric gift ensures the position will be funded in perpetuity, it is a testament to the work Kovach has done to build the program since joining the gallery in 2016. “I have such wonderful partnerships with people here. The teaching standards are higher here than just about anywhere,” she said.

Provost Jeff Bowman highlighted what a meaningful academic asset Kovach’s work with The Gund collection is. “Already, more than half of Kenyon faculty, departments and programs have discovered how enriching partnering with the Gund and Jodi can be. Thanks to Pam and Chris’s gift, we can look forward to this truly interdisciplinary approach remaining a core feature of the gallery and its engagement with students for years to come.”

“We are thrilled to support Jodi's work as a lead scholar in the field of object-driven inquiry.” Hoehn-Saric said. “She has already built a strong program that has had a meaningful impact on the Kenyon community. Daisy's visionary leadership has greatly elevated and amplified Jodi's powerful effect as an inspired teacher and community builder. Daisy and Jodi are helping put The Gund at the forefront of college art museums, and most importantly serving to deeply enrich the lives of Kenyon students and faculty."

Pamela Hoehn-Saric is also a member of the Kenyon Board of Trustees as well as chair emeritus of the Board of Governors of the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. Christopher Hoehn-Saric co-founded Sterling Partners and is a managing director of the diversified investment management firm.

Kovach shared her gratitude for the gift. “Mrs. Hoehn-Saric and her family have been such ardent supporters of art education and curricular engagement at the gallery; this generous gift affirms that we have a real impact on Kenyon students’ learning and the life of the college. I love my work, I'm proud to be a part of this place and believe in the role of our museum, The Gund, in inviting inquiry, critical thinking and connecting scholarly concepts through visual experiences.”

Sampling of courses and the works they have examined:

"In This Here Place" is a line from "Beloved. "The class came to the gallery at the end of their discussion of "Song of Solomon," which is about a Black man's reverse migration to the South to discover his family's roots. This novel features the folktale of the Igbo who "flew" back to Africa. Students engaged with works from The Gund’s permanent collection by Dawoud Bey, Carrie Mae Weems and Beverly Buchanan to elucidate themes of Black rural life and creating a sense of place, both of which are important in the artworks and the novel.

Having read Herodotus's portrayal of the deaf son of Croesus in the story of his downfall, the class engaged with the exhibition "Oh Me Oh My," tasked with interpreting Christine Sun Kim's portrayal of deafness and disability in comparison/contrast to portrayals in the oral cultures of antiquity. Questions included: What language(s) does Christine Sun Kim use to grapple with the invisibility, dependency, and silencing that our societal structures make inevitable for deaf persons? How is the metaphor of the echo chamber resonant in her work, and how does it relate to the story of Croesus? As seen in several of the artworks, the artist asserts her decision to work with an interpreter rather than learning to read lips and speak. How do you interpret her decision to remain "silent?"

Christine Sun Kim has a relationship with sound that has given her insight into its non-auditory dimensions; for her, sound is social, cultural and political — and while it is not visible, her artwork renders it visual and physical. As students in these classes were learning about different types of observation (and by extension, observational modalities), they engaged with the exhibition "Oh Me Oh My" to experience how a person who has been completely deaf her whole life has built an entire artistic practice centered on sound.

Working in small groups, students focused on one specific work or series and developed a description of how she has observed and portrayed sound, as well as what her observational approach teaches us about sound, especially for those of us who can hear. From there, the class convened and shared the descriptions and questions that arose. This prepared the students to challenge conventional modes of observations and return to the exhibition for the last portion of class to spend time with one or more works of art, to describe how they observed the work(s), and to develop ideas for research questions in astronomy based on what they gathered.

This class session focused on the work of Beverly Buchanan, along with The Gund’s painting by Jacob Lawrence, "The Builders Family" (1993), and collage by Romare Bearden, "Two Women with Child" (ca. 1973), and intersected with a reading on "Gender Roles and Women's Ministry." These works helped illuminate the argument in the reading that the Black church was the backbone of the community during the Nadir, that it became the arena for expression, celebration, and collective identity formation, and that women, especially, played a significant role in establishing the church as the mirror of the Black community and the signifier of public space.

One of Buchanan's sculptures in the exhibition is of a church, inspired by ten different churches she visited in Zora Neale Hurston's last neighborhood in Fort Pierce, Florida. Buchanan's other sculptures and drawings in the exhibition are based on southern vernacular architecture, particularly shacks, which seem to embody the history of oppression that Blacks have endured since slavery. At the same time, they convey the vitality and resilience of the Black community and the spirituality that emerges from it. Adding the works by Lawrence and Bearden allowed the class to expand the discussion to explore how these two male artists portray the historical role of women in the Black community.

The class will visit the gallery to view and discuss The Gund’s presentation of "Fall Into Ruin" and "Villa Iolas" by William E. Jones. The session will focus on how Jones portrays art dealer Alexander Iolas's homosexuality, how Iolas lived with art, and how his private life intersected with the international art world he essentially created. The class will also address how the artist also reflects on his own coming of age as a homosexual man at the age of nineteen, when he first visited Iolas's home. Later in the semester, the class will return to the gallery to engage with The Gund’s photograph "Irises," by Robert Mapplethorpe, to discuss how the formalist elegance and precision of this photograph is consistent with that of his erotic work, leading us to question what constitutes obscenity in art.