The Collegian
Sunday, December 10, 2023

'This is War!' is this year's theme at the Modlin Center

Images of war will be on the news as well as on the University of Richmond campus this year, and war will appear in a variety of university programs as the 2008-09 theme. Musicologist Suzanne G. Cusick's lecture on Oct. 5 will mark the opening of the exhibit "This is War! The Pain, Power, and Paradox of Images," which will run from Oct. 5 to April 4 in the Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center.

Kathy Panoff, Modlin Center executive director and Richard Waller, executive director of Richmond Museums, said themes were chosen a few years ago to allow time to schedule this year's programming. A Modlin Center advisory group that comprises members from all of the art departments meets regularly to decide future themes.

"The goal for us is to get together and have a conversation about the arts and it just sort of leads us down paths," Panoff said.

Panoff and Waller hope the theme will unite academic departments as well as the university's different schools.

"We don't try to change the business of the departments," Panoff said. "What we try to do is get them to think about the theme when appropriate and create opportunities for partnerships."

Certain courses will be offered to fit in with the theme and many teachers will attempt to incorporate the programs being offered by the Modlin Center into their classes.

Art offers the opportunity to inspire positive debate and controversy, Panoff and Waller said.

"I think the timing of the election year will also give people the chance to reflect," Panoff said. "We're not promoting any particular side, but war is such a broad issue and it has been since the beginning of mankind ... I think that this is sort of the perfect model for what arts and culture can do is stimulate discussion, debate and growth and awareness."

Waller said the theme would show the many sides of war.

"It is political," Waller said. "But it's about the horrors of war and it's also about patriotism and the glory of war, too. It's the whole range."

The "This is War!" exhibit will display drawings, prints and photographs that feature war imagery compiled from the past five centuries.

"It's not just about fighting and it's not just about old wars gone by," Heather Campbell, curator of museum programs said. "It's kind of the whole thing. Today we are in the midst of a war that just happens not to be on our soil. The exhibit kind of talks about the feelings of war, emotions, victories as well as defeats, just the whole feeling behind the war, good and bad."

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Campbell said the university had already owned many of the pieces in the collection, but some had been purchased specifically to fit with the war theme.

Sophomore Katie Der, who plans to major in business administration and studio art, worked with Waller on the "This is War!" exhibit while she worked for University Museums this summer.

Der used computer software to sift through about 8,000 pieces in the university's collection to pull out any that featured war imagery. From those, Der and Waller narrowed the numbers down even further to choose pieces for the exhibit.

"In considering the theme and what we wanted viewers to get from it was just remembering that the war on terror is still going on, remembering past wars," Der said. "We just wanted the viewers reminded about the issues that still are going on in our society to this day."

Der said she hoped well-known artists would bring student attention to the exhibit.

"There are some really big names like Francisco De Goya, George Bellows and Pierre Daura, and hopefully mentioning those in the press releases will get people to come out and see their work," Der said.

Word-of-mouth advertising on campus along with statewide and national publicity, Campbell said, should bring students, community members and museum patrons to visit the exhibit. She also said working with other departments on a similar theme should help garner interest in the exhibit and its events.

"The music department always has this lecture. Every year the opportunity to combine this lecture with an exhibition and a bigger collation is really a great opportunity," Panoff said.

The Modlin Center is bringing Cusick to the Camp Concert Hall in the Booker Hall of Music at 3 p.m. Oct. 5 to debut "This is War!" Cusick, an associate professor of art at New York University, will speak to faculty and students as part of the Neumann Lecture in Music series. Her lecture, "Music and Torture" will discuss the use of music as a means of torture in post-Cold War U.S. detention camps.

Assistant Professor of Music Ruth Longobardi said she expected Cusick's visit to campus to be a success.

"Every year the music department brings in one well known musicologist that has national and international recognition," Longobardi said. "Suzanne Cusick is a phenomenal figure in musicology today."

Cusick, a music professor at New York University, has done research on identity and embodiment, feminist approaches to music history, criticism and queer studies in music. Cusick will spend her time not only giving the lecture, but also meeting with faculty and music majors.

Contact reporter Emma Anderson at

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