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U.Va. OpenGrounds Forum to Examine Photo Exhibits’ Influence on Conservation

The University of Virginia’s  OpenGrounds will sponsor a forum on Friday examining how representations of the environment in the two major photography exhibitions currently on view at The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia influence ideas and attitudes toward conservation.,

The “Changing Views: Photography and Environmental Action” forum brings together scholars and practitioners from multiple disciplines to discuss the exhibitions, “Ansel Adams: A Legacy” and “Looking at the New West: Contemporary Landscape Photography.”

In the process of examining the ways in which Adams’s work opened the door for successive generations of artists, environmental activists, designers and scientists, the forum will challenge and deepen our understanding of our relationship to the environment, organizers say.

“The discussion will focus on the links between perception, understanding and action, and our changing relationship with the landscape,” said William Sherman, founding director of OpenGrounds and professor of architecture in the U.Va. School of Architecture. Sherman is also the guest curator of the Adams exhibition.

The forum’s scheduled participants include Finis Dunaway, a cultural philosopher from Trent University; Julie Bargmann, an internationally recognized landscape architect, designer and U.Va. faculty member; Mike Osborne, an artist whose work is featured in the “Looking at the New West” exhibit; artist Terri Weifenbach; and Brian Richter, director of global freshwater strategies for The Nature Conservancy.

The forum will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 pm in the Dome Room of the Rotunda, followed by lunch at the OpenGrounds Studio. The luncheon will include the judging and awarding of prizes for the “Changing Views: Looking at Charlottesville” Photography Challenge and the launch of a new scholarship opportunity for students. 

The participants have also contributed a forum publication, “Changing Views,” which will be available for purchase at the event and at The Fralin Museum. The publication complements and expands on the ideas that will be presented at the forum through essays, both verbal and visual, that reflect upon the connections between perception and action. Weaving together the personal experiences and professional work of its contributors, the publication explores the impact of representations of the landscape, and the ways in which these images can change the dynamics of our work, often opening our eyes to a new set of possibilities.

“We will consider not only the pristine landscapes that have been conserved in our national parks, but also an array of marginalized and damaged sites, as well as the productive landscapes that people occupy today,” said William Wylie, the museum’s adjunct curator of photography and associate chair for studio art in U.Va.’s McIntire Department of Art, part of the College of Arts & Sciences.

The new scholarships – the Arts and Environmental Action Student Scholarships – are open to students in any school or discipline of the University. Thanks to support from the Jefferson Trust, this pilot year of scholarships will fund three yearlong projects, which will culminate in a public presentation next fall. Proposals will be due Nov. 15.

The “Ansel Adams: A Legacy” exhibition will run through Oct. 13. This exhibition of works by the legendary American photographer displays selections from across the span his career. The exhibition shows an artist first exploring his medium in the late 1920s and traces his development through his most prolific period, the late 1930s through the 1950s, into the latter decades of his life. With images elected and printed by Adams and given to The Friends of Photography to represent his legacy, the collection is on loan from Lynn and Tom Meredith.

“Looking at the New West: Contemporary Landscape Photography,” is on view through Dec. 15. The exhibition vividly illustrates Adams’ lasting influence, with differing perspectives on the human impact on the landscape.

The OpenGrounds forum and publication, Photography Challenge, and Arts and Environmental Action Student Scholarships are made possible by the support of The Jefferson Trust, an initiative of the U.Va. Alumni Association. Additional support has been provided by the Page Barbour Lecture Series at U.Va.; The Fralin Museum of Art; the Office of the Vice President for Research; and Lynn and Tom Meredith.

The events are free and open to the public. For information on the OpenGrounds forum and publication, Photography Challenge and Arts and Environmental Action Student Scholarships, click here.

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