Annual Art Experience weekend introduces students to careers in the city's fine arts.

By David McKay Wilson

When Professor of Art History Christiane Andersson led the inaugural Rothschild-Johnson New York Art Experience in 2004, she immersed her students in New York’s art world — at museums, galleries and the home of art collectors Barbara and Richard Rothschild ’78, who live on the Upper East Side. Seven years later, the Art Experience has deepened as Bucknell juniors and seniors meet with young Bucknellians who have found engaging work in New York’s art scene and view top exhibits.

“When I first started this, I wasn’t thinking about careers,” says Andersson, who was a museum curator at the Staedel Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, from 1986 to 1995. “But so many of my students have gotten interesting jobs here. Now, the trip mostly presents a chance to explore careers in art history.”

In mid-October, Andersson and eight students traveled to the city for a weekend that included visits to five galleries, two museums, Sotheby’s art auction house and the Greenwich Village studio of Eric Fischl, an internationally acclaimed American painter and sculptor.

Rothschild and Leslie Knox Johnson ’83 founded the program in honor of Leslie’s cousin Van Johnson ’77 who died in a hunting accident at age 30. Also contributing to the program fund are Richard Johnson ’84, Van’s younger brother, and Jim Balakian ’78. “Van had such a love of life, adventure and travel,” says Leslie Johnson, vice president at JP Morgan in New York. “He would have loved to do this weekend as a student.”

Each year, the Rothschilds enjoy meeting the Bucknell students while nurturing Bucknell’s growing network in New York’s art community. “I’m very optimistic,” says Rothschild, senior vice president of investments at Wells Fargo Advisors. “They are such intelligent kids, and so motivated to do well.”

On their most recent trip, Andersson and her students arrived on Friday evening and checked in at a hotel on West 25th Street just in time for dinner at Bottino with several Bucknellians working at top New York art galleries — Jaclyn Carr ’04, Leigh Mozes ’07, Sophia Zahoudanis ’08 and Henna Wang ’10.

The next morning, Lindsay MacDonald Danckwerth ’02 greeted them at the Galarie Lelong and then it was on to the Museum of Modern Art where the group met with Emily Scaros ’06, assistant to MOMA’s director of exhibitions and collections. Scaros, who is seeking her master’s in visual arts administration at NYU, was happy to share her experience with the group. She discussed her fledgling career with the students before escorting them to the long-awaited retrospective of abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning.

Scaros, who has helped to plan major MOMA exhibits for 2015 and 2016, was frank about the employment picture. The economic downturn caused scores of vacant jobs at MOMA to go unfilled. Nevertheless, she encouraged the art history majors to seek out entry-level positions and advised that a master’s degree can bolster a graduate’s résumé in the tight job market.

After meeting with Scaros and absorbing de Kooning’s large-scale works, the group gathered in the sculpture garden by Auguste Rodin’s sculpture of St. John the Baptist.

On their last day, the group joined the Rothschilds at home for a quintessential Manhattan brunch of lox and bagels, fruit salad and quiche and a peek at their art collection. (See sidebar.)

Christina Huang ’12, a studio art major, was inspired by the stories of young alumni who each had earned a toehold in the international art world. The trip made her dream of finding her own. “There’s so much creative energy here,” she says. “It’s where I’d like to be.”

Back row, L to R: Molly Schneider '12, Professor Christiane Andersson, Jude Moribondo '12, Lindsay Hooper '12. Front row: Molly Higgins '13, Morgan Slade '13, Christina Huang '12, Grace Toolan '13.

photo by Bill Cardoni