When I was student of geography and history at the University of Madrid (a five year degree), my academic interests changed over the years. At first I very much enjoyed studying prehistory and ancient civilizations and wanted to become an archeologist. Later, I loved my classes on physical geography and thought I would specialize in meteorology. In my last two years, when I focused on learning art history, I became well versed on medieval sculpture. However, my area of expertise ended up being the history of Spanish and Italian painting of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Motivated by a very good professor, I found my true passion.
In his classes, where we learned about Baroque European painting, sculpture, and architecture, he always encouraged the class to listen to music and opera as well as to read poetry and plays of the period we were studying. He urged us to pay attention to the cultural context in which a work of art was created. For example, if one wanted an in depth understanding of the meaning of Caravaggio's paintings, it was advisable to listen to the amazing music by his contemporaries Carlo Gesualdo and Claudio Monteverdi, among others. Looking at the different arts and exploring how they intersected was the key to meaningful study and a fertile, comprehensive experience. My professor showed me the benefits of interdisciplinary learning, which helped me listen to paintings, admire the landscapes of a novel, follow the rhythm of architecture, and see the colors of an opera.
All these thoughts were freshly brought to mind when a passionate supporter of children's education, who is also an art collector, suggested a meeting with representatives of the Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT) and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO). At that June meeting, the first of many to come, we discussed how the DIA, MOT, and DSO could work together to create art programs for the students in the Detroit Public Community Schools in an effort to significantly strengthen the district's current offerings in this field. Currently, the DIA provides different art activities for about 70,000 tri-county students every year and, thanks to our world-class collection, have become one of the great platforms to expose younger generations to the benefits of the arts. Now imagine the impact if we combined our work with that of the MOT and DSO into a purposeful strategy with specific goals and measurements to evaluate the progress and effect of such programs on the life of our students. During that initial meeting, we envisioned collaborating on programs with a story line in which music, performing, and visual arts come together, intersect, energize, and clarify each other, elevating the learning experience.
What an exciting opportunity not only to provide extraordinary programs but also to partnership with other organizations in the city. In addition to creating meaningful experiences with art, partnering is a core activity of the DIA. Let us then work together and let the arts of the opera, the symphony and the museum orchestrate colorful music, full of inspiring forms for the benefit of our students. From my university years, I know our wonderful Caravaggio painting would be a great place to start.
Detroit Institute of Arts