Appreciating 12 years with Lisa Alembik

1.threecolumnsThe Department of Art and Art History is sad to say goodbye to our colleague and friend, Lisa Alembik who has left her position as Director of the Dalton Gallery to teach full time and pursue her personal art career. It’s impossible to convey in writing the rich contributions of Lisa’s [1] creative service. In her twelve-year tenure at Agnes Scott, Lisa was an indefatigable creative force in curating, programming, mentoring, community building, and educating. Through her profound skill and knowledge of the power of a visual experience, Lisa created inventive, provocative and culturally relevant exhibitions that acted as object lessons for Agnes Scott’s mission to “educate women to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times.” Lisa received public critical acclaim for every professional exhibition she produced in the Dalton Gallery.
In her curatorial practice, Lisa creates multiple dialogues that provide accessible entry points and landing spots for all viewers, from the casual observer to the advanced researcher. My sweet sweet; still water; looking/longing; the possibility of framing infinity; gathering; limbs heart tongue and teeth: the poetic phrasings of the exhibition titles offer linguistic enticement into a carefully choreographed visual experience where Lisa constructs an aesthetic pathway for the viewer to interweave relationships between narratives and content, images and implications.
Her exhibitions are designed for reflective wandering and wondering. She is the undetectable guide, who deftly juxtaposes formal elements to highlight specific views–both physical and metaphysical—that call for closer attention. Her curatorial process mirrors an artist’s sensibility as the installation compels your body through the composed rooms the way your eye might glide across a good painting; sight lines are organizational, subtly forming the whole; texture and light tickle our senses and tease us through the space with the finesse of a sculptor.

But that’s not all.
Lisa’s dedication to education bubbled up everywhere during her years at Agnes Scott and lives on in the curriculum that she helped us build, and in the students she helped us educate. Her cultural arts programming for the gallery and the college at large was innovative, exciting, well informed, sophisticated and current, controversial, on topic and always, always engaging and educational. She was (and remains) a respected knowledge base for the students and her colleagues. She leaves behind a line up of original ventures that illustrate her dedication to examining the human condition through education in the visual arts. Her broad range of projects includes working relationships with local elementary schools, filmmakers, underrepresented communities, philosophers, folk artists, musicians, dancers, sports, politics, story-tellers, environmentalists, creative people who do not identify as artists, as well as to a long list of local, regional and national visual artists. Her work directly and respectfully addresses invisible and explicit power dynamics through examining our relationships to immigration, the environment, race tensions, gender and ethnicity inequities, and to violations and considerations of religious and political freedom. She has single-handedly shaped a first-rate, national reputation for Agnes Scott’s Dalton gallery.
We are grateful for the ways Lisa solidly grounded the exhibition space and guided the permanent collection. Thanks to Lisa’s direction, both provide foundational opportunities for experiential learning within all levels of the art and art history curriculum helping to form and fortify our current program. She laid the cornerstone of our major courses in the relatively new methods course and the senior capstones, in which students research works in the gallery and the college’s permanent collection for public presentations, and also connect to working artists. Several alumnae currently employed in galleries and museums attribute their professional interests directly to Lisa’s invested tutelage. As a natural educator, she sees every stage of her working process as a “teachable moment,” whether working with students to sand and paint walls, handle artwork, interview artists, approach galleries, conceive, design and install an exhibition, speak effectively to a non-art audience, write text for museums and even know the importance of a thank you note.
With an exacting aesthetic eye, long-term vision, a super power for making connections, and a rock-solid dedication to the role of the visual arts in expanding thinking, Lisa demonstrates consistently that it is part of her own character and mission to serve the arts in any way her large brain and creative spirit can imagine. We will miss her.

photo: TWMeyer

photo: TWMeyer

Nell Ruby, with Anne Beidler, Donna Sadler, and Katherine Smith

1. While professional practice suggests that an artist be referred to by her last name, we used her first name in this article in order to highlight the congenial nature of our working professional relationship.