Conversations in Contemporary Art

Lifelong learning in the visual arts

By Liz Galst

Every semester, Barnard’s Conversations in Contemporary Art (CCA) brings together alumnae in New York City to explore art and meet with artists in studios, galleries, and museums. Led by art historian Kathleen Madden ’92, the program is the brainchild of longtime Barnard supporter Diana Vagelos ’55 and Joan Snitzer, director of the College’s visual arts program.

CCA exists to fill a void, says Madden: “So many people go to look at art and if you don’t have the language and the context, it doesn’t make much sense.”

Miss 2017 project
Conversations members donated Miss 2017 to Barnard. It commemorates the 2017 Women’s March on Washington.

That was Anne Altchek ’79’s experience before joining the class, despite having been an art history major. (A tip from Madden: “Contemporary art is like visual philosophy. It asks us to understand concepts and think through what’s happening in a way that representational art does not.”) Now, says Altchek, the program is “something I look forward to every semester and every session in the semester.”

Many of the group’s members have been with the program for years, becoming friends while exploring the work of new and established painters, sculptors, and photographers. “It’s a fabulous excuse to have great conversations,” Madden says. “We get to talk about the issues of the day. And that’s what contemporary art wants us to do.” •

Latest IssueSpring 2023