Davidson faculty members frequently teach outside the classroom, offering their opinions and expertise to civic groups, nonprofit groups and members of the media. And every now and then, alumni make a request.
So Professor of Art History Larry Ligo was not completely surprised to receive a call from former art history major Jessica Mitchell '07 asking if he would consider a guest appearance for the high school students in her introductory art history class. She was especially interested that they learn about the French painter Manet, and knew that Ligo literally wrote the book about him.
"It was my favorite class at Davidson," recalled Mitchell. "And that lecture on Manet in particular stuck with me."
When she took Ligo's course as a senior, he had just published his two-volume book titled "Manet, Baudelaire and Photography."
Ligo was delighted to extend a favor to a former student, but since Mitchell teaches at the Dawson School in Lafayette, Colo., it was a bit far to travel to deliver a one-hour guest lecture. "Well," Mitchell suggested, "We could do it on Skype!" Ligo had no experience with the software, but he was game to try.
At the appointed hour, the parties connected across cyberspace. Mitchell introduced Ligo to her class and he launched into a 45-minute explanation of Manet's paintings. Ligo noted that critics of the era roundly dismissed Manet because the scenes he painted defied convention in subject and perspective. Using a slide show, Ligo explained his belief that Manet's modernist artistry was a reflection of the recently introduced art of photography, and the dualistic cosmology of his close friend and renowned poet, Baudelaire.
Mitchell confessed later, "I remembered most of what he was talking about! And I'll definitely base some of my first exam questions on what he taught."
"What a unique opportunity for my students." Mitchell concluded. "We even had students from other classes there who had heard they would get to hear from a Davidson professor!"
In addition to her semi-annual course in art history, Mitchell teaches ancient world history at Dawson. A former Wildcat varsity basketball player, she also coaches the Dawson women's team.