As a professional gallery space, the University of Dallas Haggerty Art Gallery provides the student body, faculty and staff with the opportunity to interact with artwork created beyond the campus borders. And while this opportunity alone is already a great way to pop the Bubble, it is about to be taken to an entirely new level.
Scott Peck recently joined the UD community as the gallery director. While directing a gallery on a university campus is new for Peck, he is no stranger to the museum world. Peck spent his early career producing films for schools and churches, including co-producing an Emmy winning film about Susan B. Anthony, but eventually wound up in the museum world.
“I’ve always loved museums, even growing up. I grew up in the Chicago area, and the Chicago area has great museums. The Art Institute of Chicago had a great impact on me,” Peck said.
Peele’s passion for museum work moved him from films to art history and museum studies, and he recieved his graduate degree from the University of Texas at Dallas. Here Peck was under the guidance of great mentors, including former directors of both the Kimbell and the Dallas Museum of Art, as well as the owner of a familiar UD name, Lyle Novinski.
“He [Lyle Novinski] was a great ally and a mentor,” Peck said. “He poured in so much of his heart and his resources.”
In addition to art museums, Peck went on to work in history, plane and railroad museums. He has curated notable exhibitions such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, named the top tourist attraction in Texas, and those of artists such as Roy Lichtenstein. In addition to museum exhibitions, Peck has worked on a number of films, written quite a collection of books and given lectures on a wide variety of subjects.
But throughout his successful career, Peck was not only connected to UD through Novinski, but one of his areas of specialty as well.
“My specialities would involve any kind of religious art — Christian and Jewish art, and a bit on Islamic art too,” Peck stated.
Having also worked with the Museum of Biblical Art for several years, and continuing to serve as emeritus director there, Peck is involved with various kinds of religious art.
“I have always been interested in theology and how it is translated into the visual arts,” Peck said.
With UD’s unique religious culture in mind, Peck hopes and plans to bring exhibitions to the Haggerty Art Gallery that will inspire discussion and understanding of the topic of Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II declaration on the relations between the Catholic Church and other religions.
“It’s a fiftieth anniversary of acknowledging this idea of dialogue between Catholics and the Jewish community and those of Jewish faith. And it also deals with the acknowledgement of the Holocaust,” Peck stated.
Having studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Peck is well versed in the Jewish faith and its artwork, as well as how to present it to the public in an open and thought-provoking manner. This emphasis on incorporating Nostra Aetate into the gallery’s exhibitions pairs well with another ambitious goals for the gallery – taking it to the level of a professional museum. One exciting way in which Peck is planning to achieve this is through the upcoming exhibit featuring the work of the early modernist artist Marc Chagall, which will open in February.
“Chagall is the kind of level of exhibitions I want to bring in here – I want to bring in higher profile exhibitions,” Peck said.
Through exhibitions such as this, Peck hopes not only to expose the UD community to these artworks and ideas, but to allow these artworks to teach the history that is within them, especially that of the Jewish people and tradition, to emphasize Nostra Aetate. Peck’s background in religious art is also inspiring him to reach out to other departments on campus, namely the theology department and the School of Ministry.
“I think there’s a lot of potential to do more because the potential of the devotional objects is just unlimited,” Peck said, referring to the involvement of theological departments within theological art exhibitions.
So while Peck works on a formal level to take the current Haggerty Art Gallery up to the level of a museum, he is also intent on communicating the principles of Nostra Aetate. In a predominantly Catholic environment, this provides immense potential for dialogue and a deeper understanding of what faith itself is. Peck greatly looks forward to opening the door to this potential for the UD community.
“The future is so bright, there’s so much potential for the Haggerty Gallery and taking it to a new level as a museum,” Peck said. “There’s so much potential. And I consider it an honor and a privilege to be here.”