Navigate Up
Sign In

Event Overview

Although not the earliest images in the history of art, representations of athletes are among the earliest, and came to a climax in the magnificent sculptures of Olympic athletes in ancient Greece. Moreover, while we admire the articulation of musculature and movement in these sculptures that came to define the paradigmatic ideal body for all time, these works were much more than that: they defined the high-minded and idealized humanism of ancient Greece, in general, and informed and were informed by a panoply of Greek thought, literature, philosophy, and science. They defined Greece.

The ability of the athlete, and more specifically, the image of the athlete, to stand for something much more than he or she is, is a thread that ties many representations of the athlete across time and cultures. In our own period of modernity, the notorious Nazi filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl, not only learned from the ancient Greeks but rivaled the ancient Greeks in her ability to present the body perfect; more significantly, she manipulated the filmic medium and the athletic body to promote the idea of German superiority in the Olympics of 1936, and ultimately, of the Aryan race. Hitler, ever aware of the power of imagery, appointed her the regime’s Director of Communication.

Sport has not only been liberally represented in art, but athletes have not infrequently been artists. It has been speculated that the unique combination of hand-eye coordination, discipline, and perfectionism is common to both artists and athletes. Thus, the pairing of sport and art in the project SPORT-ART: Sport, Art, Identity is not only appropriate, it is a natural.

SPORT-ART: Sport, Art, Identity is a project scheduled for February and March 2012 under the aegis of the Department of Art and Art History at Providence College in an unprecedented collaboration with the Department of Athletics. Two exhibitions comprise the centerpiece of this collaboration. In the Student Sports Photography Exhibition, access to a wide variety of male and female student-athletes in practice and intercollegiate competition was givento PC student photographers under the direction of former NBA photographer and current PC photography professor Eric Sung. 

Ideas and ideals of race and ethnicity have always been a part of sport, for good and bad, from the Sparta/Athens games of ancient Greece to Riefenstahl’s Aryan propaganda. In the Reilly Art Gallery, simultaneous with the Hunt-Cavanagh show, we present an exhibition of the powerful portfolio of lithographs by Joseph Norman, Out at Home! The Negro Baseball League. Through metaphor, Out at Home! interrogates the banning of black athletes in the mainstream quintessential American sport, baseball, and the resulting formation of a black baseball league. These works provide the opportunity not only to celebrate these marginalized athletes, but to consider the persistent intersection of race and sport in American society and the cultural construction of identity.

Acknowledging the importance of this project, several other departments in the College have become our partners, including American Studies, Biology, Black Studies, the Center for Teaching Excellence, History, and Women’s Studies, as well as the offices of the Dean of the College of Arts and Science, the Balfour Center for Multicultural Activities, the Vice-President of Student Affairs, and the Phillips Memorial Library. In concert with the Athletics initiative, “40 Years of Providence College Women in Sports,” the Department of Women’s Studies has prepared a month-long film and speaker series on “Women in Sports,” and will integrate this theme in its curriculum. In addition to a wide variety of invited speakers, including artist Joseph Norman and David Little, curator of photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Center for Teaching Excellence, the Athletic Department and the Department of Art and Art History will co-sponsor an important community forum on athletics and academics at Providence College. Finally, this project will be highlighted by the creation of an in-situ sports mural to be given a permanent home on the Providence College campus.

-Deborah Johnson, Ph.D.

Catholic and Dominican

What does it mean to be a Catholic and Dominican college? We invite you to explore this question and the distinctive mission of Providence College.
About Providence College's Catholic and Dominican Identity