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Dr. Ira Spar Presents 2014 Margaret Scolari Barr Lecture in the Fine Arts

Dr. Ira Spar, Professor of Ancient Studies at Ramapo College of New Jersey and Research Assyriologist at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, delivered this year’s Scolari Barr Lecture with a presentation entitled “From Iraq to Spain: Globalization, Trade and Art at the Dawn of the Classical Age.” Marking the series’ 26th lecture, Dr. Spar explored the connection of ancient art and artifacts to culture with the audience of Upper School students, faculty and staff as well as special guests, including members of the Class of 1964.

Dr. Spar, who had recently joined the team of scholars that contributed to the current Met Museum exhibition “Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age,” challenged students with the question: Does trade make a difference in the way states think about their civilizations? To answer this, he analyzed ancient sculptures, architecture, religious artifacts and paintings to illustrate the cultural changes that occurred as areas in modern-day Iraq and beyond became more globalized, particularly as a result of trade and movement towards the west.

“Art represents changes cultures see in their own civilizations,” Dr. Spar noted. As Assyrians migrated, for example, they imitated and adapted various artistic motifs to state their importance in new lands, he explained. Additionally, as extensive trade routes developed, stretching from India to the Mediterranean Sea and beyond, so did the adoption of different cultural traditions and religions, as reflected in art, forming “new composite ideologies.” This evolution of culture due to increased trade and travel even contributed to today’s traditions, such as our alphabet. 

Dr. Spar’s presentation provided an insider’s perspective of a landmark exhibition made possible through six years of planning and collaboration with 40 museums.

In 1989, the Class of 1964 marked its 25th Reunion by establishing the Margaret Scolari Barr Lecture Fund in recognition of Spence’s revered art teacher, Miss Scolari. Citing her “contribution to arts education” and “in appreciation for her distinguished career” at the School, the endowment has since sponsored an annual presentation on the visual arts for Upper Schoolers. This presentation, and every Scolari Barr lecture, have all for the past 26 years sustained the remarkable legacy of Miss Scolari as well as the memory her former students find hard to forget.