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Art helps professionals hone powers of observation

Art historian and lawyer Amy Herman.
Art historian and lawyer Amy Herman.
Photo by Amy Toensing.

From the emergency room to the Central Intelligence Agency—art applies to all.

Amy Herman relishes the moment an FBI agent unfolds his arms, opens his mind and exclaims, “Ah, yes! This does relate!”

The New York–based art historian and attorney has made a living sharpening others’ observation skills as well as a reputation for the wide array of professionals she trains—from law enforcement officials to healthcare workers. She teaches them a critical study of art that informs how they look at life and work.

“When you ask people to use their professional skills in an unfamiliar setting, it’s a whole different thought process,” adds Herman, whose students have included members of the U.S. Secret Service, the New York City Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security.

Using original paintings in museums, Herman teaches them how to look and perceive visual information in a new way. By honing their powers of observation, she teaches them a transferable skill they can use in their own professions.

The Art of Perception

March 10, 2011, 7 p.m.
Jeanne d'Arc Auditorium
Whitby Hall

St. Catherine University
2004 Randolph Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105


Herman will share her approach, based on a three-hour course that she calls “The Art of Perception,” at a public lecture March 10 at 7 p.m. in Jeanne d'Arc Auditorium on the University's St. Paul campus.

Why are these seminars so powerful?

“I am not teaching anyone anything new,” says Herman. “ Often, I am not even a member of the profession of the group with whom I am working. What I think is compelling for the participants is that by showing them how to analyze a work of art, I am refreshing their sense of inquiry into the world around them. They reconsider how they see the world and how they do their jobs.

“I am demonstrating the power of observation and effective communication and reminding them about their own inherent ability to see more clearly. Everyone loves to look at art and even if they don't know anything about it, through my program, they are able reconsider not only how to see but how to communicate more effectively.”

While visiting New York last year, St. Kate’s art history major Molly Davy ’12 met Herman on a group tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “I was star-struck,” Davy says. The encounter helped Davy see new, unrestricted possibilities for her career.

Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Amy Hamlin, who was on the same tour, teamed up with Associate Professor of Nursing Debra Filer to bring Herman to St. Kate’s. “She’s a pioneer in this field,” Hamlin says.

Herman is equally eager to visit Minnesota—and St. Kate’s. “I’ve read about the school and its liberal-arts philosophy, and it sounds like so many doors at St. Kate’s are open,” she says. “I hope my program will open them a little wider.”

Her appearance is co-sponsored by the St. Kate's Department of Nursing, the School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences and the Sister Mona Riley Endowed Chair in the Humanities.


Visit "The Year of the Liberal Arts" website for more arts, music and science events scheduled throughout the semester.

Jan. 24, 2011 by Christina Capecchi

See also: Arts