Mead Art Museum Broadens Its Horizons
By Maggie Huang '13, News Section Editor
With a newly renovated space and an increased number of objects on display, the Mead Art Museum plans to heighten community interest with several new events throughout the course of the coming year.

The remodeling lasted from June 4 to Sept. 30. After removing and storing all exhibits from the walls and floors, workers constructed a new doorway and a series of small walls. They then painted every room a different color. Throughout the renovation process, the Mead remained open and accessible to the public. The museum website hosted a virtual tour of the finished space. The public was able to access the museum through the side entrance, and could visit each gallery as it was finished.

According to Director and Chief Curator Lizzie Barker, “The plan was to create a single display that moves from gallery to gallery displaying chronologically cultures from different eras” ranging from the 1400s to 2009.

Barker stated that the Mead is not only displaying more objects at once than ever before, but is also representing an unprecedented diversity of culture and history. Exhibits predominantly showcase American, European, Russian, Mexican, African and Japanese works, juxtaposing ancient cultures with modern objects. One such work is the presentation of Adolphe Bouguereau’s “Work Interrupted,” a painting of Cupid perching on the back of a toga-clad woman, with a case of toiletries containing objects such as an oil lamp and hair accessories which might have belonged to ancient Roman women.

“We seek to find creative ways of doing things,” Barker said. “There is an honesty in presenting it in that way.”

Galleries are not only defined by their eras but also by the idea of the representation of art. “In the Kunian gallery, we seek to present objects not intended as art,” Barker said, citing an example of a bronze helmet from ancient Greece. A similar object is a world map with south at the top and shapes that seem distorted. “[The map] seeks to express relative land masses, suggesting something new,” Barker stated. “A museum visit is successful if it challenges your preconceptions.”

The Mead is also coordinating many events for the school year. New gallery talks include “What’s Cooking at the Mead,” a Sunday series that occurs bimonthly in which local chefs visit the museum to offer insight. Professors and curators will also give lectures.

The Mead is also planning to publish a book about the 100 most important objects in the museum, which would include writings contributed by curators, professors and other alumni, two permanent collection catalogues on American 19th century art and Russian 20th century art, and to complete the remaining 63 percent of the image collection of the museum database.

Though not entirely new, the docent program includes fresh components such as the addition of a Coordinator of Community Programs and a partnership with the Asian Culture House in which docents speak on and showcase Asian art not usually on display.

Student docent Julian Wang ’13 noted the change in meeting activities and atmosphere as a result. “Sam (Samuel Rowlett, Coordinator of Community Programs) had us sit down and partner with someone for a time and draw their portrait, then switch partners so that it would be a portrait of different traits,” he said. “It was like artistic musical chair.” According to Wang, “More docents are interested because of the new activities. Docents are more energetic which makes for better quality of tours, gets more people acquainted with the Mead.”

Another docent Tim Clark ’12 added, “What Sam has done is divide the program up into factions, groups committed to a specific purpose, such as Evenings with the Mead or Homecoming activities.”

The Mead team hoped to draw the community into their new programming. “We hope the students will recognize that we did all of this for them,” Barker said. “Art is an emotional and intellectual resource. Students should seize whatever they need to take.”

Clark seconded, “The Mead is a place to go for inspiration of any kind. I want people to go in and say, ‘Hey, this guy had a good idea about portraying this subject.’”

Issue 05, Submitted 2010-10-06 01:48:57