GREENSBORO, NC.- The Weatherspoon Art Museum
at UNC Greensboro announced the opening of Making Room: Familiar Art, New Stories, an installation drawn from the museums nationally recognized collection of modern and contemporary art. The installation serves as a critical point on a course of learning to which the Weatherspoon staff has dedicated themselves for the past year and a half. With support from the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Henry Luce Foundation, they have sought to understand how they can better engage museum participants to share fuller and more inclusive stories of American art. The artworks on display were chosen in response to what more than 4,000 community members said they care about.
These visitor responseswhich ranged from poems to doodles to personal statementswere gathered in multiple ways. Within temporary interactive spaces designated as Inquiry Hubs, the museums visitor engagement team coordinated pop-up performances and facilitated collection-based inquiry and play. One sentiment heard repeatedly was that the act of caring requires doing. As one museum visitor wrote, I show my family I am there for them through actions. The Weatherspoon therefore organized this installation around the broad theme of caringof being there and doing thingsacross four rooms dedicated to the following categories: FAMILY, COMMUNITY, PLACE, and MEMORY.
Weatherspoon staff also focused on how the museums own learning and growth could be made visible in this installation. After listening to faculty in UNC Greensboros School of Art talk about their desire for more examples of performance art to support their teaching in this field, the museum acquired photographs of community performances by artists Dread Scott and Lorraine OGrady, which feature in the COMMUNITY and PLACE rooms, respectively. Staff also reviewed the physical needs of objects in the collection and sent a number to conservators for expert care. Among them was an iconic light-based sculpture, Clavero (1968) by artist Tom Lloyd, which received specialized electronic repairs. It now shines a light on issues of social justice in the MEMORY room. Perhaps most frequent among visitor responses were statements about the importance and complexity of the networks of parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends that one calls FAMILY. The room dedicated to this theme features a diverse array of images ranging from Nan Goldins documentation of treasured snapshots to Robert Colescotts loaded painting of family secrets.
This fresh reflection on the Weatherspoons collection reveals how works of art not only catalyze dialogue but also inform conversations about who we areas an organization, as a community, and as individuals, said Juliette Bianco, the museums Anne and Ben Cone Memorial Endowed Director. The Weatherspoon staff hope that when you visit Making Room, you are as inspired as we are by the possibility of art to help us shape new stories about who we are and why that matters.
Another word that museum staff encountered repeatedly while reading visitor responses was connect, and those who visit and participate in Making Room will find it a place to connect with themselves, with works of art both familiar and new, and with family and community. The installation is at once the culmination of a project and a waystation on the museums ongoing journey of learning by doing.