This fall, the Wright Museum of Art repurposed its South Gallery into an exhibition laboratory. The new designation allows staff to meet the increased demand for viewing objects from the collections and to have a fluid space for innovative programming and experimental installations.
The steadily rising trend of incorporating art museum objects into programs and class assignments across campus reached a tipping point last year. Museum staff have developed new protocols for fulfilling object requests to meet this growing demand. While faculty create inventive ways to incorporate artwork into their class offerings, the Wright Museum responds with an unprecedented level of access to these artworks. Rather than a single visit to the museum during class time to view and discuss these objects, the Exhibitions Laboratory is a space where these objects can be installed for prolonged periods.
These extended viewings allow students to return to the object outside of their designated class time and view the artwork at their leisure; including the museum’s weekend hours. Extended viewing increases the quality of writing assignments and allows the student to view the object itself, not a digital copy. While the extended viewing objects are displayed on the walls of the lab, the space itself has already been utilized for a range of other purposes. A pair of illuminated manuscript facsimiles, recently acquired by the museum, were brought to the exhibits lab for a close viewing. Prior to this new space it was difficult to host classes of 20 or more, but the exhibits lab enables the museum to host these larger class sizes. Also, through a request from Art History faculty, the Wright Museum invited professional conservator Len Lessandro to give a talk on art conservation and a small workshop on how to identify the many different types of prints and methods of printmaking. Because of this new space, Lessandro was able to bring in and display over a dozen works from his conservation studio and use them to punctuate his lecture.
The Exhibition Laboratory has proven its worth for this kind of outreach, but has also had a great effect internally. Student workers and volunteers now have a place to learn the basics of art handling and installation. The Exhibition Laboratory acts as a beta test for installation techniques; a kind of training ground where veteran student workers at the art museum can teach the newer museum recruits how to install artwork and vinyl and how to light an exhibit. It also allows those veteran workers the chance to experiment with wall color and texture; an opportunity previously unavailable to them.
The Wright Museum is excited and ready to collaborate.The South Gallery Exhibition Lab is a versatile way to exhibit art objects for class usage, student access, and visiting lecturer discussions. If your class could benefit from the use of unique primary source material, we are ready to assist you. And while the space will revert to an art gallery at the end of each semester to host the Juried Student Art show and the Senior Exhibit respectively, the Exhibition Laboratory will be available on request and on demand.