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Embracing a Vision: The Hood Museum of Art Midyear Report

Hood Quarterly, spring 2007
Katherine Hart, Associate Director and Barbara C. and Harvey P. Hood 1918 Curator of Academic Programming, and Juliette Bianco, Assistant Director

In fall 2005 the Hood Museum of Art staff created a strategic plan to map out the institution’s next four years of engagement with the college and community. The plan will direct the museum’s activities to its twenty-fifth anniversary and its reaccreditation with the American Association of Museums, occurring simultaneously in 2010. One gray November day in particular, we broke into groups of five or six to write “vision sketches” of what we hoped the Hood would be like in 2010. While preparing this 2006–7 midyear report, we went back and reread all five vision sketches and realized that much of what we had envisioned has now taken shape after only eighteen months.

The first objective for this year is to increase the visibility, presence, and impact of the museum, both on campus and in the community. Our efforts in this regard include an annual general brochure, distributed regionally, a published annual report, and a new, accessible website that features more images, much more information about the collections, streaming videos, help with planning museum visits, and details about educational programs and many other special opportunities. Making the museum more visible also entails more personal connections between staff members and the community at large, and new campus and community partnerships have already strengthened the Hood’s exhibitions and programs in myriad ways.

The second objective for 2006–7 is to refocus our efforts toward making the most effective use of the Hood’s large and diverse collections, which, because of limited gallery space, spend most of their time in storage. To showcase the richness of these collections we’ve emphasized particular strengths over the past year through exhibitions including Coaxing the Spirits to Dance: Art and Society in the Papuan Gulf of New Guinea, Rembrandt: Master of Light and Shadow, and Thin Ice: Inuit Traditions within a Changing Environment. We will present the first in an annual series of extended permanent collection displays and publications this summer and fall with American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art.

Public programs have likewise investigated significant works from the collection, including symposia built around the Perugino altarpiece and the Assyrian reliefs and numerous gallery talks on collection highlights. A final important collections activity is the Hood’s engagement with scholars in researching those aspects that remain undiscovered. Christine Lilyquist, Senior Research Curator of Egyptology at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Afshan Bokhari, visiting lecturer in art history this spring, are in the process of researching and recataloguing the museum’s Egyptian and Indian collections, respectively. A specialist in digital imaging has also begun consulting with the Hood on increasing reproductions in the museum’s online database.

Creating moments of visual excitement—transformative art experiences that will remain in the memory of every person who witnesses them— is the third main objective for the museum this year. Dreaming Their Way: Australian Aboriginal Women Painters, an exhibition on loan from the National Museum for Women in the Arts of extraordinary paintings by thirty-seven Indigenous Australian women, gave visitors this past fall a glimpse of one of the most vibrant contemporary art movements in the world and a chance to experience works of art that are not yet deeply represented in the Hood’s collections.

This coming summer, the Hood will commission a major site-specific installation in a space outside its own walls, Dartmouth’s Baker-Berry Library. Internationally renowned Chinese avant-garde artist Wenda Gu will add a unique monumental sculpture to his thirteen-year conceptual human hair art project united nations, in this case made of the hair of thousands of Dartmouth and regional community members. This project uses art as a catalyst for institutional and community dialogue and collaboration, modeling how new partnerships—such as this one between the Hood, Baker-Berry Library, area hair salons, and salon clients—can yield strong, creative, and inclusive interactions on campus and in the community. The process of writing those “vision sketches” brought the museum’s greatest needs and desires to the surface, and we did not realize at the time how much it would influence this past year’s work. As one group’s “vision of the Hood in 2010” declared:

The Hood always had an interest in scholarship, but it has approached it with new vision and vitality. It has reached beyond being a college department to being a welcoming and approachable museum for the region. The purpose of the museum now really seems to be about promoting and creating dialogue around art objects. They have done this also by enlivening the campus with provocative public art installations. Their Web site and publications are fresh, useful, engaging, and informative. The diversity of world art echoes and responds to the diversity of the Dartmouth community itself.

We welcome everyone to visit and enjoy the Hood’s many offerings. You will find exhibitions of the highest quality, engaging art that originates from all regions of the world, and programs for people of all ages.

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