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Community of Learners: People's Picks

Hood Quarterly, spring 2008

This past fall the museum inaugurated a series of major permanent collection exhibitions with American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art. It was exciting to have so much of our outstanding American collection on view—six galleries full of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, and works on paper.

To encourage visitors to engage with the works of art in a meaningful, personal way, ballots were made available and visitors were invited to “cast a vote” by picking their favorite piece of American art and telling us why they chose it. Over 120 ballots were cast by visitors ranging from four-year-olds to college students and retired adults. Occupations included registered nurse, journalist, English professor, lawyer, machine operator, anthropologist, retired engineer, and many others.

Voters selected fifty-six different works of art in the American collection as their favorites. While the comments people shared about their selections varied enormously, some responses came up repeatedly: the piece evoked memories or experiences, particularly relating to specific places; people were struck by composition and formal qualities such as light and color; they admired the artist’s technical skill; they were interested in the historical or social issues being depicted; they appreciated the drama or beauty of a piece.

In addition to publishing the results of the voting on the museum’s website and in the exhibition reading area, staff members used voters’ choices and comments to shape four People’s Picks tours. In the first tour, Bonnie MacAdam, Curator of American Art, focused on the three works of art that received the most votes: Shotgun Hospitality by Frederic Remington; Hunt Farm (Daybreak) by Maxfield Parrish; and Beaver Meadow by Paul Sample. Subsequent tours focused on the personalities behind the portraits people chose as their favorites, works chosen because they spoke to social issues, and works that evoked one or more of the senses.

Thank you to everyone who participated in People’s Picks by casting a ballot or attending a tour.

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