Hood Quarterly, winter 2018
John Stomberg, Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director
What’s in a name?
A lot when that name covers millions and millions of people living in areas that stretch from the deserts of Mexico to the tundra of Nunavut Territories. In six galleries christened the Art of North America, the new Hood will celebrate the wonderful richness, depth, and diversity of the culture and creativity from this continent.
The subject is, we recognize, too big to ever really cover completely. But we will give it our best by conceiving our galleries as we conceive the history of art: as more of a river than a mountain. That is, we understand this to be a story that has always been in flux and continues to be so. Makers create new works and historians celebrate previously unheralded artists every day. Further, new conceptions of what art is and what it means constantly reorient how museums present collections. To render this dynamic world as a static monument (the mountain) would be to miss the existential essence of art—its flow.
The Hood curators plan to install multiple iterations in each gallery over the years in order to add exponentially to the works we can exhibit and the ideas we can explore. This will be particularly notable in the Art of North America wing. Overall, the curators have used two guiding principles for the first series of installations: the selections will be broadly inclusive, placing relative newcomers next to established artists in a manner respectful to both; and the installations will embrace the complexity of America’s artistic evolution by suggesting a wide range of cultural exchanges both within and beyond our national and continental borders. By expanding the range of makers included in our presentations and embracing a wider variety of sources for inspiration, these galleries will invite deeper engagements from our students, the Dartmouth faculty, and the community.
Together, the breadth of the selection of objects, and the emphasis on the exchange of ideas, will allow the Hood to present nuanced and complex understandings of North American culture. In keeping with current scholarship, the museum strives to be more inclusive in what it presents. It will also seek to address the necessary ambiguities that emerge from articulating multifaceted intellectual and cultural histories through labeling that allows for questions as well as answers, and critique as well as celebration.
The only permanence in our galleries will be the objects that remain in our care. The displays, and the conceptions behind them, will continuously evolve. This is our ideal: a responsive museum. The new Hood will be in every way a twenty-first-century venture that reflects on the historical depth and geographical breadth of human creativity. The Art of North America wing will be a laboratory for ongoing engagements with art and culture broadly defined that have emerged from the vast and complex geographical area we know as home.
We look forward to welcoming you back soon to see the Art of North America wing and all the other wonderful installations at the new Hood. The thoughtful architecture will provide fitting spaces for the variety of exhibitions in store for all who visit.