John Stomberg, Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director

Despite Mies van der Rohe’s famous defense of minimalist architecture that less is more, sometimes more really is more. The new Hood is a case in point. Anyone who has read my letters in this space knows that we are dedicated to being a responsive museum, one engaged with the complex, shifting, frustrating, and, frankly, often scary world in which we live. We made sure that the new galleries are places to address issues facing all our visitors, young and old and from near or far. The more issue-related art works on view are deeply engaged with social injustice, environmental warnings, and the complexities of identity. These form the core of the Hood’s current collecting activity and that is mirrored in the gallery layout: the central galleries focus on art that is socially engaged, global, and contemporary. 

But, with the gift of more space we achieved more in our new building: balance.

As you move through the building, you’ll find that the turn-around points offer a different feeling. Note that these spaces are designed like rotaries, not dead ends. In these galleries you’ll find nineteenth-century academic sculpture, old master art, or contemporary abstraction by Indigenous Australian artists. Take a spin around, pause, repeat. These are moments of respite where waves of pure beauty (defined in myriad ways) can carry you away from the present. 

We recognize that disengagement from the world is also an important amenity for an art museum to offer. As we have entered the new century, and as art museums’ role in helping to mediate complex social issues has increased, it has become tempting to forgo entirely the desire to be places above the fray of day-to-day struggles. While social engagement is a role the Hood embraces, we realize too that if we are to be a vital service to all our visitors, we need to balance engagement with detachment, turning on with turning off. 

So, this summer we invite you back to the new Hood. There will be several new works on view throughout the museum, and a complete reinstallation of the Japanese print gallery to relish. Come spend time looking closely at the gentleman’s collar in our Frans Hals portrait; or the spectacular patterns of orange and white dots in Elizabeth Nyumi Nungurrayi’s painting; and don’t miss the amazing emotional complexity revealed in Harriet Hosmer’s Medusa. Summer is a time to step out of our daily lives—to recharge, relax, and work on gaining new perspective. River rafting. Outdoor concerts. Picnics on mountaintops. Summer novels. And, now, the new Hood. These are all the essentials of a season when we focus on replenishing our personal resources—on regaining that in our life which is too quickly lost during the rest of the year: balance.


Written May 30, 2019