Director's Letter: Winter 2020


John Stomberg, Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director
Hood Quarterly, Winter 2020

Art museums evolved through the last two centuries under the wing of art history and became increasingly academic institutions. The work focused more and more on reconstructing—with growing accuracy and relevance—the social and historical contexts for art. Each generation of scholars has helped to represent the stories from which art emerged in ever more nuanced and meaningful ways. Today, the presentation of art in museums embraces a host of strategies that make the history of the objects richer by embracing the complexity and ambiguity of lived experience.

Yet, throughout this museological evolution, questions of who, when, where, and why have taken precedence over the "maker" elements—the what and how questions. Further, in recent decades and inspired by our cousins at work in the changing world of academia, we have developed the notion of a "museum of ideas." These advances—as that truly is what they are—have blossomed wonderfully, promoting the Hood Museum of Art's role on campus as a driver of challenging conversations about values, ideologies, and a host of other pertinent topics with curricular relevance today.

Less well recognized has been this museum's commitment to foregrounding studio practice.

One of the great advantages of an art museum located on a college campus is the ready access we enjoy to the brain trust of practicing artists who are at home with the what and how questions. We boldly display works in a wide variety of media that reveal a true diversity of studio practice. We encourage interpretative strategies that emphasize contemplating the object itself in depth, along with the context in which it was made. When studio art meets art history, the stories we share and the questions we address become both more complex and more complete.

The Hood Museum is proud to foreground its close association with the Studio Art Department through occasional exhibitions featuring the work of individual faculty members. As our collection benefits from the active participation of these artists when we acquire art, so too does our exhibitions program benefit from a deep dive into their practice from time to time. Our students discover the range of their teachers' work; faculty and staff have an opportunity to catch up with the latest work of their colleagues; and our visitors experience another of the myriad differentiators that make spending time in teaching museums so rewarding.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Hood Museum this winter when, once again, the museum's presentations will be rich and varied, celebrating the vibrant lives of objects.


Written January 17, 2020