TURNING A CORNER
John Stomberg, Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director
Hood Quarterly, spring–summer 2021
The thing about turning a corner is that when you are in the middle of the turn, you can see neither the "where you have been" nor the "where you are going." They are simply out of view. This feels apt at this moment. We have all experienced a lot in the past year, but I think we would be hard pressed to say we understand it yet. As well, while we all have myriad expectations for our next chapter, I think we need to be humble about our abilities to foretell the long-term changes that will accompany our gradual return to public life. For now, we must be satisfied with where we are: the turn.
In the art museum field, there has been a groundswell of change. The twin dynamos of social upheaval and pandemic-related injunctions on behavior have offered us both a lot to consider and a chance to do so. As we lean into this turn—hopefully in the home stretch—we bring a mix of excitement and anxiety to our work. Art museum professionals have strived toward more just and equitable programs, exhibitions, collections, and staffs. Have we done enough—moved far enough—as a field to have earned our visitors' support? The project is far from complete, but it has started. In the past year, I have heard—and participated in—more professional dialogue about equity than, perhaps, in all of my career to date. The stories that museums are beginning to tell show great promise for the future of our practice.
I know. Talk is easy; action is telling.
At the Hood Museum, we are continuing with our online programming while enjoying the breadth of audiences made possible by the internet. We have appreciated our access to audiences eager for our content who were bound by geography to miss out on what we do. The amazing silver lining throughout these challenges has been reaching people far away from the Upper Valley. If this is a measure of increased inclusion, then we are enjoying some success there. We have had people join us from Sydney to Stockholm on these calls. In fact, for some of our online programs, we are drawing more people than would fit into our auditorium. This virtual programming will continue.
At the same time, our galleries now are readied, our staff retrained, and our building polished—we are ready to welcome all of you back in real space and real time once again. And what a moment that will be. All our hearts will once again surge with the pure joy of having school children in the galleries; visitors enjoying the exhibitions; students in our study galleries; people partying in our atrium; scholars lecturing in the auditorium; and performers bringing myriad creative delights to our community. All the things that have made the Hood Museum more than a place will once again be activated, and it will be the force in our community that it has for so long been. While all will not be right in the world, we will once again enjoy a special place for art, ideas, and emotions. I look forward to joining you all in person as soon as we can.