With Its Art& Project, the Ackland Makes the Museum a Place to Live | Fall Guide | Indy Week
Pin It

With Its Art& Project, the Ackland Makes the Museum a Place to Live 

A director of engagement: ten years ago hardly any art museum had one. Now, in some form, they all do. In an era of branding, you must fully commit to maintaining connections with your visitors and donors. The bottom line is that you've got to move product.

For an art museum, the product is an experience, and not an intuitively engaging one. Art doesn't leap off the walls and grab you like Game of Thrones does. So museums build programming for all sorts of audiences; they print kid guides with scavenger hunts for their exhibitions, host artist talks and film screenings—whatever they think will get people in the door and give them a positive art experience.

This fall the Ackland Art Museum at UNC-Chapel Hill is banding all of those public programs together as the community-building experiment ART&, which runs into early January. A section of former gallery space now provides a free pop-up coffee bar (ten a.m. and two p.m. daily), a lounge, and a programming space. The Ackland has commissioned area artists Derek Toomes, Heather Gordon, and Stacy Lynn Waddell to create site-specific murals on one wall. And the museum extends its hours to nine p.m. during ART&, on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and second Fridays. It's a bold, brilliant move, and it seems to be working.

"We're trying to experiment with what a museum can be, putting front and center the idea that museums are a community hub," says public programs manager Allison Portnow Lathrop, the Ackland's equivalent to a director of engagement. "We're very lucky to be straight in the middle of that Venn diagram of campus and local communities."

Lathrop had heard a desire expressed by visitors and donors for a hangout area in the museum; she noticed that every time a bench moved in the building, a student with a laptop would be flopped on it ten minutes later. Without an auditorium or theater, she was always shoehorning audiences into awkward spaces. Why not see both problems as the same opportunity?

"We had been doing all our programming in an ad hoc setup throughout the galleries," Lathrop says. "Talks with a folding projector screen and music that you had to see while peering around columns. So at the practical level, it's definitely been called for."

ART& occupies two small rooms right off the main lobby, as well as one large gallery. Neither of the rooms has enough wall space to hang work effectively; one feels like a hallway, and the other is a tight alcove often used for video projections. Lathrop decided to utilize that architecture instead of fighting it.

The walls of the hallway gallery have been painted with chalkboard paint and surfaced with magnetic board, so visitors can respond to weekly questions posed by the museum staff. The alcove gallery dispenses the coffee. The larger gallery is a swing space—a lounge with seating and work areas that can easily be converted into a little theater or auditorium.

Photographer Burk Uzzle recently gave an artist talk in ART& to a capacity crowd. Zinesboro turned the lounge into a zine-making workshop, and The Carrborators turned it into a club. The Ackland Film Forum is projecting its fall series there, "Politics of Place," on most Thursday nights.

Just as significantly, students have discovered ART& to be a good spot to get some reading done, and some faculty prefer it to their offices for informal meetings. Free coffee from local roasters like Gray Squirrel Coffee Co. helps.

"If we want the community to be there, making the Ackland their own space, then we need them to help build it," Lathrop says. "It's by and for the community as much as we can make it."


NINE MORE ART HIGHLIGHTS OF THE FALL

"Untitled#24" by Aspen Hochhalter is on view at FRANK Gallery as part of the Click! Triangle Photography Festival - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CLICK! TRIANGLE PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL
  • photo courtesy of the Click! Triangle Photography Festival
  • "Untitled#24" by Aspen Hochhalter is on view at FRANK Gallery as part of the Click! Triangle Photography Festival

Scent of the Pine, You Know How I Feel (Sept. 10–Dec. 4, North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh, www.ncmuseumofhistory.org) This exhibit shows how depictions of the mountain, Piedmont, and coastal regions of North Carolina have changed over two centuries in the hands of seventy-three painters: Impressionists, realists, folk artists, futurists, postmodernists, and more. —David Klein

Dress Up, Speak Up: Costume and Confrontation (Sept. 17–June 2017, 21c Museum Hotel, Durham, www.21cmuseumhotels.com/durham) Works by internationally known artists such as Ebony G. Patterson and Nick Cave show how election-season issues manifest in clothing and portraiture. Many local artists are included, like Beverly McIver, Stacy Lynn Waddell, and André Leon Gray. —Chris Vitiello

The Small Museum of Folk Art Grand Opening (Sept. 25, 4–8 p.m., Small Museum of Folk Art, Pittsboro, www.smallmuseumfolkart.org) In its opening party, a new museum unveils the folk art collection of retired UNC professor Jim Massey, which includes hundreds of pieces by the likes of Vollis Simpson and Jimmy Lee Sudduth. —Brian Howe

Click! Triangle Photography Festival (Oct. 1–30, various venues, Triangle-wide, www.clicktrianglephoto.org) This free, monthlong photography extravaganza spreads more than seventy exhibits and community events in a wide variety of Triangle museums and galleries; its keynotes are photomontage pioneer Jerry Uelsmann and South African activist Zanele Muholi. —Brian Howe

Rolling Sculpture: Art Deco Cars from the 1930s and '40s (Oct. 1–Jan. 15, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, www.ncartmuseum.org) Automotive design meets Art Deco in masterful machines. The elegant, undulating curves on fancifully named vintage cars—Silver Arrow, Stout Scarab, Thunderbolt—beg to be caressed, but remember: no touching. —David Klein

Thomas Sayre: White Gold (Oct. 7–Jan. 22, CAM Raleigh, Raleigh, www.whitegoldcam.org) Thomas Sayre explores cotton's Southern legacy in mural panels and cast-concrete sculptures commissioned for CAM. Known for his large-scale earthworks, Sayre is a founding principal at the architecture firm Clearscapes, which designed the museum. —Chris Vitiello

Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation (Oct. 29–April 9, City of Raleigh Museum, Raleigh, www.cityofraleighmuseum.org) Piercing pop-culture stereotypes, this traveling Smithsonian show of artifacts, photos, and interactive exhibits explores three hundred years of Indian people's contributions to the nation, as railroad builders, farmers, civil rights advocates, entrepreneurs, and, finally, Americans. —Brian Howe

NCMA Park Celebration (Sunday, Nov. 6, 1–7 p.m., North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, www.ncartmuseum.org) See how all the unsightly construction on NCMA's campus has paid off in this public opening of its new outdoor spaces, with art workshops, music, food trucks, and an early look at Amanda Parer's huge, incandescent rabbits, which will only stay at Museum Park for ten days. —Brian Howe

The Mobile: Composition in Motion (Nov. 9–19, The Carrack Modern Art, Durham, www.thecarrack.org) Gaze up at mobiles juried from an open call for submissions while rubbing elbows with the artists who made them in this kid-friendly show.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Social Studies"

Latest in Fall Guide

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Fall Guide

  • Fall for You: Our 2017 Fall Arts Guide

    Fall for You: Our 2017 Fall Arts Guide

    Ninety-seven. That's the number of events we've highlighted to make sure you have no excuse for FOMO this fall.
    • Sep 13, 2017
  • Leaves of 'Grass

    Leaves of 'Grass

    The International Bluegrass Music Association trade conference and music festival has plenty for ordinary fans to enjoy as well.
    • Sep 13, 2017
  • Monk Matters

    Monk Matters

    For eleven days this October, Duke Performances celebrates Monk's hundredth birthday with a massively ambitious festival titled Monk@100: A Celebration of Genius.
    • Sep 13, 2017
  • More »


Twitter Activity

Comments

Thanks for the nod, Sam...just a note: It's OCTOBER 9, not november...

by Eryk Pruitt on Fall into Books (Fall Guide)

Ack! And one more thing:

The Durham Literacy Center will host a special event with #1 New York Times …

by Sam M-B on Fall into Books (Fall Guide)

Most Recent Comments

Thanks for the nod, Sam...just a note: It's OCTOBER 9, not november...

by Eryk Pruitt on Fall into Books (Fall Guide)

Ack! And one more thing:

The Durham Literacy Center will host a special event with #1 New York Times …

by Sam M-B on Fall into Books (Fall Guide)

A great selection of the literary highlights! Here's a couple handfuls more, from the speculative fiction neighborhood:

September 19 …

by Sam M-B on Fall into Books (Fall Guide)

Hi, All,
Alexis Pauline Gumb's reading of SPILL at The Regulator Bookshop has been rescheduled for Nov. 1 at 7PM. …

by amys on New Yorker Staffer Lauren Collins’s Linguistic Love Story in When in French (Fall Guide)

What about the 'trashion' show Rubbish2Runway at Frank Art Gallery in Chapel Hill????

by Cheryl Hill on Our guide to local arts and culture this autumn (Fall Guide)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation