The thing I find particularly thrilling about the American Quilts Exhibition Store is that because quilts are such a living medium, a part of everyday lives, they often inspire very personal dialogues as visitors pass into the exhibition store. Every day we meet visitors who are eager to share their sewing stories—they admire the works in the exhibition in a profound way because of a shared experience with those artists. We learn about still-vibrant family traditions of sewing, memories of people’s mothers hand-stitching their clothing when they were children, the various techniques seamstresses develop over time, and the agony and the ecstasy of piecing those wee slippery scraps of fine fabric together.
From Museum docent Carl Becker: On a recent “Weather and Seasons” tour with fourth graders, we stopped in front of The Two Majesties to discuss the painting and the North African desert location. I asked the children how they would feel in the environment depicted in the painting.
Preparations for the design of an exhibition begin many months, sometimes years, in advance of installation. For us at the Milwaukee Art Museum, planning for the placement of art in our main exhibition begins the minute the previous exhibition opens. For instance, when Street Seen opened in January, the next week the exhibition designer removed little to-scale black and white photographs from the gallery model, and our team went to work carefully placing pictures of miniature quilts for the summer’s American Quilts: Selections from the Winterthur Collection exhibition.
A group of students in Smithfield, Utah, completed a 6,400 square-foot replica of Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night out of breakfast cereal. We encourage all ways of connecting to great art, but this one jumps to the top of my list in terms of deliciousness. I’m sure the pigs (who reportedly later ate the cereal) would agree.
Some people come to a museum feeling completely at home. But what about those who are a little intimidated, feeling as if they need to have a background in art history to have a great experience? After experiencing a new way of looking at art with one of my colleagues, my head has been swirling with this question.