Behind the Scenes Exhibitions

MAM Behind the Scenes: David Russick, Exhibition Designer

David Russick sitting with papers on the walls behind
David Russick, Exhibition Designer. Photo by the author

This is the second in a series of blog posts highlighting a variety of different positions within the Milwaukee Art Museum. Each day, hundreds of visitors enter the Milwaukee Art Museum to stare in awe at the incredible wealth of artworks within the museum’s collection. But what can too often go unrecognized is the equally awe-inspiring work of the many museum staff members, without whom the museum in its current state could not exist. “MAM Behind the Scenes” is a blog series written by Digital Learning intern Emma Fallone to showcase the wide range of positions that make up a museum, and to reveal just a few of the many people whose work makes the Milwaukee Art Museum a source of inspiration and education.

Can you give a brief description of your job, in thirty seconds or less?

To use an analogy: the exhibition designer is the person who shows up on moving day when you’re moving into a new apartment, and helps you to arrange everything so that the space is used efficiently and everything looks really good! At the Milwaukee Art Museum, the “apartment” is usually the special exhibition space, which is cleared out and rearranged for each new show. So, every time we have a new special exhibit, it’s like one tenant is moving out and another is moving in – and their belongings are the artworks which are going to be displayed. The exhibition designer works with the curator to figure out what goes where, so that you don’t have your kitchen appliances in the bathroom, so to speak!

Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial Exhibitions

Making an Exhibition, Part 4: Storyboards, Design, and Installation

Pin board of a Milwauke Art Museum Curator. Photo by Mel Buchanan.
A “visual checklist” pinboard at my desk. Photo by the author.

Picking paint colors. Stepping under ladders in closed off galleries. Artfully arranging teacups. All are things I’ve done in the past few weeks, and all are entirely fun perks to a curator’s job. Beyond the fun, what I aim to do in this post is go a little deeper into the process of installing, painting, and arranging an exhibition.

In the first three posts of this series, I’ve addressed steps to developing the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Grete Marks: When Modern Was Degenerate exhibition (on view September 6, 2012 – January 1, 2013), from idea to loan paperwork to marketing.

The next step of bringing this incredible story and artwork physically to the public were the conversations we had about the design of the gallery, because there are as many ways to display artwork as there are paint colors in the Sherwin-Williams sample book.