Slater Memorial Museum
Hey Creative Friend,
Last week, I had the opportunity to install an exhibit that I’ve been managing for years on behalf of my art quilting group – Studio Art Quilt Associates, (SAQA) in CT. The exhibit was installed at the Slater Memorial Museum. Due to COVID, most of the exhibits our SAQA Exhibition Committee had planned for the year, could not take place. I’m sure some of you can relate.
This particular show would also have been canceled just like the others. However, I insisted that we made no such advance decisions until there was absolutely no other alternatives. I’m glad I did, and I’m grateful that I had the support of my exhibition team. Now, it turns out that this is going to be the biggest exhibit we’ve put together.
So, let’s take a look at how the installation went and what we can learn from it.
Arriving at the Museum Installation
It had been a beautiful week up until the day of installation when Mother Nature decided to visit a heavy downpour on us. I put on my hat and headed out. I forgot to take an umbrella, though.
We had artworks carefully boxed and loaded up into a car for delivery and each person had their toolkit full of essentials ready for installation. Through the rain we moved the artworks into the museum. Thank God for the prior careful packing by the team members (Kathy Bagioni and Maureen Lopes).
Let’s Get this Show on the Road
The first order of business was to get the artworks out of the boxes and laid out on tables for easy viewing in order to decide what goes where. That is called curating the show. This is exactly what Vivian Zoe, Slater Museum director, enjoys doing. After decades of doing this, she’s really good at it too. So, she was in charge here.
One by one, Vivian picked out pieces and laid them on the floors in front of the walls on which she wanted them to hang. Sometimes, she’ll go back to the main table that had the artworks and swap out some of the pieces. It was like a graceful dance to a beautiful song as you watched the pieces find their partners. If the partners are a good fit, there’s harmony.
Keep in mind that as a curator your number one goal when curating a show is to flatten the differences and heighten the similarities. I learned this rule when I curated my first solo show. If you do this part well, there’s cohesiveness in your show. The pieces seem to work with each other seamlessly as though they were created for each other.
Lesson from Curating a Museum Installation
It’s also the reason when you enter your work into exhibitions, they sometimes get rejected. If your work is bold and different and doesn’t play well with the other pieces in the show it may be rejected not necessarily because of its own merit or lack thereof. Rather, it’s rejected because it’s way different than the rest.
I hope this explanation helps you understand why your work sometimes get rejected for shows. Also, now that you know this, use the knowledge to choose which shows you want to enter your works into because not all shows are the right fit for you.
Artists Do Math 🙂
So, after all the curating was done, it was time to hang the pieces. This next step involved a lot of math. We had to measure each wall, divide it by the number of pieces, determine spacing between pieces, and how high to hang them. Then, mark where nails will go, make sure it’s level, drive the nails into the walls and check the levels and measurements again. There were times when the first attempt didn’t do it. We had to redo a number of them.
At the end of the first day, almost all the large pieces had been hung. I drove back home to rest and return the next day to finish up the work. The second day was devoted to the small works. Between the five of us who worked on the installation, it took us two full days to get most of the pieces hung. I say most because we didn’t quite finish. Slater Memorial Museum is a big place. We had a total of four rooms to fill.
Finalizing the Museum Installation
After the end of Day 1 of installation, I had to call up SAQA CT members to get some more small works so that we could fill up the extra space.
All in all, I’m proud of how the show came together. It’s looking really great. Here are two initial photos I got. I’ll go back later and get better photos.
I don’t have the final opening dates yet. The museum is figuring out how to comply with health regulations with regards to COVID. They’re in the process of hiring staff to do screening of patrons who want to see the exhibit. I can’t wait for it to be opened to the public.
I’ll let you know as soon as I know. In the mean time, you can check on Slater Memorial Museum’s website for updates and keep your eyes opened for my emails if you’re on my mailing list.