Friday, March 31, 2006

gone fishing again...

I am packing up and leaving for the big city of Cincinnati right now! I plan on checking out the contemporary museum there and some other art events. Rumor has it that not only is the scooter rally this weekend but the art crawl! whoo-hoo!

So - make sure you check out a few good shows this weekend here in detroit...Gallery Project, 555 and CAID - Portrait show!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really envy you Ann... go see lots of shows for me! I am stuck here. I should also tell you that I am entirely addicted to your arts blog, visiting it at least twice a day! Post lots of pictures when you get back

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking of Ann and Cincinnati and their new museum. and how exciting it must be to visit. And then read about what Director Beal is going to do to the DIA and wanted to puke chunks.

from detroit news:

"Our emphasis will be on engaging our audience
emotionally rather than just installing art by dates
and periods," Beal says.

Emotionally? Is that their
job? Is engaging the audience's intellect too
challenging? Does he think Detroiters just too stupid to learn
about the history of art, or must art education be
purely entertainment, like a soap opera?

"We'll do this by hanging works according to themes
people can relate to, like Violence and Vulnerability
or Wealth and Humility," said Beal.

Relate to? They decide what the viewer can/should
"relate to"? They can't trust viewers to interpret
artwork by themselves? To have individual reactions?
To use their brains? To relate emotionally without
giant signs telling them exactly how they should feel?

And "interactive elements" to play around with?

A major art museum designed like a
middle-school textbook. Art museum as theme park.

1:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bitchin' mad, why dont you send a copy of your post to the educational department of the DIA, and to Director Beal?

Maybe if they got feedback such as this they might think twice about this plan. I wasnt aware of this new format, and agree with you.

Where did you see Beal make this proclamation?

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ann , have a great mini-vacay and i'll talk to you when you get back. i'm busy moving this weekend.


10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yoohoo, it was in the Detroit News below:

DIA sculpts the future

Detroit leads other museums in creating friendly environments for their visitors

Joy Hakanson Colby / The Detroit News

March 29, 2006

T he Detroit Institute of Arts is in the forefront of a national trend that's turning museums into people-friendly places.

When the $158 million renovation is complete and the closed wings of the DIA reopen in the fall of 2007, the 121-year-old pride of Detroit will be a "new" museum. It will be easier for visitors to navigate, due to a spine connecting the 1927 Paul Cret building with the North and South wings added during the 1960s. There will be a more logical, easy-to-explore configuration of galleries on either side of the corridor.

"Traffic in the museum didn't work," emphasizes A. Alfred Taubman, president of the Detroit Arts Commission and chairman of the building committee. "You had to go upstairs to go downstairs and wander through all sorts of rooms to find what you came to see."

While the renovated building will be an obvious improvement structurally, the most innovative changes will be in the way the museum presents art. Instead of stressing art history per se, director Graham W.J. Beal and his team of curators will strive to make objects in the multibillion dollar permanent collection more relevant to visitors.

"Our emphasis will be on engaging our audience emotionally rather than just installing art by dates and periods," Beal says. "We'll do this by hanging works according to themes people can relate to, like Violence and Vulnerability or Wealth and Humility. We'll also be using a lot of interactive elements to tell these stories."

To help today's audience connect with 18th-century French art, the museum has filmed a dinner party using decorative objects in the collection to show how they were designed to serve food. Beal says the museum will project these images along with costumed arms of servers onto a table top, giving seated visitors the sensation they are dining in France three centuries ago.

Public perception

DIA visitors like what they've been hearing about the changes. Detroiter Kris Stevens wants her 18-month-old granddaughter, Isabella Vidal, to experience great art and learn about history at the same time. She believes the new presentation will make all forms of art more meaningful and things will be easier to find due to the new floor plan.

Stephanie Vidal seconded her mother, saying the changes "will bring us to the museum more often." Isabella, for her part, sucked her fingers contentedly while she examined the Diego Rivera murals, one of the DIA's greatest treasures.

Dearborn sisters Jessica George, 16, and Tacara George, 15, came to the DIA for the first time on an art assignment from their school, the Advance Technology Academy.

"It's beautiful here," says Jessica. "When I have my own family, I'm going to bring my kids often."

Tacara plans to come back frequently and "get inspired to make my own paintings."

Consultant Daryl Fischer, who has worked with museums all over the country including Detroit, Denver and Toledo, says a number of forward-looking institutions are going the personal experience route to fire up their visitors.

"But it's still not the norm," she says. "Those involved in the process are hoping it will encourage the public to be constant users of museums just as they use libraries."

And despite the recent incident in which a middle school student stuck gum on a piece of art at the DIA, museum officials are more than confident that its experienced security will protect the collection after the reinstallation.

Fischer conducted visitor panels at the DIA from late 2003 to March 2005, meeting with people of varying ethnic, occupational and regional backgrounds. They discussed everything from general attitudes about museums to what kind of labels to put on the art. Their input is influencing the director and curatorial team in planning the people-friendly presentation.

Edward Able, president and CEO of the American Association of Museums (AAM), agrees that institutions across the country are looking for ways to demonstrate their relevance to their audiences. That accounts in large part for the current building boom.

For instance, the Art Institute of Chicago, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, the Denver, Phoenix and Akron art museums are all involved in major expansions. New York's Museum of Modern Art nearly doubled its exhibition space in 2004, and attendance jumped from 1.8 million during the 1990s to 2.6 million the first year after the expansion. The University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor will begin a $35.4 million renovation and addition to its 1910 Alumni Memorial Hall this summer.

Able notes that there are literally hundreds of smaller projects underway from coast to coast.

For art's sake

While some museums make changes for cosmetic reasons, director Beal says the DIA's renovation was based on "unavoidable need." The condition of the building threatened the safety of the art.

"The dark granite was falling off the exterior of the wings," he says. "We had no vapor barrier to keep moisture from getting in and freezing. The metal studs were corroding, and we had antiquated equipment in the Cret building.

"In fact, some of our board members used to joke that we were heating the whole Cultural Center in the winter and cooling it in the summer."

Even adding 35,000 square feet to the South Wing turned out to be a cost-cutting decision.

"We would have had to pay millions to store our collection in a warehouse during the renovation," Beal says. "Instead, we are using the addition for temporary storage, and it will become an education center and exhibition space when the building is finished."

The discovery of asbestos in 2003 after the renovation began shocked DIA officials.

"Nearly 20 years ago, the city brought in an environmentalist to check for problems," Taubman recalls. "They gave us a clean bill of health, but they were wrong. Later, we found the worst case of asbestos I've ever encountered. It took $44 million to remove."

Sandra Seim, project manager for the renovation, found a silver lining.

"We had to take down all but the main walls to get all the asbestos in the North and South wings," she says. "Gallery complexes were reduced to great white boxes, which worked to our advantage later because it allowed for more creative installations. We were not hindered by existing walls."

Seim says construction in the South Wing will be complete by July 1 this year and the North Wing will be done by Dec. 31. The staff will devote the remaining months before the November 2007 opening to the public to installing the galleries.

If you renovate, they'll come

The total renovation price tag comes to $158.2 million with $146.8 million for construction and asbestos removal and $11.4 million for reinstallation of the collection. A capital campaign and two city bond issues are paying for the renovations. But with government and private funding shrinking, the museum's big concern now is to increase the endowment.

"Currently, we have a $140 million endowment with $40 million restricted to buying art," says Eugene A. Gargaro Jr., chairman of the DIA board. "We need a $400 million endowment so that the interest from that goes toward paying operating expenses. The DIA's annual budget is $37 million."

Despite the constant search for funds to keep the city-owned DIA afloat, the mood for the future is optimistic.

"When the museum reopens in the fall of 2007, it can be a destination that attracts people from all over like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery in Washington," Gargaro says. "The new museum will send a signal that puts Detroit on the map in a new way."

"Crowds will come when they see what the museum has to offer," Taubman says. "We need 1 million visitors every year."

The city fathers acknowledge the museum's importance.

"Having a world-class institution here is critical to the quality of life in Detroit," says Kenneth Cockrel Jr., president of the City Council.

Deputy mayor Anthony Adams agrees that the DIA is a "critical component" to Detroit's future success.

Carl Demeulenaere speaks for other Metro Detroit artists when he hopes the "new" DIA provides a venue for local talent. "It's important for museums to be connected to the city they are in through the artists who live here," he says.

When people ask why the renovation is taking six years, Taubman is ready with the answer. "Because we chose to keep 60 to 70 percent of the museum open at all times," he says.

"We could have saved two years by closing. But we would have lost our wonderful staff. The community would have forgotten all about us, and the rest of the world would have lost sight of the fact that we have one of the greatest art collections in the country

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

on top of all detroit's financial woes and public face, they're (whoever signs the paycheck, the dia is still owned by the city) paying this boob beale $500,000 (crain's) a year to be brilliant. not.

To try and maintain and keep motivated someone of Graham’s stature is very important to us,” Board Chairman Eugene Gargaro Jr. said. “He is regarded worldwide as someone who is very special; that’s why we want him.”

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Detroit is laying off, cutting back, staving off bankruptcy and selling their Escalades while their "jewel" of culture pays Director Beal $500,000 a year to come up with these dumb ass ideas.

10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So how much SHOULD Beale be paid? This is the 5th largest museum in the country, and its undergoing a major transformation. If it will get more viewers, more power to him. I am not going to kwibble about his salary when some ball player gets multi millions and doesnt contribute a thing to the city's culture.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

barbara, baseball is culture.

7:28 PM  

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