The Role of the University Art Museum and Gallery

By Hammond, Anna; Berry, Ian et al. | Art Journal, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

The Role of the University Art Museum and Gallery


Hammond, Anna, Berry, Ian, Conkelton, Sheryl, Corwin, Sharon, et al., Art Journal


At the College Art Association's annual conference in 2006, the editorial board of Art journal convened a round-table discussion with eight leaders of galleries and museums affiliated with institutions of higher learning. Among the topics of conversation were the challenges unique to these organizations, similarities to and differences from their civic counterparts, pros and cons of collections, and ways of involving various constituencies. The discussion was organized by Anna Hammond, Deputy Director for Education, Programs, and Public Affairs, Yale University Art Gallery, and John Ricco, Assistant Professor, University of Toronto. Hammond moderated the discussion.

Ideals and Reality

Anna Hammond: Let's start by discussing the role of the university art museum and gallery as a laboratory for thinking. I want to ask each of you to describe what you would like your institution to be ideally and what you actually are working on now. Sheryl, you recently moved to an institution that is very established in its habits, so you have to work with them and through them to change them, and, like Charles, you have been asked to create something new. So why don't you both begin.

Sheryl Conkelton (Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia) : My charge is to reflect all of the departments of Tyler School of Art-art education, art history, and an architecture school, as well as the studio-art programs. Prior to my appointment, the institution didn't engage much beyond the studio programs. So it's a large and unwieldy challenge for this very tiny facility with only one other full-time person and myself. We have no collection and there is a host of logistical reasons for the small size of the exhibition program. The bulk of it is based in a downtown gallery, but it has sites at the Temple campus and the suburban Tyler campus. There are inherent challenges in trying to get people to the gallery to attend and participate in the programs. The challenges specifically for me are the strong desire of the faculty to have a program that focuses on the value of art and a place where the community could consider an array of issues around art. The previous director had focused on interdisciplinary programs to the extent that much of the school felt excluded from the program.

At the same time, the school is engaged in its own capital campaign. It's going to move from its suburban location in Elkins Park to the Temple campus in Philadelphia to join some of the programs there, and there will be a new gallery at Temple. I'm trying to build a program downtown and to identify even more strongly that location as a place for people to attend programs, to come to exhibitions-and, hopefully, to amplify the public programs, so that there is more than simply exhibitions and collateral lectures.

Having said this, because Philadelphia has such a well-developed ecology of arts institutions, I also have to figure out the right niche for our program. Because we are dedicated to the education of young artists, we focus our program specifically on what you might call emerging artists or, rather, emerging practices. We would like to present one or two original exhibitions each year. To augment them, we started an artist-in-residence program. We have an apartment attached to the downtown gallery. I did a really quick residency project with Phil Collins this fall. He was with us a week; he did a project, gave a lecture, was in residence, and was available to the students. In addition to that, I am starting to talk to people in the art-history department, as well as some other academic programs, to see if we can't begin to work on collateral projects together, something that has not been done before.

Charles Reeve (Ontario College of Art & Design, Toronto): Toronto's existing museum ecology has been central to my thinking since I began working at Ontario College of Art & Design six months ago. The college is on the cusp of its 130th anniversary.

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