Fleming Museum of Art
Scattered around UVM’s Fleming Museum are reminders to wear masks, follow directional signs, and observe limits on gallery occupancies.
But it’s not just the signage that reminds viewers of the pandemic and the strange world it’s created. So does the art on the walls.
Last month, the museum reopened its doors for the first time since March, with a special exhibition representative of the times. In the exhibit, “Reckonings,” each member of the Fleming’s staff — and student interns — chose pieces from the museum’s collection that represent the year 2020, and then wrote about what the work evokes this year.
“We plan our exhibits really far in advance,” said Janie Cohen, director of the Fleming. “But when the pandemic shutdown happened, we realized we needed to shift our exhibit schedule. ‘Reckonings’ was really in response to a number of things that unfolded this spring that we’re all very familiar with now.”
This kind of exhibition, she said, chosen by an entire staff, is relatively uncommon for museums, but is actually very common in teaching about museums. The exercise is to respond to an idea with a work that helps you think about that idea, and then explain how the piece does that.
“One of the other really strong impulses we had was we wanted to expand the voices that normally speak to visitors from the walls of the museum,” Cohen said.
Typically, a museum’s curator is solely responsible for making those kinds of choices, she said. But because of the nature of 2020, Cohen said she thought it was important that the entire Fleming staff — including students and interns — also get a say.
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