Middlebury College Museum of Art will reopen on April 15th

During the break, the museum took the opportunity to make some additions and improvements, including new exhibits.

“When visitors who have visited the museum return, they will see some radical changes,” said Richard Saunders, director of the museum. “And we have two new exhibits to share that we’re really excited about.”

A still life by the 17th-century Italian artist Anna Stanchi is one of the artworks in the new exhibition Contemporary to Classical: Highlights from the New Collection Handbook.

Saunders said the museum’s three first-floor permanent collection galleries have been completely reinstalled along thematic lines to ensure a visit to the museum is an inviting experience for everyone. “No previous experience with art is assumed and one of the aims is to help visitors understand some of the themes and expressions of art in different cultures and over time,” he said.

A key reason for the changes, he said, is to ensure that what is seen reflects a consideration of the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. Museum staff have also improved accessibility – works are displayed lower on the walls so they can be easily viewed by wheelchair users, and the font size of wall texts is now larger to make them easier to read for those with visual impairments.

One of the two new exhibits Contemporary to classic: highlights from the new collection handbookIt was a long time in the making, Saunders said. It includes more than 40 works from the museum’s permanent collection, which are presented, among other things, in a new guide to highlights of the collection.

A 1993 drawing by Colombian artist Fernando Botero (*1932) is featured in the new exhibition Contemporary to Classical: Highlights from the New Collection Handbook at Middlebury College Museum of Art.

The exhibition celebrates the rich diversity of the collection, spanning from contemporary to ancient times and representing cultures in Asia, Africa, South America, North America and Europe. Works include ceremonial armor from Japan; a still life by the 17th-century Italian artist Anna Stanchi; a 1993 drawing by Colombian artist Fernando Botero, born in 1932; and a screenprint created in Middlebury in 2013 by then-guest artist Derrick Adams, born 1970.

Saunders noted that the items the museum seeks to acquire have changed immeasurably since the collection began, as Middlebury’s academic program has evolved and the college has become more diverse.

The second new exhibition Into the Screen: Digital Art by teamLab, features a digital work depicting a turbulent ocean panorama that Saunders describes as “mesmerizing.” Its creator, teamLab, is one of the world’s leading providers of digital art.

“We like to say we made COVID lemonade with the lemons we received when we closed,” Saunders said. “We were able to rethink our permanent collection, which took 18 months and the involvement of a number of museum staff. We also focused on finalizing the Collections Guide – a project that had been languishing for over a year.”

Some of the lessons learned from the pandemic are now permanent, Saunders said. He and the other museum staff learned a lot about the importance of the virtual experience, the value of an online presence, and the responsibility of engaging in new forms of communication.

Admission to the Middlebury College Museum of Art is free. Visit the museum’s website for more information.

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