UA Museum of Art wants to draw students in

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Grace Pierson and Grace Pierson | The Daily Wildcat Grace Pierson / The Daily Wildcat Olivia Miller curiator of the upcoming art exhibit "Unfolding Legacy".

The UA Museum of Art is retracing its history this year and hopes to draw new visitors along the way. Its theme “An Unfolding Legacy” focuses on showings from the museum’s permanent collection until March 2015.
With less than 17,000 square feet of gallery space, the museum can only show 4 percent of its 6,000-piece collection at any given time. It makes use of its space with its 10 galleries, which can change around 20 times a year, according to Olivia Miller, the Curator of Exhibitions and Education.
Because of the museum’s limited space, its staff have been inspired to find innovative ways of showing the museum’s collection. One of these solutions is the speaker series “Out of the Vault,” which also runs through March 2015. This program is specifically geared toward the UA community, and the talks are timed to take advantage of the break in students’ class schedules around lunchtime on Friday afternoons.
The monthly “Out of the Vault” talks spotlight a professor or graduate student who provides background information on a work that has been pulled from the museum’s collection vault. The chosen piece is displayed without its frame or the glare of glass.
“You get to get up close and personal,” Miller said. “It takes away that layer, that screen they are normally looking through.”
Originally shown in the museum’s conference gallery, the program outgrew the space and has since been moved to the second floor of the museum.
Alongside limited viewing space, another concern UAMA faces is its hidden location on campus. Since the museum is tucked away in the fine arts complex, it’s frequently confused with the UA Center for Creative Photography or the Arizona State Museum.
“While we love our proximity to the other arts departments, most students will never pass by our doors,” Miller said. “Furthermore, our name is similar to other museums in Tucson so that makes it difficult to distinguish ourselves. We are becoming more active in our marketing efforts and embracing social media in order to advertise ourselves. We also hope to reach out to more faculty from various disciplines to demonstrate that art can be incorporated into their curriculum.”
According to Miller, the museum staff wants to include all students, regardless of their experience with the arts. She said even those who don’t typically go to art museums can find plenty to discuss by engaging them with questions.
“Ask first, what’s going on in this picture?” Miller said. “Second, what do you see that makes you say that? And finally, what else can you find?”
To further create an immersive experience for guests, “engagement packs” will arrive at the museum in the next few weeks. These brochures are designed for those interested in exploring the museum on a self-guided tour rather than through a traditional docent-led tour. The visitor is free to make the experience individually crafted, like the exhibits themselves.
“What we want people to understand is this is their collection,” Miller said.
Current exhibitions at the museum include work from renowned photographer Ansel Adams, selections from The George Gregson Gift and a gallery that compares realist and surrealist pieces. The next “Out of the Vault” talk will take place on Feb. 21 with German studies professor Albrecht Classen.

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