The Tucson Museum of Art is reopening to the public on Thursday, July 30, and debuting a new art installation — the Kasser Family Wing of Latin American Art to the Tucson community.
The museum has been closed since March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Anne Thwaits, the Tucson Museum of Art’s director of marketing and communications.
“Tucson Museum of Art has been around for almost 100 years now, and during that time there has really come to be a focus on collecting and showing art that is relevant to the Southwest,” Thwaits said. “There is such a strong influence here being so close to the border and there are so many people in our community who have their cultural roots or their identity so closely tied to Latin America.”
Kristopher Driggers, the museum’s curator of Latin American art, agreed with Thwaits on the importance of sharing art that is relevant to the community’s cultural roots.
“The way that we present art here, I'm really proud of the fact that even though we are historically conscious, but we also try to celebrate works and artists too. It's a place to both learn something, but also to really have a kind of deep and immediate encounter with the work,” Driggers said.
Jeremy Mikolajczak, Jon and Linda Ender director and CEO of TMA, emphasized both the past and present aspects of Latin American art in the wing.
“In addition to art of Ancient Americas, it was important for TMA to honor and engage Latinx artists working today. So in the wing, there is a dedicated gallery to modern and contemporary Latin American art," Mikolajczak said in an email. "This inclusion and melding of ancient and contemporary works makes TMA unique among its colleagues across the country and the opportunity to see over 3000 years of artistic achievement.”
The Kasser Family Wing of Latin American Art has been a project in the works for at least two years and was made possible by art donations from I. Michael and Beth Kasser along with Paul and Alice Baker, according to Driggers.
“We're going to have three galleries. The whole thing is made up of five different galleries. Three of these are going to be for ancient art. One will be for TMA’s colonial collection and then we'll have a gallery that's modern and contemporary,” Driggers said. “There'll be somewhere around 200 works of art in this part of the museum when it's finished. This will be around 6,000 square feet of added space to our footprint.”
Some of the new collection highlights include pieces from the classic Mayan period, sculptures from western Mexico and pieces from the Moche civilization, who lived in Peru from 100 to 700 A.D., according to Driggers.
“That's one of the exciting things about this space is that you can go in and actually sort of see the face of someone who lived on the Peruvian coast 2,000 years ago or read a text written by a Maya scribe 1,500 years ago,” Driggers said.
Driggers wanted guests at the museum to consider how people from the Americas used art to express themselves or ideas that were important to them when viewing the new Kasser Family Wing of Latin American Art.
“What I hope is that when people come to the wing, they'll see these works of art as things that were ingrained in the fabric of the social life of the Americas, that they'll see kind of the humanity of the people who made them,” Driggers said.
In addition to the new wing opening, Tucson Museum of Art will be implementing new safety protocols such as limited capacity, regularly scheduled sanitation of all accessible surfaces, mandatory mask policy for all staff and visitors ages 5 and up, physical distancing procedures in exhibition galleries, sanitation stations throughout the museum and a limited-contact admissions experience, according to Thwaits.
“We are really limiting the number of people coming in so that we can keep a lot of distance between people while they're in the museum,” Thwaits said. “We're requiring timed ticket reservations. This is something that has never happened before. So, we strongly recommend people go online and reserve their tickets ahead of time.”
For guests who are unable to visit the museum in person, the Tucson Museum of Art offers video tours of certain exhibitions and a weekly newsletter for visitors to keep up to date with the museum, according to Thwaits.
“I think 2020 has been a year where for a lot of different reasons, a lot of us are feeling a little more anxious than usual and spending time with a work of art can be a great way to refocus yourself. It can be really helpful for getting your mind right,” Driggers said.
Starting July 30, the Tucson Museum of Art will be open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with reserved timed tickets and limited walk-in tickets daily. For more information, call 520-624-2333 or visit https://www.tucsonmuseumofart.org.
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