The Changing Exhibition Cycle

By: Andrew McGivern, curator of exhibitions on October 8th, 2008

When you visit the Woodson Art Museum to take in the artwork on view, chances are you don’t give much thought as to what goes on behind the scenes to make it all happen. As curator of exhibitions, much of my time – and that of my colleagues – is broken into nine-week cycles that revolve around the average length of our changing exhibitions.
Like the ocean tide, our exhibitions have ebb and flow that includes arranging for shipping artworks, receiving crates, condition reporting objects as we unpack them, and more. With exhibitions that include sculpture, display cases are selected and painted or, if needed, new pedestals are built. Title and text panels are designed and printed and artwork labels are also prepared.

During an installation week, the outgoing exhibition is taken down and either placed in the temporary exhibition vault or packed and crated for immediate shipping. The incoming exhibition is carted into the galleries and laid out. Meanwhile, members of our installation team paint the movable walls with a color selected weeks prior. After the exhibition is installed, gallery lighting is fine tuned, labels are placed next to artworks, display cases cleaned, frames and Plexiglas are wiped down, and we’re ready to open to the public.

On Monday morning following the week-long installation of each exhibition, Museum educators train the docent corps, providing them with insights about the artworks on display and offering suggestions for structuring tours for school groups and adults.

With the opening of each exhibition, staff turns its attention to the many complementary programs that the Museum offers. Staff members are assigned programs to oversee; responsibilities include introducing the presenter and making sure room setup instructions are taken care of.

As an exhibition winds down, plans are already in place for the next exhibition and its programs. Thus, the cycle begins anew. In the process, staff are introduced to a host of new topics and have opportunities to meet interesting artists and program presenters. We’re never at a loss for something to do.

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