From the Director, Alex W. Barker
Change seems to be the only constant, and for many of us the pace of change just seems to keep accelerating. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but it always leaves us wishing we had just a little more time to get things done; a sense that it’s harder and harder to keep up with the dizzying speed of events or succession of demands on our time. One can try to get more done, to find another figurative gear so the same effort will generate more progress. Sometimes there’s no other way.
But more often than not, the best solution is to slow down. Urgency and importance are not the same thing, and frenetic activity is not necessarily the best way to really get things done. Slow down, take a deep breath and reflect on what’s important.
That’s where museums play a role. Over the next months, the Museum will be offering exhibitions and programs to make you rethink and recalibrate, to approach topics from a fresh perspective, or just pause to enjoy new works in unexpected forms. That’s part of the joy of working in a museum—I can walk into the galleries or through the collections rooms, and let the chorus of objects remind me what matters, and what stands the tests of time.
Rooted, Revived, Reinvented: Basketry in America opens in January, and offers an unprecedented survey of American basketry as seen through an artistic lens. Other articles in this issue of the Museum Magazine discuss the exhibit in more detail, but part of the pleasure of watching it come together has been the delightful juxtaposition of creative energy with the sinuous, rhythmic repetition of form that gives basketry its remarkable appeal. I dare you to walk through the galleries with a hurried pace, mind elsewhere. One or another of these works will reach out and entangle you, capturing you in its stakes or spokes, forcing you to slow down and appreciate it on its own terms. You may think baskets are for holding things (or at least you might think so until you see the exhibition), but the one thing all these baskets hold is your attention.
Later in the summer we’ll be opening The Lasting World: Simon Dinnerstein and the Fulbright Triptych, exploring issues of image and memory in the works of a celebrated New York artist; in connection with the opening, MU will also premiere a new musical work written about Dinnerstein’s paintings. And besides that premiere, we’ll have the annual Music and Art Concert, plus a series of more intimate gallery-based concerts throughout the spring. Slow down, enjoy beautiful music, powerful art, and the contemplative spaces in between the two.
We’ll also offer lectures ranging from Benton Kidd’s discussion of his ongoing research on the Hellenistic murals at Tel Anafa to Gladys Coggswell’s storytelling, and from Missouri white oak baskets to Mycenaean archaeology. Or make up your own story at Art in Bloom, our annual marriage of visual arts and floral design.
Each is an opportunity to set the madding world aside, to reflect, and to experience different voices and different visions. Through them you may see new things, or see old things in new ways, and gain a new appreciation of what matters most to you. Maybe that will help you center yourself and find a moment of constancy in an increasingly mutable and transient world. Or maybe it will just be an opportunity to gather yourself, and return to the fray refreshed.
Either way, I look forward to seeing you at the Museum!