From the Director, Alex W. Barker: Missions matter. For any museum the mission statement is the touchstone for all its programs; for us it defines our soul.
Our Museum’s mission statement embodies, encapsulates, and expresses what we do and who we are as an institution. It’s important enough that we include it in every issue of this Magazine, on our website, and even print it at the bottom of every agenda for every Museum staff meeting.
The Museum of Art and Archaeology advances understanding of our artistic and cultural heritage through research, collection, and interpretation. We help students, scholars, and the broader community to experience authentic and significant art and artifacts firsthand and to place them in meaningful contexts. We further this mission by preserving, enhancing, and providing access to the collections for the benefit of present and future generations.
What that mission means in practice is that we balance our popular and academic roles, using each to strengthen the other. We don’t just repackage knowledge about antiquity and the world of art, but actively expand its frontiers. And we don’t just pursue research for its own sake, but communicate it to our audiences—local and distant—through exhibitions, publications, and programs. We serve as a conceptual gateway between town and gown, between campus and community.
That’s always true, but stands in sharper focus in the first half of 2020—20/20 is, after all, the benchmark for good vision, and part of the role of the Museum is to increase our visual acumen and critical judgment. This spring and summer we have a series of exhibitions designed to do just that, while advancing our mission across all its elements. We begin with Reframing the Renaissance Print, examining the range of methods and approaches used by early modern printmakers to make art accessible to a broader range of audiences, and developed through a graduate seminar taught by curator Alisa McCusker. Next is TheArt of Death, considering how death is perceived, portrayed, and presented in art. Curator Benton Kidd organized the exhibition in conjunction with MU students who are Honors College fellows in the ASH (Art, Social Science, Humanities) Scholar Program for undergraduate research in various topics, one of which studies reactions to death in the arts. And that student focus isn’t limited to University classes; in addition to our ongoing schools tours and K-12 programming, we’ll also be hanging primary-school student art in first floor hallways as part of our participation in a planned STEM camp this summer.
Art in Bloom returns, with an opportunity for visitors to select their favorite floral compositions in a variety of categories; part of the secret agenda of Art in Bloom is that it also subtly prompts visitors to think in multiple aesthetic categories at the same time. Next up is Variable Atmospheres: Weather in Art, showcasing works depicting ephemeral weather conditions using equally ephemeral and fugitive media such as watercolor or colored prints, and inviting visitors to think about both the challenges of capturing three-dimensional, changing effects on static two-dimensional paper, as well as the temporal challenges of preserving those fugitive, transitory works for future generations. Finally we’ll offer American Women Artists Since the Vote, a celebration of the centenary of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote.
Each of those exhibitions, each of the programs we offer, helps to place art into meaningful contexts, helping us appreciate the world in a slightly different way when we emerge from the galleries. And the mix of exhibitions and program topics reflects the multiplicity of ways that art creates, reflects, refracts, and inflects meaning, and the ways art in turn inscribes meaning on the larger world. Come join us, and see what mission means in practice.