The Weatherspoon Art Museum is undergoing a transformation, with a bold initiative to ensure it can tell fuller, more inclusive, and more diverse histories of American art.
A $75,000 grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art – part of the foundation’s recently announced multimillion-dollar initiative, Re-envisioning Permanent Collections: A Special Initiative for US Museums – will help make this possible.
The grant will be used for the museum’s forthcoming three-year project, Leading with Objects: Engaging the Community in Institutional Change. The Weatherspoon will use the money and time to partner with university, civic, museum, and other community entities in a meaningful effort to reconsider, reinterpret, and re-present its highly regarded collection.
This initiative is intended to impact the museum’s practice and, by extension, its role within the community. It will also extend upon the new racial equity plan, Leading Together, which is guiding the museum’s broader work towards equity, diversity, and inclusion.
“This project is at the heart of the Weatherspoon’s purpose, to inspire and enable meaningful engagement with original works of art in ways that contribute to a more equitable society,” said Juliette Bianco, the Anne and Ben Cone Memorial Endowed Director of the Weatherspoon Art Museum.
The Terra Foundation for American Art is intent on evolving the field of American art at large – providing opportunities for interaction and study, and collaborating on exhibitions, research, and educational programs, internationally.
The foundation’s grant will help the Weatherspoon to hire a coordinating curator of community engagement, a position new to the museum, for two years. The curator will connect key project partners to develop a collaborative and inquiry-based reconsideration of its art collection, culminating in a year-long and museum-wide reinstallation of the art collection, planned for reveal in 2023. All museum visitors will be invited to interact with the collection and each other. They will be enabled to share stories and experiences, sparked by the museum’s collection, in a specially designed community hub within the Weatherspoon.
This grant project, said Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., “speaks directly to UNC Greensboro’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion through dialogue and authentic participant representation.”
Leading with Objects will engage the community with a diverse range of artworks from the Weatherspoon’s collection, along with key loans from the university galleries at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T), a new Weatherspoon partner. “This project allows us, together, to tell an even broader story of art and historical memory,” said Dr. Paul Baker, director of N.C. A&T’s university galleries. At the project’s conclusion, Baker and other project partners will contribute to a scholarly publication on this initiative’s outcome.
The Weatherspoon anticipates that the learning gleaned upon completion of Leading with Objects will affect its practices of research, display, visitor engagement, and interpretation to better promote access, inclusion, and transformation.
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications