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Photo of people assembling pyramid of basketballs
Photo of people assembling pyramid of basketballs
Installation photo, Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro; David Huffman, Akhet, 1, 2020, 650 rubber basketballs, speakers and audio track, and painted wood frame, 90 × 120 × 120 in. Courtesy of the artist and Miles McEnery Gallery, New York. (Photo by Martin W. Kane)

It’s college hoops season all across America. 

January and February’s tough conference match-ups will soon make way for tournament season and March Madness. 

In North Carolina, basketball is king. So much so that UNC Greensboro’s Weatherspoon Art Museum is opening a new, original exhibition exploring all things basketball. 

“To the Hoop: Basketball and Contemporary Art” opens Friday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. The exhibit examines basketball’s intersection with contemporary art and culture, offering an opportunity to consider our world through the overlapping lenses of sport and art. 

“It’s a topic that resonates. In North Carolina, people either love basketball, or they live adjacent to someone who loves basketball.”

— Dr. Emily Stamey, curator of exhibitions

For example, divisions between rural and urban cultures can be considered in the distinctions between farming town gyms and inner-city playgrounds. Increasing commercialization can be traced through basketball’s intersections with fashion and franchising. The sport also raises issues of racial equity and gender roles. All of these topics – and more – emerge in the works of the exhibit.

“To the Hoop” has been a passion project for curator Dr. Emily Stamey. She fell in love with basketball as a graduate student at the University of Kansas, known for its rich hoops tradition. There, while in an American art history course, she came across two pieces of basketball-related artwork. The works – and the love for the game – stuck with her, and from then on she knew she wanted to do a basketball show. 

But it had to be at the right place, at the right time. When she arrived in North Carolina in 2015 – a place where basketball is deeply woven into the culture – she knew she had found a home for the show. And with the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament being held at the Greensboro Coliseum this year – not to mention the buzz surrounding UNCG’s men’s and women’s basketball programs – the timing couldn’t have been better. 

“It’s an exciting, fun moment to do a show like this,” Stamey said. “It’s a topic that resonates. In North Carolina, people either love basketball, or they live adjacent to someone who loves basketball. It’s a nice way for people to connect with the artworks.” 

Stamey expects the show to attract basketball fans who may have never stepped foot in a contemporary art museum. But she also hopes the reverse will happen – that, through the exhibit, art aficionados will be drawn to the sport.

“I think it will open people’s eyes – I think there will be some people who will give the game a second thought after seeing some of these works,” she said. 

The exhibit will be open through June 7. In August, it will travel to the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University in Kansas.

The Weatherspoon will host a variety of events related to the exhibit, including artist talks and panel discussions, throughout the spring semester. A full list of events can be found at weatherspoonart.org/exhibition-to-the-hoop.

In conjunction with “To the Hoop,” UNCG Special Collections and University Archives has opened a basketball exhibit on the first floor of Jackson Library. “Baseline: The Foundations of Women’s Basketball at State Normal” focuses on basketball at State Normal and Industrial College (now UNCG) from 1900 to 1915. The exhibit includes a gym suit from this time, images of basketball teams from the early years (when play was intramural only), and reproductions of some of the early women’s basketball rule books. The exhibit will be open through April 7 and is available for viewing during regular library hours.

Check out photos of the “To the Hoop” artworks below.

Photo of artwork that consists of a basketball that has been painted with different designs
Gina Adams, Honoring Modern Unidentified 27, Spirit That Remains, 2015, oil and encaustic on ceramic, 9 in. diameter. Courtesy of the artist and Accola Griefen Fine Art, Brooklyn.
Detail photo of artwork with basketball with stained glass backboard
Victor Solomon, Church (detail), 2019, stained glass, 24k-gold-plated hand-wrought steel, acrylic, and crystals, 10 x 4 x 4 ft. Courtesy of the artist. © Victor Solomon, photo by Geordy Pearson, courtesy of the artist.
Detail photo of art installation of WNBA jerseys
Suzanne McClelland, Well Hung, 2004, WNBA jerseys, silk, plastic pearls, sequins, ribbon, fake fur, feather trim, rope, and WNBA duffle bag, dimensions variable, approximately 8 x 12 ft. Courtesy of the artist and Team Gallery, New York. © Suzanne McClelland, photo courtesy of the artist.

Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications

 
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