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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm
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The Grinnell College Museum of Art is open and ready for visitors

The Grinnell College Museum of art is open for students. Appointments can be booked online. Photo by Elena Copell.

The Grinnell College Museum of Art opened on Sept. 14 for the first time since March, but only one student made an appointment to visit. No other students came. “It’s disappointing,” said Lesley Wright, Director of the Museum of Art. “Maybe the hours we’ve set are not great for students, or the days.”

The College’s low-density model means that few students are living on campus or in the town of Grinnell. Even with scheduled time slots for private visits available, many sources of traffic – such as visits during class or on class assignments – are still missing.

“Last year we were averaging about 250-300 people a week,” Wright said. “It varies wildly by the day because we might have a very good day if we had a Writers@Grinnell event at the gallery or we had a big class come in, but over the course of the week that’s sort of what we’re used to seeing.”

Appointments are now required so that the guards in the museum – who now sit behind plexiglass shields – know to let someone in, as the doors to Bucksbaum are still locked.

“One of the things we were hearing [from other museums] is that nobody is being overrun with visitors, so worrying about crowds wasn’t something we were going to have to do,” Wright said. “We’re not going overboard on getting arrows on the floor and all that because there just probably aren’t going to be more than a few people in the space.”

Experiencing a decline of in-person visitors, The Grinnell College Museum of Art is focused on improving its online programming. Photo by Elena Copell.

On the upside, the conditions brought on by COVID-19 have provided an impetus to improve online programming. The Museum’s student employees who normally engage with the Grinnell community in-person, are now producing content on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

One example is the Nature, Made exhibit, which featured art by Grinnell alums.

“Their work actually did come to Grinnell and it sat in boxes and then eventually we sent it back to them, because we had shut down and weren’t able to put that show on the wall,” Wright said. Instead, the Museum posted videos of the pieces with artists talking about their work in the background.

“We usually don’t do things like that, but we have found it to be a very wonderful addition to doing that exhibition, and I expect that we will continue to do something like that in the future,” Wright said. “Especially in the case of an alumni show, it meant that their friends across the country could actually see their work and hear their words, which they probably wouldn’t have if we had just had the exhibition on their walls.”

For the time being, only students are allowed to visit the museum in person, which means professors are still left out.

“We’re not encountering people and having impromptu conversations,” Wright said. “One of the reasons we love having the museum in Bucksbaum is that we have a lot of opportunities to have conversations with our colleagues in art, art history, dance, theater and music that we can’t have now.”

Still, Wright encourages students who are in Grinnell to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the museum. Up to ten people can be in the space at the time, so you can come with friends, but each person needs to make their own appointment.

One of the reasons we love having the museum in Bucksbaum is that we have a lot of opportunities to have conversations with our colleagues in art, art history, dance, theater and music that we can’t have now.  -Lesley Wright, Director of the Grinnell College Museum of Art

The museum is currently open by appointment Tuesday through Friday from 12:00 pm to 5:30pm, but if that doesn’t work for you, don’t despair: “Just let me know,” Wright said, “and we will do what we can to make it possible, because we know that everyone’s schedules are different, and their needs are different, and we are here to serve our wonderful students as best we can.”

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