Sharing the Permanent Collection: The Past, The Present, The Future
by Parker Louise Bobbitt
The Asheville Art Museum’s Permanent Collection includes thousands of works encompassing a range of era, place and media. As the only resource of its kind in WNC, the Museum’s mission is to “engage, enlighten and inspire individuals and enrich community through dynamic experiences in art.” Reaching its region in the Southeastern Appalachian Mountains and beyond is critical to achieve these goals. Due to the Museum’s current exhibition space constraints, only 1-3% of the Collection is on view in exhibitions at any given time. When the new Museum is complete in 2018, there will be a 70% increase in Permanent Collection gallery space to put works on view. For now, the Museum shares the expanse of the Collection in an expanding list of other ways.
Travelling exhibitions A Sense of Balance: The Sculpture of Stoney Lamar and Ancient Forms, Modern Minds: Contemporary Cherokee Ceramics gave communities throughout the country opportunities to view works in our Permanent Collection. Twenty-six objects went out on loan to museums for display in temporary exhibitions, including ICA/Boston’s highly popular Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, now traveling nationally. The Museum set up private viewings for student groups, appraisers, families and other individuals who were interested in studying the objects. Works in the Collection were included in publications and Museum files were used for research use as well. 2015 made it apparent that the Asheville Art Museum’s mission reaches far beyond the works on display in galleries. Through educational programs, social media, exploring the galleries and more, over 125,000 people from all 50 states and several foreign countries were reached by the Museum.
Museum employees, interns and volunteers are all working hard to find creative solutions for keeping artworks on view. The concept for the Vault Visible: Behind the Scenes at the Asheville Art Museum exhibition arose when Museum staff began to plan their process of taking inventory of all of the works in the Collection, learning new facts about each piece and preparing to move the works during the construction period. Staff realized what a wonderful learning opportunity the process was and that it should be shared with the community. Throughout the exhibition, work stations for the preparator, registrar, curator and art conservators have been set up to bring their behind-the-scenes work to the public eye. Many works from the Permanent Collection remain on view in exhibitions such as this and in exhibitions around the country. While completion of the Museum’s construction and expansion project may seem far-off, visible changes are being made every day that excite and energize the staff, volunteers, members and visitors as we look together toward the future.
When the new Asheville Art Museum is complete in 2018, the expanded space will open up more opportunities to collaborate with community partners and educators. A brand new education center with studio classrooms, with views of Pack Square and downtown, is being constructed so that the Museum can better inspire our youngest art lovers, serve more WNC students, and provide enriching learning experiences for audiences of all ages. Throughout the renovation process, works are being made more accessible in digital form with a Permanent Collection database: 3,300 records will be available to people around the world.
Throughout its rich history as an art museum in the Southeast, the Asheville Art Museum has served its community in many ways and has always sought out improvements. The renovation and expansion process will support and grow the Museum’s mission to collect, preserve and interpret American art of the 20th and 21st century. Through the smell of paint and construction sounds, the Asheville Art Museum is excited for what the future has in store. In the meantime, we continue to present our much loved Permanent Collection and loaned works to our global community.