Claude Zervas, Skagit (2005), green CCFL lamps, wire inverters, steel, from the 2009 exhibition, Elusive Elements
I visited a museum where I didnt need to pre-order tickets three months in advance. Nor did I need to purchase tickets online using a credit card or pay service charges on the price of the ticket. My choices of times and dates of visit were not limited; I wasnt obliged to plan and prioritize a viewing strategy. No need to jostle for position or look over other peoples heads. There was no need to wait in line or pay for parking. And I wasnt required to exit through the gift shop (with apologies to Banksy).
Why? This past summer, quite by chance, I visited a show entitled Pilchuk: IDEAS at the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner, Washington. The exhibition featured works from the famous glass school's permanent collection. These pieces from the early days of the revolution in studio glass in the Pacific Northwest were created by some of the most important artists working in the medium.
It was the name of the museum that caught my eye and brought me in. How extraordinary, I thought, that here was a museum whose name avoided politically correct rhetoric and appeared not to place limits on its mandate, and included other voices and artists in the Northwest region. Here was a museum that showed the art of the Northwest.
The building was a purpose-designed open space with a central open rotunda and spiralling stairs leading to the second floor exhibition areas. A domed skylight above the staircase permitted natural daylight to flood both the ground level and second floor spaces. The museums street-facing façade is adjacent to the sidewalk, on entry one passes through a short, wide corridor into the foyer, which acts as an antechamber to the exhibition space.
I walked in, was greeted by an attendant, paid $9 at the door and went directly to the centre of the exhibition space. The entire space was there before me, and I didnt have to search for other spaces or peer around corners I felt engaged and comfortable and excited.
Small, purpose-designed community galleries and museums sensitive to the local community should be encouraged because they provide a number of benefits in terms of culture, community and economics. More community museums create larger viewing audiences with easier access to visual culture.
The smaller museum permits specialization and encourages diversity of programming. The modest administrative costs of running these centres could be self-funded through modestly priced tickets. The costs incurred by big museums to advertise so-called blockbuster shows could be avoided by sharing those costs with several smaller community museums, which might show a part of the blockbuster collection. Lets face it. Most of these blockbuster shows held in large galleries are too large and overwhelming in their scope, and by the time the visitor exits, through the gift shop, he or she is exhausted.
Next: The Case of Jasper Johns Gemini 1