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Ackland curators to examine locally-owned art

The Ackland Art Museum opens its doors today to local art lovers yet again.

But the museum will not supply the art.

Held on a given Thursday every other month, Curator’s Clinics offer art enthusiasts an opportunity to have a piece of art examined by an Ackland curator, said Emily Bowles, the museum’s director of communications.

With the help of a curator, art owners might be able to gather information about works they bring in, Bowles said.

“We help them find out the maker, medium, significance and what (the piece) might have been used for,” said program coordinator Lauren Turner.

Timothy Riggs, the museum’s curator of collections, serves as the primary curator of the bimonthly clinics.

“I look forward to surprises and puzzles — preferably puzzles that I have a chance of solving,” Riggs said.

After he began working at the museum in 1984, Riggs started setting up informal personal appointments with patrons curious about their art.

“Usually you can’t say anything meaningful without seeing the object,” Riggs said. “I would make an appointment for the person and object to come in for examination.”

Eventually, the clinics became commonplace and garnered a title, Riggs said. They began happening on a regular basis during the early 1990s, he said.

Riggs said he deals most commonly with prints, drawings and watercolors at the clinics. Ceramics and other types of artwork from Japan, China and Southeast Asia aren’t uncommon either, he said.

“Almost anything that can be considered a work of art, which means almost any man-made object, may turn up here,” Riggs said.

In more than 15 years of working the clinics, Riggs has seen plenty of unique works. He said he remembers coming across a particularly special piece by early 20th century German artist Heinrich Vogeler while working a past clinic.

Currently, the piece serves as part of the temporary exhibition “Romantic Dreams, Rude Awakenings,” which he organized.

“More than a year ago, when I was just beginning to work on the exhibition and thinking that a good print by Vogeler would fit in very well, a woman came in to Curator’s Clinic with a print that was an outstanding example of his work,” Riggs said.

Curators also provide advice on how to better preserve art and methods by which individuals can research the art on their own, Turner said. She said the curators do not assume any level of expertise on the part of the individuals.

Turner said many patrons often bring in pieces of art that have been passed down through their family.

“(The clinic) is supposed to try to answer questions or show ways to answer questions,” Turner said.

Curators do not give estimates of any piece’s value, Bowles said. They also don’t set out to say who the artist of a particular piece is.

“I look forward, most of all, to seeing some really outstanding works of art, but I don’t expect that to happen every clinic,” Riggs said.

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