This year the Ackland Art Museum has major plans to get the community more involved in its work. Emily Kass, director of the Ackland, spoke to Josephine Yurcaba about the fall exhibition, some sneak peeks into spring and the different ways students can get involved in the museum.
Daily Tar Heel: How is the Ackland looking forward from last year? Does it have any big goals?
Emily Kass: We have just launched a new strategic plan, which is probably a 5-year plan and it’s based on what our existing strengths have been – do more and do better in those areas that we already excel. One of our key goals is getting more and more UNC students involved and engaged with the museum. Also, related to that, a focus on contemporary art and the way it can inform and overlap with many different disciplines. Which is why the fall exhibition is so exciting to us because it’s an exhibition of a collective of artists based in India called “The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989.” It’s a group of artists who work in a variety of mediums over the past couple of decades. Street theater as well as objects, but also performance, highly political and social work that will be of a lot of interest to students and faculty at Carolina as well as the public. And then a lot of programming is going to relate to that.
DTH: What do you believe was the Ackland’s biggest success last year?
EK: In terms of exhibitions, the spring exhibition, which was a contemporary show called “More Love: Art, Politics and Sharing since the 1990s.” That was such a hit it was really popular, it was a very ambitious show, we organized it, it really stretched us in good ways.
DTH: Can you give me some hints as to what kind of works will be featured this year, or what some of the larger exhibits could include?
EK: We’re shifting to a more historical series of exhibitions that are kind of related about American art, and one of them is actually engravings that are the first European view of the native population in the United States. They were done in the 15th century, it was the way everyone in Europe first began to understand the new world. For us they are particularly fascinating partly because of their inaccuracies, but also because of a pretty realistic view – maybe a little fantastical – of the flora and fauna, and the cooking, the clothing, and just the kind of lifestyles of the native people. So we’ll be teaming up with the Anthropology Department and the History Department, American Studies, and American Indian Center to really look at what these engravings tell us about the new world. Then we’ve got a small exhibition of work related to an Andy Warhol drawing that was given to us last year.
DTH: Will the Ackland be featuring more interactive exhibitions like some of the pieces in “More Love”?
EK: The “Sahmat” exhibition, it’s divided up almost like a timeline, it goes year by year. And there are nine or 10 iPads, so it’s interactive in that way, you can watch an interview or get some information, listen to some music, and there are a couple of videos, and then there’s also a room with film that will have pillows and you can lay on the floor and watch things. There will be lots of ways that people can engage with the art work in a way that isn’t standing in front of it and gazing upon it.
DTH: What are the different ways students can get involved at the Ackland?
EK: We have a few ways: There’s a student organization which is called Student Friends of the Ackland and it’s one of the official student organizations and that’s easy to get involved with. They do several social events a year, and usually a career-type informational event, it varies. We also have a group called the student guides, which are students who are trained to give public tours and tours to their peers. We’ve got another program called Art a la Carte, which is art workshops for students, non-credit, and they’re very low cost, just for people who want to get some skills in drawing or photography.
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