The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday February 4th

Ackland is outdated, but not in content

Friend of the museum wrote that the Ackland needs an update.

The Ackland Art Museum on Monday night.
Buy Photos The Ackland Art Museum on Monday night.

Chris Vitiello, a writer for Indy Week and an independent curator, said he believes the Ackland, which was last renovated in the late '80s, is in need of an update. He published these opinions in a Sept. 9 commentary on the Ackland’s newest exhibition, “Testing Testing: Painting and Sculpture since 1960 from the Permanent Collection,” which debuted in July.

Vitiello, a guest judge of “The Land of No Things: Selected Works by the MFA Class of 2015,” worked directly with the Ackland this summer designing exhibits and said the building looks more like an academic building than an art museum.

“They have to put a sign in the window that says, “Yes, we’re open!” in order to let people know that they can come in,” Vitiello said. “It’s just not a building that is welcoming to the public.”

Of all of the Triangle-area universities, the Ackland is one of the only museums that has not had an update in recent years. The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University debuted their reconfigured space on Aug. 27, and the Gregg Museum of Art and Design at N.C. State University built entirely new facilities starting April 14.

But the Ackland has no intentions of updating its facilities anytime soon.

“(A new museum) is not at the top of our list right now,” said Peter Nisbet, the interim director of the Ackland. “The initiative we have been taking is to make the Ackland more welcoming, both aesthetically and intellectually.”

In the past year, more than 55,000 patrons visited the Ackland. Of those 55,000, more than 10,000 of those were students.

Because of the location on campus and because of the high attendance of students, Nisbet said he hopes to make the museum a more open space in which students and other visitors can find intellectual stimulation and beautiful art.

Nisbet said a lack of funding is not something he believes will hinder the Ackland from producing new facilities. Rather, he said the museum currently has no intentions of building a new museum.

“I believe that if we have a great plan and great ideas, the money will come,” Nisbet said. “Expansion and a new building are important to bear in mind, but what we’re talking about is more of programmatic shift.”

Wendy Hower, director of engagement and marketing at Nasher, helped oversee the museum’s update with the creation of its New Galleries exhibit.

She said the museum’s update, which included reconfiguring the space to better fit its growing collections, was a large project, but one that the Ackland can utilize.

“It’s not always the answer to do more or expand a physical building,” Hower said. “Focusing on your strengths is the key.”

Nisbet agrees.

“The Ackland’s facilities are not ideal, but my belief is that great art and great ideas can transcend that,” Nisbet said.

“If the art is good, the ideas are good, the conversations are good and the teaching is good — issues with the facilities seem much less important.”



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