The Ackland Art Museum could grow closer to its goal of becoming the preeminent public university art museum through expansion of its facilities, art collection and staff.
Mary Melone, the Ackland director of external relations, said the five priorities of Ackland’s campaign are expanding their collection, moving into a new building, greater endowment of its public programs, increasing staff positions and sustaining its free accessibility to the public.
UNC’s last campaign in 2007 only budgeted $13 million of its funds to the Ackland, Melone said. The museum is $71.52 million toward its current goal — with a $25 million art gift from graduate Sheldon Peck and three other art gifts totaling $41.5 million.
“One of our priorities is building the collection and making it just a stronger educational resource for the students, for the community, for just the visual art community in general,” Melone said.
Peck’s art donation includes mostly 17th-century European art, such as pieces by Rembrandt, as well as additional funds for a curator position and the art’s maintenance. The other three donations are collections that range from modern American paintings to 12th-century Byzantine pottery.
Though they also want to move into a new building, Melone said plans to move are still in very early stages and might not fit into the timeline of the current campaign.
Carolyn Allmendinger, Ackland’s director of academic programs, said the museum only has gallery space to exhibit between 200 and 300 of its 18,000 total works of art at a time. She said she hopes the campaign will go toward increasing space for not only more art, but for effective display of the art.
“We are really keen on having, quite simply, more space to bring students and art together," Allmendinger said. "Beyond just having more space — having the kind of space that allows people to examine the works of art in the best possible way, in really great light, with the ability to get close enough to really see the particular details."
Tatiana String, an art history professor and chairperson of the Ackland academic advisory board, said she and her students have already enjoyed the benefits of the initial collection expansion, particularly in regards to the Peck gift. This semester, she teaches “The Art of Drawing in the 17th Century,” and her students study the donated works.
String said Ackland’s European collection before the Peck donation was frequently used for art history classes, but the new gift allows her students to conduct research that could help them in their future academic careers.
“We’ve long used the collection before for writing a paper about a single subject, but now they’re getting to conduct research, and this is research which could turn into honors theses, could turn into writing samples for graduate school,” String said. “This is the kind of training that art historians need.”
There is a need for more teaching space. Currently, the classroom for showing art to students can only hold 15 people. Allmendinger thinks more educational space will increase the utility of the museum as an academic workplace.
Melone said the campaign’s staff priority is aiming to create more Ackland positions like curators, conservation specialists and research positions. The programming priority will help endow its public programs like artist lectures, music series, studio art classes and K-12 field trips, while the sustainability priority will allow the institution to remain free and open to the public.
String said she thinks the campaign’s focus on Ackland could signal a greater focus on the arts.
“By making Ackland a central part of the University and of the public face of the University, I think Carol Folt has done a great job of identifying this as a focal point for the arts at Carolina — Arts Everywhere.”
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