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Here's why there's a giant red ball rolling around campus


The Ackland Art Museum is celebrating its 60th birthday by unwrapping some presents and unveiling new projects. Celebrations started Wednesday with an interactive exhibit around campus and a private opening of their new exhibit, “Birthday Presents.”

“Birthday Presents” showcases 60 individual pieces of art gifted to the museum by private donors for its 60th anniversary. The pieces come from a variety of genres and mediums, ranging from a beaded headdress from Zulu culture to Lee Krasner’s prints for the 1960s New York Hilton hotel.

“What you have here is a kaleidoscope of the Ackland — an attempt, as I say, to add batteries, recharge the batteries, to strengthen our ability in the future to make connections and provide opportunities of a range of diversity that I think is unmatched in the Triangle,” said Peter Nisbet, the Ackland’s curator. 

Nisbet worked with the rest of the Ackland team for the past year to receive these gifts from different donors across the world. One piece will be flying in from London on Thursday.

Another part of the celebration is a 15-foot-diameter red ball that will be rolling around campus for the next week. The RedBall Project is the longest-running street art project in the country. This marks the first time the RedBall has been in North Carolina, and the first time it has been on a university campus. Today, the RedBall can be found at South Building.

“For me, the piece is very much about seeing your environment in a new way for a day and also that sense of exploration of something you think is familiar,” said Kurt Perschke, the artist behind the RedBall. “We’ve got some sites that will hopefully be surprising, ones you might expect and kind of in between.”

Hurricane Florence slowed the show’s installation, but the museum expects to complete it by its party Thursday.

There are more events to come throughout the year, including some the staff hope will attract students.

“I’d love people to feel like they could come in to get out of the heat, or on a date,” said Lauren Turner, the Ackland's assistant curator.

Another facet of the anniversary celebration is “Art&,” a gallery transformed into a “flex space,” with a seasonal piece commissioned by the Ackland, as well as seating for visitors to relax, study or eat a snack. The current exhibit features a “crazy quilt” by UNC graduate Lauren Frances Adams.

The “quilt” is a wallpaper piece created from digitized pieces from the Ackland’s permanent collection and images from UNC-Chapel Hill's Special Collections. It reflects recent changes in how we view history, and the way that Adams thinks we should remember North Carolina history.

“A ‘crazy quilt’ is sort of similar to a museum too,” Turner said. “You are sourcing from these different things that have been given, purchased, found, or transferred, and you’re bringing them together to tell a narrative. And in this case, the narrative that Lauren’s telling has a lot to do with female contributions to North Carolina, to North Carolina's history and how that factors into her own upbringing.”

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The “Birthday Presents” exhibit will run through Jan. 6, 2019, the RedBall project will only be seen until Sept. 26, and the “crazy quilt” will be here indefinitely.