Making Room: Familiar Art, New Stories

On View Now
Jun 3, 2023
- Apr 6, 2024
1st Floor: Louise D. and Herbert S. Falk, Sr. Gallery and Sculpture Courtyard; and 2nd Floor: The Gregory D. Ivy Gallery, Weatherspoon Guild Gallery, and Gallery 6

María Berrío, Aminata Linnaea, 2013. Mixed media on canvas, 80 x 96 in. Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNC Greensboro. Purchase with funds from the Weatherspoon Art Museum Acquisition Endowment for the Dillard Collection; 2017.16. © María Berrío

How might the Weatherspoon better engage with museum participants to share fuller and more inclusive stories of American art? This question sparked an eighteen-month-long curatorial and programming project starting in January 2022. We’ve been listening to people as they share what matters to them in the museum, and we’ve created this installation of the museum’s art collection based on what we learned.

Making Room: Familiar Art, New Stories presents 43 artworks (see cover for a few selections) from the Weatherspoon’s collection of more than 6,500. Each was chosen in response to what more than 4,000 community members told us they care about. These visitor responses—which ranged from poems to doodles to personal statements—were gathered in multiple ways. Within the Inquiry Hubs, for example, the visitor engagement team coordinated pop-up gallery performances and facilitated collection-based inquiry and play. One thing we heard repeatedly: caring requires doing. As one museum visitor wrote, “I show my family I am there for them through actions.” We chose to organize this installation around the broad theme of caring—of being there—using four spaces dedicated to what we heard people care about: FAMILY, COMMUNITY, PLACE, and MEMORY.

Staff also focused on how the museum’s own learning and growth could be made visible in this installation. We listened to the art department professors who said the collection lacked examples of social practice art, then acquired photographs of community performances by artists Dread Scott and Lorraine O’Grady. You’ll find them in the COMMUNITY and PLACE rooms, respectively. We reviewed the physical needs of objects in our collection and sent an iconic light-based sculpture by artist Tom Lloyd for specialized electronic repairs. It now shines a light on issues of social justice in the MEMORY room. We discovered, in dialogue with a contemporary artist, how stories about people who impacted the Weatherspoon itself might lead to the creation of new artwork. You can see Angela Fraleigh’s painting inspired by famous art collectors Etta and Claribel Cone in the FAMILY room.

Another word that we encountered repeatedly while reading visitor responses was “connect.” We hope that you find Making Room to be a place to connect with yourself, with works of art both new and familiar, and with your family and community. This installation is at once the culmination of a project and a waystation on an ongoing journey of learning by doing. Thank you for participating! We invite you to continue to do so. New stories will emerge, and new choices will be made.