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Museum Collaborations Enhance Exhibits

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
October 14, 2009

"Bethlehem III" 1997, watercolor and aquatint, Sidney Hurwitz

The interdisciplinary approach to learning adopted at UNH has extended to the Museum of Art, with its recent foray into collaboration with other departments on campus. The partnering, interim director Wes LaFountain says, is a great way to put the stories the museum tells into another context.

LaFountain came to UNH by way of the education department at the Portland Museum of Art, where he often worked with school teachers who wanted to use other disciplines in their instruction.

“I hadn’t seen it at a university level but here, where the audience is the 14,000 students, faculty and staff, I realized it makes good sense,” LaFountain says. “We’re looking to build our audience and collaborating is a real and effective way to do that.”

The first collaboration came with the current exhibit “Sidney Hurwitz: Five Decades.”

Among his other talents, Hurwitz makes intricately rendered etchings of industrial architecture.

On Wednesday, Oct.  21, as part of the ArtBreak series at the museum, a case study of architectural rehabilitation will be presented series by Doris Burke of Public Service of New Hampshire. Earlier in the month, a panel discussion on industrial development took place at the museum. Panelists included Doug Bencks, university architect and director of campus planning, and Erin Bell, assistant professor, department of civil engineering. More than 90 people attended.

“That showed us people are interested and that interdisciplinary partnering works,” LaFountain says. “We’d like to work with as many departments and establish as many connections as possible.”

“Alice Spencer: Fabricating Time,” the upcoming exhibit of paintings inspired by textiles (Oct. 30-Dec.14), will present collaboration opportunities with several departments such as anthropology, international studies and even the culinary arts program, LaFountain says.

Spencer’s work has been influenced by her travels throughout South American and Asia, where she collected assorted textile samples. LaFountain says this should prompt interesting discussions.

“When confronted with an art object, I’m not sure what an anthropology professor or someone in international studies would say, and that’s the exciting part,” he says. "We can build off each other's context and provide a greater depth of understanding."

Equally exciting are the possibilities that will arise with a planned exhibit titled “War and Remembrance” going up in January.

“Through all of this, we’re trying to raise awareness--there are different contexts but it’s one world.” LaFountain says.

The Oct. 21 event takes place at noon in the Paul Creative Arts Center.

For more information on the Museum of Art visit http://www.unh.edu/moa/index.html.

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