Mead Reimagined:
A Fresh Take on Amherst College’s Art Museum

Mead Reimagined:
A Fresh Take on Amherst College’s Art Museum

Mead Art Museum at Amherst College

Mary Weatherford, Odette/Odile, 1990. Oil on canvas, 60 x 60 inches. Gift of Steven M. Jacobson (Class of 1953), 2003. Courtesy of the artist.
September 9, 2016
Mead Reimagined: A Fresh Take on Amherst College’s Art Museum

Opening: Thursday, September 8, 5:30–7:30pm

Mead Art Museum
Amherst College
41 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst, MA 00112

On September 8 the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College unveils its renovated main gallery and opens new exhibitions and installations offering a fresh perspective on the college’s art collection. Central to the grand reopening are architectural and design changes that encourage deep and immediate visitor engagement with several centuries of world art in a range of media.

“This reinstallation is a pivotal opportunity to rethink the collection,” says David E. Little, Mead director and chief curator. “It allows us to engage students, professors and the public in new ways with art across time and the globe.”

Accumulations in the renovated main gallery
The Mead’s main exhibition area, Fairchild Gallery, has been opened up to reveal a bright, expansive and contemporary space. Here, the exhibition Accumulations: 5,000 Years of Objects, Fictions, and Conversations showcases a selection of artworks and cultural objects from the Mead’s wide-ranging collection. It underscores how museum collections are built, in part, by chance, creating an accumulation of diverse art spanning centuries, thanks largely to the individual collecting passions and generosity of supporters.

“Works are displayed in a space that situates visitors as active 21st century viewers and interpreters,” Little says. “In the spirit of the liberal arts, we want to create a museum that sparks the imagination and inspires debate.”

African, American, European and Russian collections on view
The remaining galleries feature curatorial reinterpretations of the Mead’s well-regarded holdings of African, American, European and Russian art.

Art from Africa: A Selection of Works Given by Amherst Collectors and Scholars presents an array of African art, including many ritual objects used in divination rites in Central and West Africa. The majority of the works on view were gifts of two brothers who collected African art: Barry Maurer, Class of 1959, and Evan Maurer, Class of 1966.

American art, the foundation of Amherst’s collection, is showcased in The American Collection: Two Centuries of Art at Amherst College. Amherst’s American art collection predates the Mead, says Vanja Malloy, curator of American art. “George Dupont Pratt and Herbert Lee Pratt, two Amherst alumni who were brothers, donated hundreds of significant American artworks to the College in the 1930s and ’40s,” Malloy says. “The Mead opened to house those works, and hundreds more, in 1949.”

The founding of museums is also a theme of Precious: Finding the Wondrous in the Mead’s European Art Collection, organized by Nicola Courtright, William McCall Vickery 1957 Professor of the History of Art. The exhibition looks at how European princes, scholars and merchants in past centuries gathered objects that fascinated them. From these private collections, museums as we know them today emerged.

Russian art is the focus of From Russia With Love: Selections from the Thomas P. Whitney, Class of 1937, Collection of Russian Art. Whitney’s position in the foreign service brought him to Russia during World War II. “His experience of life in the Soviet Union and his encounters with Russia’s cultural elites planted the seed of his collection,” says Bettina Jungen, Thomas P. Whitney, Class of 1937, Curator of Russian Art. Late in the 20th century Whitney gave much of his vast collection of art, books and manuscripts to Amherst College.

Contemporary artist projects
The Mead also launches two contemporary artist projects this fall.

The museum’s historic Rotherwas Room meets contemporary art in Rotherwas Project 1: Amanda Valdez, Ladies’ Night. The works of New York-based artist Amanda Valdez bring a new palette and iconography to the historic wood-paneled room. The Rotherwas Project is slated to be a biannual series.

Hall Walls: Rico Gatson inaugurates an annual project of site-specific installations that activate a previously uncurated space in the museum’s hallway. “We want students to think about art in every nook and cranny of the museum,” says Little. Working throughout the fall, Rico Gaston will install the mural in collaboration with Amherst students.
Free and open to the public

For more information, visit or call T 413/542 2335.

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Mead Art Museum at Amherst College
September 9, 2016

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