Thursday, November 8, 2007

Akron Recap

I finally made the short trek down to Akron to check out the new art museum. Although I was eagerly anticipating seeing the building, I left with a sense of indifference about the architecture and visitor accessibility. From the exterior, the structure reminded me of a combination of the Wexner Center in Columbus, where I was a tour guide and graduate intern and the Peter B. Lewis building in Cleveland. But unlike those buildings, I don't think it makes a grand statement, possibly because of it's tonal appearance. There's an over abundance of metal and glass.

That leads me to the interior, which comes across as stark and difficult to navigate. The design is meant to foster community spirit but for me it came off as cold and impersonal. It further frustrated me that there was a lack of signage for locating the actual gallery space. Once inside the galleries, there were signs next to nearly every painting discouraging touching the works and explaining why. As someone, who worked in museums, specifically managing visitor services, I felt they were condescending, considering museums with much better collections don't even have to reinforce this at every turn.

My final grievance with visitor services was their overzealous staff. I had never been followed so aggressively in an art museum, even at the National Gallery of Art, where I've wandered through gallery after gallery without being followed like a shoplifter.

(Image Courtesy of KAR)

On a much lighter note, my visit to Stan Hywet was delightful. Some of my favorite highlights were the scarecrows (see above image). Unlike traditional scarecrows, these were colorful and whimsical often incorporating architectural and decorative arts elements. It was an interesting contrast between the old and the new and very refreshing.

  • What can you create that is a new take on something old?


Frank A. Mills said...

Overzealous staff has always been an issue at AAM. They sort of follow you around like they know the moment their back is turned you are going to touch the art. In the early 80's when my kids were young they would visit the museum and a staff member would follow them everywhere, even into the bathroom.

MELANIE said...

Thanks Frank! I never noticed that in the 90s. But then again, the building was so small then.

I still don't get the security issue. It's not like they are housing the Mona Lisa. Their art is subpar, at best!