I’ve come to see KAM’s overarching role as one of care—welcome for all visitors, sanctuary for community and campus, a place to energize the soul, and to rest the mind, with a collection to be shared and preserved for everyone.
This culture of care stands on three pillars.
Inclusion holds us responsible for ensuring belonging at KAM. Our role as a museum is to create conditions for co-creating knowledge, increasingly by centering the voices of those historically on the margins. In Black on Black on Black on Black, our four stellar Black faculty in Art + Design co-curate an installation of their own new work in a collective re-imagining of Black futures. Their project upends the long tradition of the faculty show—almost a century old—reframing it as a venue for collaborative research and casting the galleries both as vessels to display art and active spaces for community convenings and performances.
A broader range of voices in the collection is another critical component of inclusion—including a diverse range of ceramics and a transformative sculpture by Roberto Lugo anchoring the re-envisioned Decorative Arts gallery and in upcoming installations of our modern and contemporary holdings.
As we start to dig into sustainability, this year holds key behind-the-scenes work. We’re teaming with Illinois’s SEDAC (Smart Energy Design Assistance Center) to create a path for KAM over time to bring our energy use to net zero. I’m working with a student to quantify the carbon footprint of a single exhibition, so we understand how our practices can change over time. And we’re doing concrete things too: replacing a roof, improving the vapor barrier, and installing bird-friendly film on the Kinkead Pavilion to be kinder to migratory birds.
Accessibility is the third pillar. You’ll see some thrilling changes this fall, including the first accessible front door on our main entrance since 1961. Hospitality to all remains a top priority, and we’re connecting—both on and off campus—with people who have disabilities, creating new connections as we do so. Liza Sylvestre has led the way, pairing students from Applied Health Sciences and Art + Design with community members at PACE Center for Independent Living. Together they’re co-creating sign-sculptures—launching later in the year with the help of our friends at Urbana Arts & Culture Program—that interpret the particular experiences of disability at locations on campus and in Urbana.
And so much more! A groundbreaking exhibition on Dutch political prints from the 1600s anchors the fall, telling the prehistory of political cartoons and modern meme culture. The spring will bring a revealing exhibition of the little-known ink paintings by Shozo Sato, founder of Japan House, alongside an exhibition on pattern in modern and contemporary art, featuring stunning—and highly diverse—new acquisitions from recent years.
Let me know what you think,
Jon L. Seydl, Director