As we navigated our way through a very challenging spring, including an extended emergency closure to protect public health and a long-overdue reckoning with state-sanctioned violence against Black citizens, I would regularly get questions about what we at Krannert Art Museum were able to do in the interim. The answer always started with research.
One of the things I love most about being at a university museum is never having to make an excuse for research. At a university like the U of I, it’s baked into the mission, and it’s a fundamental requirement of our work.
And, yet, lots of folks don’t always appreciate what research means for an art museum. For this reason, we’re dedicating space in our magazine and online to our research projects. While we profoundly missed our teaching in the galleries and engaging the public in person, our research has sustained us.
We’re really proud to share this work with you. Our curators, highly regarded worldwide for their research, are forging cutting-edge projects on Dutch political prints from the 1600s— the point of origin for today’s political cartoons—and the drawings of Louise Fishman, one of the greatest, if deeply under-recognized, abstract artists of the last half century.
KAM is also marshaling the might of the U of I System to interrogate our significant ancient Andean collection. A collaboration with interdisciplinary scholars not only here in Urbana-Champaign, but also from the Andean Archaeology program at University of Illinois at Chicago. This project is transforming our understanding of the collection, particularly thanks to two graduate students whose research is on the pulse of the newest ideas in the field.
The museum also serves as a lab for new ideas in museum education and public engagement. In a project stemming from her master’s thesis in Art Education here at Illinois, Kamila Glowacki developed a unique program that brings performers to KAM from the independent music scene here in town, creating original music in response to the collection.
And there is so much more to share with you, including a full slate of exhibitions. Chief among them, in our newly renovated East Gallery, with stellar exhibition design by Toronto architect Julia Di Castri, a long-overdue retrospective of the experimental photographer, legendary professor, and long-time Urbana resident Bea Nettles. Other research-driven projects squarely address our contemporary moment, Katie Koca Polite has been researching social justice activism by printmakers in the 1930s, with profound implications for today. And, our postdoctoral fellow Blair Ebony Smith is presenting a year-long, evolving, multimedia installation that imagines worlds for and with Black girls, centering their creativity, design, and lived experience by reflecting on Black interiority and the homemade.
We’re so glad to welcome you back.
Let me know what you think,
Jon L. Seydl, Director