Early in last year’s lockdown, I had the privilege of hearing Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation speak about museums and the pandemic. In no uncertain terms, he divided time for art museums into two
eras, B.C. and A.C., before and after COVID.
No museum can go back to a previous normal—and, given the escalating inequities of the first two decades of the twenty-first century, why would we want to go back? So, as KAM enters its sixtieth year, we are fundamentally in a new place.
In this new environment, I feel blessed for the resilience, flexibility, and creativity of the KAM team. Some pandemic-driven changes have strengthened us. Our digital game has vastly improved, giving global audiences unprecedented access to our programs and collections (more than 11,000 objects, now 99% online!). It opened up difficult, productive conversations about systemic racism and the role museums have played in sustaining inequitable structures.
We are now more keenly aware of the work we must do to meet our fundamental obligation to serve all communities in the region, and we have established real plans of action. These are long-term shifts, not quick fixes—a marathon, not a sprint.
KAM has long been committed to including a broader range of voices historically left out of the museum’s narrative. Several projects this year deepen this work, including an imaginative approach to Pueblo pottery, sparked by a tremendous acquisition of 98 ceramics from the collection of George Ogura. Two important solo exhibitions of Illinois alumni—Hal Fischer and Louise Fishman—address queer identities and networks in remarkably different ways.
No aspects of museum work have been in more flux this past year than museum education and community engagement, which our team reflects on in this issue. Our first outdoor iteration of Art Remastered will feature an expansive original composition by Andrew Rodriguez, responding to the sites of Allerton Park and KAM, with performances at both venues. We are also developing pioneering work on disability and the arts, including Crip*, an exhibition around disability and non-normative identities in contemporary art, along with exciting new community and campus partnerships.
Finally, we have two breathtaking new acquisitions by Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer making their debut this spring in Sacred/Supernatural, which focuses on otherworldly themes in historical European prints.
What we have in store for you this year is truly incredible, and we hope you’ll be ready to venture back and see this compelling work in person.
Let me know what you think,
Jon L. Seydl, Director