The University of Arizona Museum of Art aims to engage diverse audiences through shared experiences with art. With the pandemic restricting in-person visits, the UAMA has virtually hung two exhibitions to recreate the gallery experience, turning to technology to create an immersive experience.
Utilizing the 3D space capture program from Matterport, museum visitors have the opportunity to virtually ‘walk-through’ the different exhibitions and even view the exhibition in virtual reality or VR, which puts you “in the gallery.” Each piece of artwork has been carefully scanned to facilitate the new online medium and paired with the navigation aspect allows for great user experience.
Arizona Arts had the chance to sit down with Olivia Miller, Curator of Exhibitions at UAMA, to talk about the two most recent exhibitions: Picturing 2020: Visions from the Permanent Collection and The Machine Stops (Or Inkjet My Foot!).
The inspiration behind the exhibitions was certainly carefully calculated. Like many other museums, when the UAMA closed, they had to “seriously consider not only the feasibility of moving forward with our planned schedule, but to also consider its relevancy in light of the tumult of the 2020 year,” said Miller. “We felt strongly that we needed to postpone the planned schedule and curate exhibitions that somehow connected or responded to current events. So, each of these exhibitions responds to the uncertainty of this year in different ways.”
Picturing 2020: Visions from the Permanent Collection
This show is a complement to the online exhibition Picturing 2020: A Community Reflects. It involves local Tucson artists submitting their artwork that reflected the year 2020. “We used their artwork as inspiration to reexamine the UAMA collection through this new lens,” said Olivia. “Although these pieces were created prior to 2020, new layers of meaning have been added to them. Instead of writing the traditional curatorial label, the labels instead reflect the voices of the community artists, linking their present work to these artworks created in the past.”
The Machine Stops (Or Inkjet My Foot!)
This is a print portfolio organized by artists and former School of Art faculty Andy and Kathryn Polk, inspired by E.M. Forster’s 1909 short story, The Machine Stops. “Similar to the concept of Visions, we were thinking about how artwork in the permanent collection could be reinterpreted through the lens of 2020,” said Miller. “The dystopic nature of the story and the sense of isolation and indoor confinement seemed especially relevant for this time.”
The next exhibition to be installed and made virtually accessible is the annual Master of Fine Arts Thesis exhibition. “This is always an incredible show where the students get the experience of mounting their artwork in a museum setting and the public can see the outcomes of in-depth arts research,” said Miller. The UAMA is also actively working on their fall exhibition, The Art of Food: Highlights from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation.“Organized thematically, this exhibition not only examines how artists depict food in myriad ways, but also how artwork about food can serve as a catalyst for conversations surrounding food access, food systems, aesthetics and more.”
In addition, the UAMA is currently holding six other virtual and online exhibitions, and the lineup can be found here for more information.