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Bell gallery to remain closed for remainder of 2020

Gallery staff discuss plans for fall semester, build online presence, enhance community engagement

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing museums and art galleries worldwide to shutter, leaving the University's David Winton Bell Gallery closed until January 2021, Gallery Director Jo-Ann Conklin announced Aug. 24.

The David Winton Bell Gallery, situated on the first floor of List Art Building, is a venue designed for students, faculty and guest artists to display their contemporary artworks.

The gallery initially closed March 12 — a decision “made in conjunction with senior administration,” Conklin said.

But extending the gallery’s closure was “more complicated,” she added.

“We were waiting to hear from the administration before we made any final decisions, but by August it wasn’t looking too promising,” said Nicole Wholean, University curator and registrar of the Bell and Cohen Galleries.

The staff of the Bell Gallery is currently working on a number of online, remote community-building strategies so that the experience of the gallery is not completely lost for the fall semester.

Ongoing projects include previews of exhibitions that were meant to go up in the fall semester and have been postponed until further notice, discussions on the state of museums in the context of current social movements including the Black Lives Matter Movement and even training programs for students interested in museum and installation practices, Conklin said.

“Everyone has been working on these projects,” Kate Kraczon, curator of the Bell, wrote in an email to The Herald. “We’ve had to ask (ourselves) how to provide a comparable experience for the students … with the gallery as a whole,” Wholean added in reference to the gallery’s new online programs and exhibits. The gallery will offer a workshop on print and drawing preservation practices. This workshop is open to all, but could be most useful for art students and students who want to collect art, she explained. Wholean also mentioned an upcoming “label-writing project” for the Sayles Hall portraits “so that other people’s voices can be heard in reference to the University’s history.”

Currently the gallery is preparing for the online debut of the “Raymond Hood and the American Skyscraper” exhibit on Sept. 11. The gallery was initially planning to put the exhibition up in March when it was forced to close.“We only regret that it wasn’t ever able to be fully realized as an exhibition,” Wholean said.

In the interim before the fall workshops and community activities begin, the staff of the gallery has also been very focused on creating an archive of the gallery’s exhibition history in preparation for its impending 50th anniversary in fall 2021. “We’ve been doing a lot of collection care, a conservation survey and (digitization) of images … working pretty much full time between home and the List Art Building storage,” Conklin said. “I have no idea what we’ll do, it’s so far off in the future. But I certainly hope that by a year from now we’ll be able to have some sort of in-person celebration,” she added.

“Personally, I’m sorry that the gallery isn’t available for those who are on campus,” Wholean said. “It can be a wonderful place for diversion and reflection, as well as just something to do,” Conklin added. “We hope to provide at least some of that with our work this summer and fall.”


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