A couple of weekends ago I spent part of the afternoon in the museum as a visitor. We had guests from Northwestern University’s African American Studies department – a group of professors led by our Board Member Dr. Celeste Watkins-Hayes who is a member of the faculty there. We are the only large museum in America where one can explore the history of African American art, and our scholar, Valerie Mercer, Curator and Department Head of the General Motors Center for African American Art, did a fantastic masterpieces tour for the group. It was one of those sunny days, 80 degrees outside, when the summer is slowly turning into the fall and the museum was packed with visitors from different communities. Strong visitation has been the recurring story throughout the last four months during Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume. The exhibition brought new audiences to the DIA, has been loved by nearly everyone (the visitor comment cards are a testimony), and has kept our museum busy with families and young children and many others during the traditionally quiet summer months.
I am so grateful to the DIA team for their outstanding job on the exhibition. Now we are ready for the next season with renewed “force.”This October we will be commemorating El Día de Muertos (the Day of the Dead) with our annual ofrendas exhibition that will bring to our Rivera central galleries ofrenda altars by local artists, displaying artful remembrances of beloved family members who passed away. Being of Spanish origin, and growing up with this tradition, it is one of my favorite DIA programs. If you are planning to attend, please bring your friends and families and in your way to the ofrendas, stop by the Great Hall and admire a newly installed work by the Ghanaian artist, El Anatsui (on loan from the Padma and Raj Vattikuti collection). Our imposing travertine stone Great Hall, decorated with Pompeian style painting, is transformed by the power of Africa, where El Anatsui’s work juxtaposes with the cannon of western art and reminds us of the beauty of assembling simple things; enlightening the visitor with the endless possibilities of an unbound creativity. The play of the different materials shines in the space, mesmerizing the mind and triggering the senses. I have already seen our volunteers, security officers and others looking at the work with a smile on their faces. They connected and told me that they approve.
During October, our Asian Galleries team will be finalizing their extensive and thorough work, so this section of our collections can open to the public the beginning of November – completing the reinstallation inaugurated in 2007! The project has taken three years of very hard and dedicated labor, researching and conserving many of our artworks, planning and designing the display in the galleries, finding relevant stories, and engaging with our communities through focus groups and community consultants from our tri-county area. I took a peek of the installation in progress and it looks amazing with beautiful art, inspiring stories and accessible learning opportunities for all. Please note in your calendars the public opening of these galleries on November 4, free for all tri-county residents and certainly a very enriching educational platform for all the schools we serve.