So where is the Nelson Gallery? Well as of this week, the Nelson Gallery, which used to be located in the first floor the Art Building, has found a cozy new home in the University Club located across from Putah Creek, a little farther down Old Davis Road from the Wyatt Pavilion.
But don’t get too comfortable with this new location, as it’s only a stepping stone for a much grander design. The Nelson Gallery will find its permanent home in a brand new museum, which will be completed in a few years.
“The Nelson was founded in 1976, so it has been in the same space for years which is very small,” said staff director Renny Pritikin. “The comparable space used on campuses at UCLA and Berkeley have very large museums that are free standing. It was a shame that Davis’ was so small.”
This move is actually poised more as a publicity stunt than anything else.
“This new space is an interim to build momentum and public attention, because so many people don’t even know it exists to help us fundraise for the new building,” Pritikin said.
Pritikin has been working towards this goal since he began working at the Nelson six years ago, with little success.
“I’ve looked at a couple of options and none of those worked out. About a year ago, [we were] offered the space and we decided to take it,” Pritikin said. “We received the money to remodel it and it’s a lot more space and nicer, easier to park and find. It’s been great.”
Despite the fact that this will be a short-lived experience, a lot of preparation and hard work had to go into the move.
Katrina Wong, Nelson Gallery assistant director, said, “I thought it would be easier. There’s just so much in it, and it’s such a short amount of time. I should’ve suspected something would slow us up.”
Pritikin understood exactly what had to occur in order for the move to go smoothly. He explained that there are two things that must be considered in a job this big.
The first is that the team had to work very closely with the contractors and architects in order to control the temperature and humidity of the space, which previously was simply a conference room. They had to revamp the lighting, and open up the ceiling for a more spacious and roomy feel.
The second issue entailed moving and storing the 5,000-piece collection the Nelson owns, in a controlled environment.
“It’s extremely time consuming and labor intensive to move all these pieces – they can’t get wet or rained on. It demands a lot of planning and it has taken us about a year,” Pritikin said.
The Nelson team is more than confident that all this hard work will pay off in the long run.
“I think the idea of being in our own space is really exciting,” said collection manager Kyle Monhollen. “We are trying to attract the greater Sacramento area, who will hopefully visit more often, rather than just residents of Davis.”
This idea of attracting a wider audience, and generating greater interest in the museum itself is the entire point of the move.
“We’re hoping the new building will be in the next three to five years,” Pritikin said. “There’s a lot of people who have shown interest already, just from the news.”
The most important aspect of the move will be the advantage the new space will bring for future locations. But beyond stirring up publicity, the new gallery will also allow the museum to grow.
“Its really good to raise the profile of the collection both on and off campus in the community,” Monhollen said. “We have some considerably bigger collections now that we are our own space and entity. It’s taking the next step and shows that we have a wonderful collection to become a proper museum.”
To show off some of their new collections, the Nelson Gallery, in its new location, will be hosting a benefit party on Friday. A $75 entry fee per attendee will support the expansion of the Nelson. There will also be an open house from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The open house will feature 21 mini guest lecturers from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Artists and professors from Davis and Sacramento will each give a five-minute lecture discussing his or her favorite piece within the collection.
BRITTANY PEARLMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.