Students invited to think big at art museum open forum

Three open forums were held to gather ideas and opinions from students and community and faculty members for the building of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, which is estimated to open in 2016.

This Thursday, an open forum for students was held in Nelson Hall, which is the current art gallery on campus. The estimated cost of the building is $30 million, which does not include additional funds required for the development of the museum and the outdoor spaces. The museum’s outdoor spaces will be nearly double the size of the physical building.

Unlike UC Los Angeles and UC Berkeley, which have their art museums off campus, the new museum of UC Davis will be on campus, across the Mondavi Center.

“We really want this museum to function as a community center and that’s why we are doing this open forums — to get people involved early. The best way to get people excited to go to the events is to let them participate in the process,” said Rachel Teagle, the director of Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art.

According to Rachel Teagle, students will not be charged to go to the museum. The maintenance fee will be collected from funds.

During the open forum, students of various majors shared their own opinions. Hands-on programs were the most frequent suggestions. Students explained that they want more space to experience art rather than watching pieces of works. Art workshops and graduate-lead tours were also suggested.

“I’m so excited to know that two-thirds of the new museum will be outdoors and we could do a lot of untraditional things like combining the idea in science and technology,” said Dylan Laufenberg, a first-year computer science major.

As for the architectural features of the art museum, students offered new and creative ideas. Students suggested the building of a dome for display and the exterior of the building be used for movie nights.

“The museum could be a tree house. We are talking about sustainability in UC Davis. The tree house would be very complicated but I think it could be done, and it would be totally new and never been done before,” said Whitney Dans, a first-year undeclared major. Dans said she is excited to witness and get involved in the construction process.

The opinions from community members focused more on the art collections rather than the programs.

“I really want the museum to focus on collections. I’m a little bit disappointed in the size of the gallery and the storage space. The upsizing storage makes it difficult to both store and display the collections,” said Randall Goodwin, an architect, who has been living in Davis for 15 years. “The Nelson Art Museum was constrained but they had done a good job.”

The ground of the new art museum will be 75,000 square feet, and the building will be approximately 25,000 square feet. The rest of the 50,000 square feet will be left for outdoor space.

Based on the draft plan, the museum building reserves 44 percent of areas for public gallery work, and the remaining 56 percent of areas are for public non-gallery (i.e. educational area) and non-public areas (i.e. office rooms.)

“I think the program is great and I think people will come,” said Stephen Giannetti, local artist and UC Davis alumnus. “Instead of taking the museum out for public or community exhilarated events, I would like to see this space function more as an art museum.”

According to Teagle, the museum primarily aims to serve University faculty and students and then grow with time to cater to members of the community.

“We are a university art museum. It is my hope that as our staff grows, and certainly through our events programs, we will also serve our community,” she said.

According to Teagle, 19 contractor-architecture teams were competing to sign on to the project and the number had been reduced to seven. Three out of seven will go through a final selection process, which Teagle described as a competition, in November and the final plan will be reached in February.

“The choice of landscape is important because we are able to think about the big ideas like bike-in movies, [and about] being comfortable to hang out outside,” Teagle said.

Teagle said that she hopes the museum will be seen as a university landmark to cars driving along the freeway, as the museum will be located next to it, near the main entrance of the University.  She estimated that they will break ground for the museum in 2014. The exact time it will take to complete the project will depend on the team they select, she said.

MENGSHI SHAO can be reached at