New art museum to open on campus this fall

NICKI PADAR / AGGIE
NICKI PADAR / AGGIE

The Manetti Shrem Art Museum set to engage with students

The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art is set to open on campus this fall. A more specific opening date will be announced in February, and information about opening exhibits will be released later this year.

The opening of the Manetti Shrem coincides with the opening of two other architecturally innovative museums in Northern California: the new building at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and the expansion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. With funding from various donors, including Jan Shrem, Maria Manetti Shrem and Robert and Margrit Mondavi, and a capital budget of $30 million, the season is set to be an exciting time for Northern California’s art scene.

“The museum has been in the university’s long-term planning since the mid-1990s,” said Amanda Price, the public relations representative for the museum. “It can be said that the museum is really 60 years in the making, rooted in UC Davis’ history and legacy dating back to the 1950s when the Department of Art was founded.”

Student Engagement Coordinator Carmel Dor added that the museum would celebrate the legacy of the UC Davis art department.

“In the 1960s to ‘70s, it was one of the top art schools in the nation, second only to Yale for a period of time,” Dor said. “We had a really great faculty here, who were not only world-renowned artists, but also amazing educators. They championed experimental education, and collective learning. When they taught their classes, it wasn’t teachers and students, it was learning together and creating art pieces together.”

According to Price, these teachers pioneered an interdisciplinary approach to art that spread to their pupils and produced scores of influential figures. This continues in the art department today, where various professors have integrated the development of the Manetti Shrem into their classes.

My Department of Design colleagues Mark Kessler, Tim McNeil and Brett Snyder and I have involved our classes in different aspects of imagining and implementing possibilities for the Manetti Shrem,” said James Housefield, a UC Davis design professor and curator of special projects at the Manetti Shrem.

Housefield’s role will be to encourage new cross-campus projects and to inspire engagement with the museum from all areas of campus. So far, each department and professor has engaged differently with the evolution of the Manetti Shrem and the creative opportunities it presents.

“My [class], Design 40C: Design Aesthetics and Experience, will engage with the museum on various levels in spring quarter, from an anticipated construction site tour of the unfinished space to projects envisioning forms of audience engagement at the new Manetti Shrem or similar museums,” Housefield said. “I’m enthusiastically designing my fall course on modern art to emphasize exhibition spaces from the time of the Impressionists and our newly-opening museum.”

This engagement with the museum will not only occur in classes, but in the work produced by UC Davis students and faculty. Dor explained that since its inception, the art program has been collecting student and faculty work. The work collected from past students will form the basis of many of the museum’s future exhibits. The museum will also exhibit many renaissance paintings and ancient Chinese sculptures, which are a part of the Fine Arts Collection at UC Davis.

Dor also leads the Manetti Shrem Student Coalition, which was created to allow students to showcase their own artwork. The coalition provides students an opportunity to give their input on what they want the Manetti Shrem to look like, and their feedback will then be incorporated into the museum.

“Students are at the focus of all that happens at the museum,” Price said. “The museum’s architectural design supports places for students to informally gather, and there are dedicated locations in the museum for active participation: the collections classroom and a community education room, which will be open to classes from across campus.”

Dor further explained that the coalition is a space to discuss what students want from the museum, and that anyone is welcome to attend their monthly meetings.

“We had such a spread of disciplines [at the last meeting]; we had someone from the agriculture program, we had a graduate student, a postdoctoral student of computer science and we had undergraduates from all over the place,” Dor said. “Those different voices come and share what they think would make a really good student space and where they can be part of a creative community without having to fit into a certain fold.”

Those who are interested in getting involved with the development of the museum can attend monthly student coalition meetings on Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m. in Wellman 234 on Feb. 17 and March 9, and in Wellman 230 on April 13 and May 18.

For more information on the museum, visit the Manetti Shrem website, http://shremmuseum.ucdavis.edu. Further questions can be directed to Carmel Dor, who can be reached at cdor@ucdavis.edu.

WRITTEN BY: Kate Snowdon – arts@theaggie.org