Building the Museum: Existing and Future Spaces

Happy Fourth of July!

As the summer gets underway, we have continued planning for the OSU Museum of Art. These days we’re a busy organization, running an active exhibition program in the Gardiner Gallery, receiving gifts of art into the collection, moving into new temporary storage facilities, hiring a new staff member, and of course planning the Postal Plaza renovation!

After what felt like months of paperwork, design of the “OSU Museum of Art Downtown” (one of the names proposed at a recent planning meeting with architect Rand Elliott; what do you think?) is moving forward rapidly. We spent a day last week thinking about every angle, from the pragmatic to the visionary, and by lunchtime were getting excited about the concept of a museum “in process.” As we looked over the Postal Plaza building that afternoon, it was clear that with the help of thoughtful design and reconstruction, the building itself could communicate the concept of process fluently, both inside and out.

The museum design team discusses revealing historic construction details at the Postal Plaza downtown.

What do we mean by “process”? Education, Elliott pointed out, is a process—ideally one that is life-long. Art is about process: sculptor Robert Smithson famously argued for the value of artistic process over static artifacts. The OSU Museum of Art is in process, growing from a collection spread over campus and in the Gardiner Gallery to the expanded campus of the OSUMA Downtown and, eventually, potentially to include a museum on campus as well. As a noun, “process” implies continuous action and a sense of forward motion that doesn’t necessarily have an endpoint.  As the cliché goes, the journey is the destination.

“Process” also denotes storytelling. What does a museum do better? Each artwork in the OSUMA will tell a story of its own; together, they’ll tell more.

“Process” is a verb as well as a noun, with various meanings. One of the simplest is “to go; to walk”: again, we have a sense of motion, but this time it is literal. It is our hope that related exhibitions and programming will encourage visitors to walk from the Gardiner Gallery to the Postal Plaza, or from either venue to a site-specific event or artwork elsewhere in Stillwater. When we conceived of the “expanded campus” of the OSU Museum of Art, we were thinking broadly of an art collection that would be all over our community.

“Process,” the verb, also means “to interpret”—and perhaps this is the most important definition for our project. From the architectural design to the students and visitors in the galleries, interpretation matters. It is the process of bringing meaning to the world we live in, and it is the central purpose of the arts and humanities. It is how we create communities.

I believe that the OSU Museum of Art will strengthen our community by encouraging all of these processes in our visitors—and I hope that you will continue to be a part of our process. To that end, take a look at the incredible line-up of exhibitions coming to the Gardiner Gallery next year! And consider joining us at an opening or artist talk.

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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