Aspen Art Museum mixes it up
October 21, 2010
ASPEN – Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, director of the Aspen Art Museum, is a believer in shaking things up. “I’m big on constantly evolving and re-evaluating. I’m not big on the status quo,” Zuckerman Jacobson said, a characteristic made evident in the ongoing push to build a museum in a new location, and the decision early in her tenure to cancel the Roaring Fork Kids exhibition.
The museum’s new show provides the organization a variety of ways to get shaken out of their routines. 970.org, which opens with a reception at 6 p.m. Thursday, features a series of short-term exhibitions coordinated by valley arts organizations that are not the Aspen Art Museum: Red Brick Center for the Arts, Carbondale Clay Center, Colorado Mountain College Ceramics Studio, Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities, Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts, SAW – Studio for Arts and Works, and the Aspen Chapel Gallery. The project concludes with an exhibition of work by Aspen Art Museum founders and staff members.
The series, which is grouped into six, five-day exhibitions beginning with the current show by the Red Brick Center for the Arts, continues one tradition for the Art Museum – an autumn show that spotlights local talent. But 970.org differs in some notable, even drastic ways from past shows like the Roaring Fork Open, a nonjuried exhibition featuring one work apiece by scores of artists, and ARAC@AAM, comprising work made at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center.
Most striking, especially for the museum staff, is the prospect of six shows over a six-week period, with condensed amounts of time to plan the installations. “Museums don’t usually do that. We plan 12-to-18 months out,” Zuckerman Jacobson said. When I first suggested this, my staff was groaning: ‘Are you serious, an opening every week and changing the show every week?'”
970.org also requires loosening the reins considerably over control of what is being displayed in the museum’s galleries. While the various organizations submitted checklists of the art being created, proposed layouts and even some images of the work, the art is essentially in the hands of the outside organizations. The museum staff, in particular Nicole Kinsler, the curatorial associate, kept an eye on each project to make sure they were doable – a necessity in light of the proposal by SAW to actually alter the way visitors enter the gallery.
“I’m not in any way controlling this,” Zuckerman Jacobson said. “I’m looking at each show as it manifests with fresh eyes. I have no curatorial control. I’ve glanced at the checklists.”
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Zuckerman Jacobson expects 970.org to highlight the Aspen Art Museum as a community resource – at a time that coincides with a vocal opposition to the already approved plan to build a new museum in the downtown spot where the Weinerstube restaurant is now located. The arts groups in 970.org are getting not only the museum’s space, but its marketing and installation expertise as well.
“We’re offering our resources for the benefit of others,” she said. “We’re inviting the other organizations into our facility, but also into our organization. It highlights the systems of support that exist for visual arts in the valley. Art-making is a very personal, intimate practice, but it needs structures and systems of support for dissemination and economics.”
While 970.org gives the Aspen Art Museum cause to look again at its own systems, Zuckerman Jacobson noted the participating organizations will get a chance to re-examine their own ways of making and showing work. The Red Brick took full advantage of the opportunity. Their show, titled The Concealed Revealed, is a set of installations about social phenomena in the valley that are customarily overlooked. And while the Red Brick’s resident artists pursued a common theme, they also partnered up with uncommon collaborators, forming teams with the nonprofit organizations that call the Red Brick building home.
“The Aspen Chapel, the Red Brick – they have their routines. This is about shaking up their routines and looking at a new way of working,” Zuckerman Jacobson said. “That’s what creativity is all about – being responsive to different circumstances and surroundings.”