Collinson exhibits the art of engagement
As Howard Collinson shows visitors around the UI Museum of Art, the sense of care he feels is apparent. He stops to pick up a small bit of litter from the carpet of a gallery. He apologizes for the mess in the former, and soon-to-be-renovated alumni center. He greets early morning visitors. Collinsons duties as the new director of the Museum of Art began less than a month earlier, but its clear that he already cares about this place and the face it puts forth, and is enthusiastically determined to make it shine.
And hes determined that others should care as well. Collinson says that while some new directors might be intent on curating a particular exhibition, his interest is different.
"My agenda is to make this a more-visited place," Collinson says. "This museum, the collections, the University will help to tell me what to do. Im interested in changing how thats accomplished."
Collinson came to the University from the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, where he served as the Mona Campbell Curator in the department of Western art and culture.
"The museum had more of an anthropological focus," Collinson says. "But anthropology museums tend to be further ahead than art museums in understanding how to attract visitorstheyre a tool for a purpose."
Collinson credits the UI museums staff with lining up an exciting group of upcoming exhibits. He hopes to increase attendance at these exhibits and to make their presentations more accessible.
"Getting visitors to think about art is the goal," he says. "Youve got to stop and put yourself in the head of our average visitortheyre very intelligent, but may not know about art.
"Think about some of the best professors youve had. They may be interested in the most obscure piece of knowledge, and they make it fascinating because they share their passion. Thats what we need to do with the art here. Were not going to simplify the content, but well take complex notions about art and make them lucid and exciting."
Collinson, who is originally from Kansas, was drawn to Iowa because of its reputation of regard for the arts.
"Here the arts arent ghettoized in some school of fine arts theyre right up there with history and mathematics," Collinson says. "The prominence of the arts is part of Iowas self-image.
"Its even goal number three in the Universitys strategic planto foster distinguished research, scholarship, and artistic creation. It places the creative process within, not apart from, other intellectual endeavors."
Collinson hopes to engage those involved in other sorts of intellectual endeavors in projects at the museum. A copy of the 2000-2001 semester assignments sat on his desk, and research ideas that sparked his curiosity were circled.
"Im looking forward to working with faculty and staff from all over the University, and from the most unexpected quarters, including medicine, business, and engineering," Collinson says.
"Art is one of the ways we organize our perceptions of reality, of what exists within and outside ourselves," he says. "Its a way to break the world into digestible chunks. History, the sciences, and other disciplines do the same thing."
by Linzee Kull McCray