Until Jan. 5, 2020, the Reflective Objects: Collectors and Their Collections exhibit will be held in the Kennedy Museum of Art.
The exhibit has been held since Aug. 30 and showcases the collections of the people of Athens. These collections range from small collections of cards and headscarves to larger collections of hand-made dresses and guitars.
“We wanted to show, as much as possible, the variety of things that people collect,” Jeff Carr, collections and exhibitions manager at the Kennedy Museum of Art, said. “There really was no other concept for the exhibition. It’s pretty amazing to realize just what people will collect… and to bring it all together in one place is kind of an eye-popping experience.”
This year’s exhibit was co-curated by Stacey Lavender, who works in the Special Collections department at Alden Library, and Jessica Cyders, director of the Southeast Ohio History Center.
A call for submissions was sent out to the public a few months ago, requesting that locals submit their ‘collections’ for the exhibit. Cyders and Lavender were the two people that narrowed down the submissions and chose what went into the exhibition. Carr was the organizer of the exhibit.
“It’s really fun and challenging to see what gets submitted for this kind of show,” Carr said. “The challenge is to come up with ways of displaying the collection that makes it fun and at the same time shows off the collection to its best ability.”
Lisa Quinn, the educational programs coordinator at the Kennedy Museum of Art, elaborated on the struggle of fitting the various collections into the East Galleries of the Kennedy Museum of Art.
“I think that they had to do a lot of thinking about how big certain collections were,” Quinn said. “They were trying to get a balance of some large objects and some smaller objects.”
The curators worked to have a range in not only types of objects, but also size.
“A lot of the thought process had to be… how it will fit into the space and how does it complement another collection that was chosen without being too similar,” Quinn said. “A lot of different things go into the process.”
While the exhibit was put together, the curators tried to make the goal of the exhibit about celebrating collecting as clear as possible. Sue Zanos, an Athens resident, believes that the exhibit doesn’t only do that, but also shows how unique everyone is.
“People are quirky, and how cool is that?” Zanos said. “I mean, how totally cool? [The exhibit showcases] fun, color and awareness that people are quirky. It has that celebration of diversity, and that is so needed. We need gobs of that.”
A crowd-favorite of the exhibit are the sticks, which are arranged in a small glass display box, and were collected by a 3-year-old. The sticks are accompanied by an interview with the boy in which he explains that he needs the sticks to ring the bell on his tugboat.
“The sticks… speak to the idea of how collecting begins,” Quinn said. “Collecting starts with kind of a utilitarian purpose. I need this to do something else, and I find that I like it, so I keep doing it. It really gets to the heart of why people are collecting. These are all things that we have kind of innately. We collect things that we like and that helps us do things that we want.”
Some of the collections are even displayed in the cases or furniture that the collectors display them in at home, allowing viewers to connect with the pieces on that level rather than seeing the collections on an artificial display. One collection of photography books is displayed on shelves from the collector’s home, with a brick placed in the middle to level it.
“It just speaks to how we all kind of have this desire to collect things and to make them feel like they are ours,” Quinn said. “That’s what the curators identified in their statement in the hallway before you go in.”
Reflective Objects: Collectors and Their Collections is the third iteration of this exhibition organized by the Kennedy Museum of Art. In 2009, artist Mark Dion was welcomed to the museum for Collections Collected: The University Collects and Athens Collects Miniatures. Another exhibit was displayed about 15 years ago, and it was large enough to include a collection of motorcycles.
“Doing this a number of times, we’ve gotten an idea making it, kind of giving parameters as to what’s included,” Quinn said. “It’s very successful in bringing different members of the community into the museum in a very participatory way.”
The Kennedy Museum of Art looks forward to participatory events like this because it brings people together and opens the museum’s doors to all, inviting both art-lovers and people that don’t usually feel like they can connect with art.
“This is a very friendly place where you can explore and find something that’s interesting to you,” Quinn said. “Even if you think art may not be your thing, you’ll find something here that appeals to you in some way.”