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The Kennedy Museum Of Art at the Ridges, Sept. 2, 2023

The Kennedy Museum of Art is a hub for history, art, culture

In 1874, the doors to the Athens Lunatic Asylum opened and went through many changes over the century before transferring its last patients in 1993. At that time, the •700 acre area was given to Ohio University. Now, the land is more commonly known as The Ridges and is home to the Kennedy Museum of Art, located at 100 Ridges Cir. The museum serves as a hub for history, art and expression. 

The museum and collection got their name from Edwin L. and Ruth E. Kennedy who collected over 8000 items and donated them to the school. A large portion of this collection features unique Southwest Native American art. 

One of the main focuses of the museum now is education. Sally Delgado, the museum’s interim director and curator of education, believes that the educational work that is done there is an excellent example of the opportunities given to students at OU.

“There's a lot of talk about experiential learning here at Ohio University, and I think we have always been involved in that,” said Delgado. “So everything that this museum  has done educationally has always been this mix of students getting the experience of being here and them facilitating programming for the community.”

The exhibits in the museum rotate regularly, and many are designed by the students working there. 

“I would say the education area which I run has been collaborating more with the curatorial area, which one of my colleagues runs, and incorporating students into that whole process of 'What do we exhibit? What do we bring out?'” Delgado said.

Another part of the student employees’ job is community outreach. They are in charge of bringing people into the museum and leading tours when they are requested.

Emily Van Meter, a senior studying art history and painting and drawing, is an employee at the museum.

“We help out a lot with educational programming, whether that be engaging with the local community, bringing in families and K-12 classes or engaging with the university,” Van Meter said.

The staff also encourages families to experience the museum’s family-friendly Open Studios. The sessions include creating artwork that relates to what is on display at the museum. The program is on Sundays from 2-3:30 p.m. and free to anyone.

“Those are particularly engaging in outreach to the community,” Van Meter said. “We're trying to reach out and get enough people to come to make that a worthwhile experience.”

The museum also features an exhibit created entirely by students in museum studies. Jailei Maas, a senior studying art history and painting and drawing, showed the museum studies exhibition that her class created. 

“So this exhibition is called ‘Then and Again,’” said Maas. “Our inquiry as a cohort of undergraduate and graduate students was to curate a group of objects that are representations of their place in history that have parallels to a certain issue going on today.”

The staff is incredibly passionate about the work that they do in the museum which is evident when they discuss the exhibits they worked on.

“It's a great place,” said Delgado. “Just where we are is really wonderful with the Ridges grounds and then coming in and seeing the artwork and changing exhibits. We'd love to have students involved.” 


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