Hood Museum works to attract both students and locals

by Kourtney Kawano | 2/23/15 6:15pm

For any art museum associated with an academic institution, it can be a challenge to create a variety of interesting programs that both local residents and students will find appealing. To accomplish this, the Hood Museum of Art works with professors and student interns to offer regular gallery talks, lectures and tours about the exhibitions in order to give audiences a chance to engage with the artwork.

Hood programs and events coordinator Sharon Reed said that the Hood Museum directors typically strive to present anywhere from 14 to 20 events per term, ranging from walk-in exhibition tours to opening receptions to student-led discussions. This winter term featured a list of 20 events, including the opening symposium of the exhibition “Poseidon and the Sea: Myth, Cult and Daily Life” on Jan. 30 and 31 and a workshop for the “About Face: Self-Portraiture in Contemporary Art” exhibition on Feb. 4. Both the shows were considered special exhibitions — of which the Hood usually presents 15 annually — because the events associated with the works in their respective collections are given by faculty and students and address a wide range of commentary associated with the art, Reed said.

Reed said that planning the schedule of programs usually starts two to three years in advance. She said the planning can take longer if the exhibition includes loans from other museums and scholarly publications.

“Exhibitions are intended to support teaching and learning at Dartmouth,” Reed said. “They also offer insight into the artistic production of many different historical periods and cultures.”

To fund its numerous events, the Hood Museum relies on its endowment, grants and co-sponsorships with various campus departments, such as the classics and art history departments, which recently collaborated with the museum for the Poseidon Symposium. Admission to the museum and most of its events is free and does not require pre-registration. Occasionally, the museum will charge admission for special events, such as the Feb. 9 tour of “About Face” with Hood director Michael Taylor, which cost $30 per person. Despite the price, such events are coveted by Hood Museum members who are able to get in-depth analysis at various exhibitions with curators for a relatively low price, Reed said.

Once the calendar of programs is set, the Hood Museum’s public relations staff use various methods to advertise the events through newspapers and social media depending on the audience they want to reach.

Some of the tried-and-true methods to reach the general Hanover residents include publishing weekly advertisements in the Valley News and the Vermont Standard, Hood Museum public relations assistant Alison Palizzolo said. In these publications, high-profile events may be advertised using effective text-only transaction ads.

The Hood also creates and displays posters of its events and publishes its own magazine, “Quarterly,” that includes the updated calendar of each term’s events.

While printed methods are still useful for the Hood Museum, one of the most successful advertisement tools, Palizzolo said, is Constant Contact, a bulk email service.

“Typically, each event gets an email,” Palizzolo said. “Events are also submitted to VOX Daily to run either the day of or the day before the event.”

To target student audiences, the public relations staff members promote upcoming exhibition openings and tours through social media, as well as a collaboration with the Collis Student Center that involves distributing publications about its new programs.

“We currently manage a Facebook page, a Twitter page and an Instagram account,” Palizzolo said. “We are looking into creating a Snapchat account.”

With such a wide breadth of advertisement methods, Reed said that the Hood Museum’s events often bring in large and diverse mixes of 150 to 250 students and residents for its lectures and receptions. The largest event that the Hood Museum has hosted had an audience of 600 visitors for a past exhibition’s opening, she said. For gallery talks and curator-led tours, however, the crowds are usually smaller — and sometimes capped at 12 people — to allow for a more personal experience, Reed said.

Regardless of the number of attendees, the events reflect the enormous amount of time and dedication put in by presenters who often find something meaningful in their research.

For her lunchtime gallery talk entitled, “Poseidon and His Attributes, Poseidon and His Women,” held on Feb. 10, art history professor Ada Cohen said that she chose objects from the exhibition to make connections with aspects of modern culture that she thought would interest her audience.

“The process was similar to teaching a class and being flexible enough to change the plan according to audience response,” Cohen said.

Junior research scholar Alexandra Berman ’16 gave a gallery talk last Friday on “Tracing Poseidon’s Image: Representations of the Sea on Italian Coins.”

Preparing for her first talk, Berman said, involved taking her research on coins from last term and piecing together the story she wanted to share based on her argument.

The experience, she said, made her want to work for the museum as a coin intern and continue her research for her senior project.

Though the term is winding down, there are still several programs that students and residents can attend. Today, art history professor Steven Kangas will give a lunchtime talk entitled “Smiting the Gods” beginning at 12:30 p.m. and on Friday, the Hood Museum will present “National Gallery” (2014), a documentary by filmmaker Frederick Wiseman about London’s National Gallery, at the Loew Auditorium at 7 p.m.