Amongst many peaceful hideouts on Ohio University’s campus, the Kennedy Museum of Art is one of the most quiet and serene. For 20 years, it’s been a place where visitors can escape the chaos of Court Street and let their minds run free within galleries of artwork by students, faculty members, celebrated alumni and famous artists.
To celebrate the museum’s 20th anniversary, faculty members from the school of art and design are showcasing their artwork at the Ohio University Art and Design Faculty Biennial Exhibition. The exhibit will run from Sept. 16 to Dec. 23 and has been a biennial tradition since the inception of the museum.
“[The biennial] is always very interesting and draws quite a bit of attention because a lot of artists are represented in it and they have different ways of approaching art,” the museum’s Executive Director Edward Pauley says.
The Kennedy Museum, the largest collecting institution in southeast Ohio, opened its doors in 1996 and started a new chapter in the building’s extensive history. The university bought the property that once housed the Athens Mental Health Center in the late 1800s and renamed it The Ridges. The hospital closed in 1993, and Lin Hall underwent hefty renovations to make way for the museum. What used to be the Ridges’ administration building, which held the medical superintendent’s, assistant physicians’ and steward’s offices, now houses artwork from around the world.
Since its opening, artists ranging from students to renowned professionals have displayed their work on the Kennedy Museum’s walls. The museum features some of Andy Warhol’s artwork, along with Jim Dine’s, an Ohio alumnus who graduated in the late 1950s before becoming a celebrated pop artist. And as part of the biennial celebration, more than 45 Ohio faculty members will fill the walls of the Kennedy Museum with their pieces.
“To make [the biennial] a little more special, we’ve invited art and design faculty from [Ohio’s] regional campuses to participate,” Jeffrey Carr, Exhibitions and Collections manager, says. “Our 20th anniversary is also the 20th for this biennial, and it’s a great way to celebrate this milestone and [the museum’s] ongoing relationship with the school of art.”
Art Werger, a printmaking professor on the university’s main campus, says the biennial is always a surprise because the faculty never knows what to expect from each other’s pieces.
“The faculty showcase some of their newest and proudest works,” Werger says, emphasizing the biennial as the highlight of the museum’s regular showcases. “You see the proudest approaches of [the faculty’s] personalities through their work. Students are always impressed by their professors’ artwork.”
Werger says his piece is two years in the making, and at 3 feet by 12 feet, will be the one of the largest etchings ever made.
Pauley and his colleagues continuously work to create awareness of the museum. The Kennedy Museum averages about 10,000 visitors a year, but the museum’s staff would prefer to have many more. Pauley says there’s a perception that the museum is farther away than it is because of the river and bridge that separates it from campus.
“I always say we’re a bridge too far because if you took an aerial view of the Ridges and campus, we’re no farther away than a lot of things students participate in on campus,” Pauley says.
The museum staff plans to continue evolving the museum to appeal to more than just those interested in art. Pauley says there are plans to incorporate science and nature exhibits into the museum, making it a more transdisiplinary experience.
“Art is something that is not meant just for artists,” Werger says. “It’s a means of communication. … There’s something for everyone.”
Werger added the biennial is a top-notch, quality exhibit that could be seen in New York City or around the world.
“Missing an opportunity to come see it should not be taken lightly,” Werger says.