By Ashley Bowden
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Many students are unaware that the Steinberg Art Museum has moved from its previous location on the second floor of Hillwood Commons, where the bookstore is now located, to the lower level of the B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library.
After being closed since July 2017 for renovation, the museum reopened to the public on Monday, Nov. 13. Many passers by have stopped in to check out the newly opened space. “Every single person that walked in today really seemed to enjoy it and was happy that it was here,” Nicholas Frank, freshman graphic design major who works in the museum, said. There have been approximately 20-30 visitors each day since the opening. The museum has been open for just a few hours each day, with no solidified opening and closing hours. These will be determined after winter break ends.
Students may apply for work study positions in the museum, applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Frank has taken advantage of the opportunity. “When I first told people that I got a job at the museum, the most common response I got was: ‘We have a museum?’” he said. The Steinberg Museum has been significantly renovated in its new location. One new feature is luminescent marble flooring. “It’s definitely improved; there’s much better lighting and it’s a lot more quiet and museum-like,” he said, “The amount of space that we have now is better.”
Constructing a new museum requires ensuring heating, cooling, air conditioning, lighting, and locks are all in working order, according to Barbara Applegate, director of the Steinberg Museum of Art. “Many museums’ re-openings are planned to occur on a five-year timeline. Ours occurred on an 18-month time- line,” Applegate said, “So what we’re doing is thought of as a ‘soft opening.’” The museum will be fully opened when students and faculty return from winter break. At that time, museum sta ffmembers plan to hold an opening reception and panel discussions dealing with the current exhibition.
Once construction on the new museum location was finished, the 11 museum staff members began to uncrate artwork, previously stored at the Pollock-Krasner house, to begin the “unique” installation process. They first inspected the pieces and compared them to photographs received before the works’ arrival to ensure nothing had been damaged over the course of transport. After that came deciding on the placement of the paintings and didactics, banners to provide further information on the featured art. “Hanging an exhibition isn’t always formulaic, so there’s some play in here with that,” Applegate said, “We chose to top-align the majority of the works to keep everything smoothly running through the space.”
The Pollock-Krasner House recently gave museum staff approval to move the full collection of 5,000 pieces into a visible storage suite located near the Steinberg Museum on a retrofitted level of the library. This floor is built on a different level arrangement like the book stacks. “[This gives] us the opportunity to see those objects in a controlled and safe environment with access to all those objects,” Applegate said. Some of the artwork is over 5,000 years old from various time periods and countries. The space will allow students to use the artwork to conduct research the way they would books. “Say that you’re designing a costume for “The Lion King” and you want to see what African textiles look like. You can come here and find that out,” Applegate said, “This sets us far above anyone else in our region.” This suite will be accessible to the public.
The first exhibition in the new space, Abstract Expressionism Behind the Iron Curtain, will be displayed until April 7, 2018. “What I love about this [exhibition] in particular is how in the era of the Soviet Union and Soviet realism, these artist risked their lives doing this,” Frank said. A particular oil painting collage
by Tadeusz Kantor is partially comprised of a trash bag. Artwork featured in the museum are original pieces that have been transferred from the Pollock-Krasner House, a study center in Southampton N.Y. The pieces are loaned from different private and public collections in Munich, Czechoslovakia, Brooklyn and locations in Europe.
Programming for the next four years is underway, according to Applegate. As for announcing plans for future exhibitions now, “I’d be lifting the veil too soon,” she said. Museum staff has met with SAGE Long Island, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to meeting the needs of senior citizens of the LGBT community. According to Ari Nuzzo, museum educator, meetings like such help inspire programming for the rest of the year.
“Our goal is to meet with learners of any age group who want to be involved in our environment,” Nuzzo said, “We want to engage them in more things.”
An education outreach program associated with the Elmont school district will bring as many as 3000 elementary students to the museum over the spring semester. Nuzzo will coordinate this program, which will include tours for students and class groups. “We’ve had a lot of people interested in what’s going on,” Nuzzo said.
In April, MFA students will display an exhibition entitled “The Cutting Edge of Contemporary Art in a Variety of Media.” Applegate recently met with the students and Professor Seung Lee, director of graduate studies and the fine arts program, to discuss plans for installation. “A majority of them were what you might consider traditional media like painting, drawing and print making. One student works in three-dimensional ceramics,” Applegate said. The students are deciding and creating what pieces will be featured in their annual exhibition. Last year, the exhibition was held in the same place before renovations commenced.
Applegate hopes that students having access to the newly designed exhibition space on campus will give them space and time to closely observe the works. “We see every day thousands and thousands of memes and images, and we’re so quick to ash through them,” she said, “We’re constantly looking at images but in such a cursory way.”
Admission to the Steinberg Museum is free. “What I really like about having this museum on campus is that all the students here are able to see a wide variety of artists that they may never be able to see anytime otherwise,” Frank said.
For more information about the museum and inquiries regarding hours of operation, call the B. Davis Schwartz library at 516-299-4073.