The Westmoreland Museum of American Art will reopen to the public on Sunday, February 7 after a temporary closure that began in mid-December due to COVID-19 restrictions. The reopening of the museum marks the opening of the new exhibition Pattern Makers, on view through May 9, with a selection of virtual programs.
Pattern Makers tracks the presence and meanings of patterns across a selection of over 60 works from The Westmoreland’s permanent collection. To develop this exhibition, museum staff collaborated with Professor Alex Taylor from the Department of History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh to offer a virtual Curatorial Practicum during the fall 2020 semester. The graduate-level course provided students with an opportunity to conduct new scholarship as well as a practical understanding of exhibition development and interpretation for a public art museum. The students mined The Westmoreland’s permanent collection, most of which is in storage, to discover new relationships between diverse works of different styles and periods.
“Inviting these students of art history from the University of Pittsburgh to really look at our collection with fresh sets of eyes has allowed us to explore new narratives,” remarked Chief Curator Barbara Jones. “Additionally, I believe this exhibition will encourage our visitors to think more fully about the processes of exhibition making as well as the connections across the history of American art.”
The student curatorial team for the exhibition includes Annie Abernathy, Isaiah Bertagnolli, Alan London, Katie Loney, Janina Lopez, Emily Mazzola, Morgan Powell, Olivia Rutledge, Alex Taylor and Vuk Vuković.
“Working with Chief Curator Barbara Jones and Director of Collections and Exhibition Management Doug Evans, the students learned to use the Museum’s collection database to undertake artist and object-based research, and then they applied their research in a collaborative way to develop compelling exhibition concepts,” stated Dr. Alex Taylor.
After presenting three exhibition proposals to Museum staff, Pattern Makers – with its focus on the visual effects of pattern and how artists have used patterns drawn from nature, created by the imaginative manipulation of geometry, or that reflect social, cultural and economic life – was selected.
By focusing on how patterns are made, the exhibition also considers who is and who is not recognized for this work. Why, for instance, are abstract patterns by modern painters more highly valued than intricate designs made by anonymous craftspeople for everyday objects?
More information on Pattern Makers is available at thewestmoreland.org/exhibitions/pattern-makers.
The Museum will present several virtual public programs related to the exhibition. Please see below for a list of these programs.
In Conversation: Professor Alex Taylor and Chief Curator Barbara Jones
Wednesday, February 17, 7–8pm
Chief Curator Barbara Jones and Dr. Alex Taylor, professor at the University of Pittsburgh, sit down to discuss the Pattern Makers exhibition. Tune in and find out how the concept for the exhibition was developed and why the works of art featured in the exhibition were selected.
In Conversation: Patterns in Quilts
Wednesday, April 7, 7–8pm
The Westmoreland’s quilt and coverlet collection is exceptional! Don’t just take our word for it though. Hear why during this group discussion with University of Pittsburgh students Isaiah Bertagnolli and Annie Abernathy, quilt artist Ginnie Leiner and Curator of the McCarl Coverlet Gallery at Saint Vincent University Lauren Churilla.
In Conversation: The Process of Curating a Museum Exhibition Virtually
Wednesday, April 14, 7–8pm
Hear from University of Pittsburgh students involved in the concept development for the Pattern Makers exhibition and the selection of objects drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection for this exhibition. The discussion will focus on the advantages and challenges of curating virtually and will uncover the process behind creating an ultimately cohesive exhibition.
For more information and to register for these programs, please visit thewestmoreland.org/events.
The Museum’s operating hours of Wednesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm, will resume on Sunday, February 7, and advance registration will be required for admission. Admission to the Museum remains free. One can find information on registering for a visit and the Museum’s COVID-19 safety policies and procedures at thewestmoreland.org/visit.