Hofstra University Museum: Transformation and Renewal
As an active participant in the life of the campus, the museum will feature The Presidents, 1933-2001: A History of Presidential Conferences at Hofstra University at the David Filderman Gallery and Rochelle and Irwin A. Lowenfeld Conference and Exhibition Hall from September through December 2008, as a component of Educate ’08 events associated with the October 15 presidential debate to be held on campus.
Student-Centered University Collaborations and Partnerships
One of the museum’s major goals is to become a learning laboratory and incubator for ideas that will enhance the experience for all Hofstra students, giving them first-hand opportunities for dialogue and discourse, research, scholarship, knowledge of the curatorial process, and the ability to extend concepts learned in their classes. To achieve this goal, the building of exciting and dynamic new collaborations and partnerships throughout the University is essential. In 2006 one of the museum’s first partnerships began with Hofstra’s History Department and the new Center for Civic Engagement. The museum collaborated in offering the traveling exhibition Gandhi, King, Ikeda: A Legacy of Peace Building from Morehouse College. Hofstra undergraduate and graduate students in history and sociology were trained by Hofstra University Museum staff to serve as exhibition docents (tour guides) for high school students throughout Long Island.
The past year has also seen an increase in the number of faculty members now experiencing the benefits of a class visit to the Hofstra University Museum’s galleries. The creation of a museum education coordinator position has provided a professional liaison who, along with the museum’s director, actively assists Hofstra colleagues as they plan their visits and class experiences.
Other new partnerships include one with Hofstra’s School of Education and Allied Human Services, which has made the commitment to bring to the museum, each semester, all student teachers of elementary and special education. Participating in one or two sessions, held at the museum’s Emily Lowe Gallery and led by the museum’s educators, the students learn how to use museums as a resource in and out of their classrooms. All students experience in-gallery activities that stimulate discussion about works of art, various learning modalities, and methods for incorporating object-based learning into core curriculum areas. Another collaboration has been generated with Hofstra’s Drama and Dance Department. At the opening reception for African American Highlights From the Reader’s Digest Association Collection, three students performed original interpretive dances choreographed by their professor, Dyane Harvey-Salaam, marrying jazz, African rhythms, and blues to specific works of art by Willie Cole, Robert Colescott, and Lorna Simpson. In the February 14, 2008, issue of The Chronicle, one student’s response to this event was noted, “I expected to gain knowledge about African art; I didn’t expect an amazing unique dance performance also.”
As the central audience for the museum, Hofstra students in many disciplines, including art history, communications, English, fine arts, journalism, history of radio, philosophy, psychology, and sociology, are learning how works of art have historical, societal, and other vital connective links to their studies and their lives.
The museum has set a course for growth of engagement and outreach to the broader community. Turning to the results of the awareness survey as one guide for planning, it was clear that 25 percent of the University’s staff and faculty wanted the museum to offer family oriented programming. Family Fun Sundays, introduced in fall 2007, have attracted a growing audience of children and their families who enjoy creating personal artistic responses after guided explorations of works on view in the galleries. Future programming for these audiences will include storytelling events and sculpture tours, as well as puppet shows and other family-oriented performances.
Lifelong learners are another important constituency for the museum, as alumni and other members of the regional community seek quality experiences in the visual arts. Through the introduction of ongoing public program initiatives such as First Wednesdays, Faculty and Educator Open Houses, and illustrated presentations, the museum now engages students, faculty, and members of the surrounding community in an informal manner. In fall 2007 the Art Talk series devoted to contemporary issues in the arts and society premiered. Guest presenters included art critic/artist/author Peter Plagens; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Les Payne; and renowned contemporary artist Willie Cole. Symposia, lectures, musical interludes, bus excursions, and many other opportunities are now offered, as the museum continues to expand its engagement with the Hofstra community, as well as other audiences.
The museum has also initiated new programs geared toward Long Island school districts. Kindergarten through 12th grade programs bring educators and their classes from Nassau and Suffolk Counties to the museum for grade-appropriate explorations and activities. Pre-visit and post-visit materials created for each exhibition provide teachers with valuable resources that extend their students’ experiences beyond the walls of the Hofstra University Museum.
As the Hofstra University Museum continues to expand its sphere of influence and value to the University and the New York metropolitan community, it has embarked on several grant-funded projects with the New York State Council for the Arts, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, JPMorgan Chase, and the Judith Rothschild Foundation. These projects will foster new relationships with local school districts while providing Hofstra students with opportunities to participate in leadership roles; provide family-centered learning experiences through explorations of the outdoor sculptures on campus; bring to life a major retrospective exhibition and symposium focused on past Hofstra faculty member and Abstract Expressionist Perle Fine; and continue the general growth of the Hofstra University Museum’s presence and influence within the Long Island region.
The museum enjoys a growing stature and leadership role as it joins in New York State Department of Education meetings centered on arts education, actively participates in professional organizations and conferences, and strengthens partnerships with New York City and Long Island-based museums, galleries, artists, and professionals in the arts.
The Hofstra University Museum, with its newly renovated facilities, its growing responsiveness to the needs of its core community of students and faculty, and its evolution and development of new partnerships, looks forward to continued transformation and renewal as one of the many dynamic components of life within the Hofstra community and beyond.