Bradbury Art Museum finds virtual way to display 2020 exhibition in May

by George Jared ([email protected]) 511 views 

Bradbury Art Museum, in partnership with the Department of Art + Design, will host a virtual exhibition space created to showcase the work of the class of 2020. Family, friends and community members will be able to join in recognizing the accomplishments of senior students from the safety of their home.

The 2020 exhibition features work by Easton Adams of Jonesboro, Landon Bates of Harrisburg, Kaly Beede of Pangburn, Ashton Brown of North Little Rock, Madison Donaldson of Campbell, Mo., Xing Grubbs of Jonesboro, Dale Hindman of Maumelle, Nichole Johns of McCrory, Emily Richards of Cabot, and Zhuoyan Yao of Guangdong, China.

Showcasing the achievements of graduating seniors in studio art from the Department of Art + Design has been part of the Bradbury Art Museum’s programming since BAM’s inception in 2001. The new space not only carries forward this tradition, but also highlights new opportunities for the museum and students in the future.

“As the circumstances of passage have changed for these students, we are charged with the responsibility to find new methods to celebrate their successes,” said Garry Holstein, director of BAM. “What excites me the most about this project is that it not only meets the needs of the current situation, but also opens new pathways for students, faculty and our community to interact with BAM through potential internships, virtual curation and much more. For me, it is not the buildings or even the objects that are at the essence of what we do, but our ability to create shared experiences and build relationships with our community.”

Virtual BAM started as a series of meetings between museum staff and Art + Design faculty focused on ways to move forward with the senior exhibition. From the initial brainstorming sessions, a plan emerged to create an immersive experience that would simultaneously provide a continuity of the traditional experience while drawing on the many enhancements available through the digital manifestation. The final version consists of an explorable virtual space, video fly-throughs, and a website page featuring student biographies, statements and images.

“I’m thrilled that graduating studio majors in Art + Design still get to have a fantastic Senior Show experience despite the limitations caused by COVID-19,” said Dr. Temma Balducci, chair of the Department of Art + Design. “The collaboration between our department and BAM has resulted in a truly immersive exhibition experience that can be shared with everyone. Special thanks to Cameron Buckley and Hillary Brooks for their efforts in making this exhibition a reality.”

Buckley, assistant professor of photography and new media, and Brooks, BAM curator, worked closely with seniors in development of the virtual space and training the students in documentation techniques for this transition.

“When I heard BAM was physically closed, my first thoughts went to our students in the senior exhibition. I’ve been building virtual art platforms for six years now, and it has been my main area of research,” Buckley said. “I’ve always tried to find alternatives to exhibiting my work in traditional galleries and museums, whether that manifests as public works, happenings or digital spaces. This collaboration with BAM is an exciting opportunity to find a sort of middle-ground: a mixture of a traditional architecture and new viewing experiences. How can a museum space, and the work within, transform and adapt to our current situation? I’m so excited to collaborate with BAM and bring this virtual exhibition to the public, and hopefully offer a unique experience for both our seniors and campus as a whole.”

The architecture of BAM now exists within a video game engine, Unity, where it is fully navigable just like any other traditional first-person-perspective digital experience. Student work was brought into the space through photography as well as photogrammetry, a computational process of generating 3D models from a series of photographs. This enabled the translation of many student 3D works to the digital space with high-fidelity.

“When BAM and the Art + Design team first decided to make the senior exhibition digital, I couldn’t imagine how sculpture or installation artists would be represented because I did not have much experience with digital software,” said Hillary Brooks, BAM curator. “Collaborating with Cameron has been an amazing learning experience. He’s been patient and willing to teach us how to navigate and create in a multiplatform game engine so it really feels like you’re in BAM. With the virtual space Cameron created, I was able to frame artwork, lay out the show, install and light the artwork as I would in the museum.”

The exhibition can be accessed through the BAM website, and one can follow BAM on Facebook and Instagram for special content featuring the students and faculty whose hard work makes this exhibition possible. Though the online space becomes live today, BAM will be sharing highlights of the exhibition throughout the month of May with corresponding updates to the webpage documentation.