Visits to Zimmerli Art Museum have been an integral part of my college experience since I was in first year at Rutgers. I have often spent hours in the galleries, reading wall texts and discovering the history of art at Rutgers and the worlds beyond.
And, as a contributing writer for The Daily Targum, I have had the opportunity to attend several Art After Hours tours, interact with the brilliant curators and friendly staff of the museum and thus immerse myself in the rich artistic community that is growing on campus.
When the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic struck and sent the art world into survival mode, museums like the Zimmerli broke new ground in their approach to making art accessible to their audiences. In many ways, the Zimmerli had to adapt to become a kind of “Zoomerli”.
Art After Hours, a monthly event highlighting parts of Zimmerli’s collection filled with music and the conversation, has become virtual Art before / after hours to meet the needs of members of the Rutgers community in different parts of the globe. The museum also had a virtual space book launch for the flagship exhibition of this academic year, “Angela Davis – Seize The Time”.
The Zimmerli has also renamed its website and the logo recently, which makes it easier to navigate and access on mobile devices, so you can enjoy the museum experience anywhere.
You can imagine my joy when the Zimmerli finally opened its doors to the public on September 1st. Despite the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida ravaging parts of New Brunswick, temporarily derailing campus activity at the start of our fall 2021 semester, the museum was operational shortly thereafter.
I was finally able to move to 71 Hamilton St. on September 9, during the very first SparkNight Event. Reminiscent of Art After Hours, this social event took place from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and aims to deepen public engagement with the museum’s collection through tours and activities.
After an early evening class on women and art, my friends, Sundia and Deziree, and I headed to the museum. As seniors on campus, we got to chat about art and feel pretty chic over a glass of pinot grigio.
The exhibition we were most passionate about was “Angela Davis – Seize the TimeThis high-profile show focuses on the importance of Davis’ image in popular culture and media at the height of her political activism in the 1960s and 1970s and draws on the collector’s archives and curator Lisbet Tellefsen in Oakland, California.
Bethany Collins, Juan Sanchez, Sadie Barnette, and Coco Fusco are just a few of the modern and contemporary artists whose depictions of Davis are featured in this show.
What stands out about seeing these works together and in person is the historically immersive nature of the exhibition. The “Archives” section of the exhibition invites visitors to leaf through the pages of binders and books to experience more intimately the material and research at the heart of this exhibition. The timelines that run through the gallery give a better idea of Davis’ place and his impact on American history and civil rights.
My favorite section of this exhibit was the corner titled “Seize the Time – Share Your Thoughts”, located at the entrance to the exhibit. Lines of laundry cards prompt visitors to reflect on their experience by asking thoughtful questions such as “What role can the arts play in the fight for racial justice?” “” And “Is there anything in this exhibition that surprised you or challenged your assumptions?”
The prompt “I’ll ‘take the time’ from here …” is also effective in communicating the personal and community nature of the work presented in this exhibit.
Another stimulating exhibit that neighbors “Seize the Time” is “Stitching Time: The Social Justice Collaborative Quilting Project. “The Social Justice Collaboration Quilts Project was born in 2012 from a palliative care program for inmates serving life sentences at Louisiana State Penitentiary and gives a creative voice to jailed and institutionalized quilts. across America.
“This exhibition focuses on the work of the founders of the Social Justice Collaboration Quilts Project, Kenya and (Maureen) Kelleher, and the first member of the project, Sharif. Their quilts address racial injustice in American history and celebrate black creativity, thought and political activism, ”according to the museum’s website.
Images of notable black figures like James baldwin, Harriet tubman and Barack obama are immortalized here as a quilt. QR codes on the side of each artwork can be scanned to take you to the audio recordings, where quilters share your experience and elaborate on the topic of each quilt. The narration of “Love”(2016) perfectly captures the mission of the project and the humanity and empathy behind the art on the walls of this exhibition.
Seeing art as evocative as the works on display in these two aforementioned exhibitions makes the long wait for an in-person museum experience all the more visceral, emotional and useful. I will definitely have to return to Zimmerli soon to get to know and feel the seriousness of these exhibits better.
Other current exhibitions I look forward to exploring soon are “The New Woman in Paris and London, c. 1890-1920, “Communism through the lens: everyday life captured by the women photographers of the Dodge collection” and “Microcosm of Mexico: 100 original woodcuts by José Guadalupe Posada. “
The next SparkNight will take place October 7 and the Zimmerli will also host an opening celebration for the campus and the community on October 14. I encourage you to explore this delightful on-campus resource and learn more about the fascinating art they offer.
For a treat after visiting the museum, Paparazzi Cafe (located between the museum lobby and Voorhees Hall on the College Avenue campus) has some of the most delicious fresh baked goods, my favorite being the chocolate croissants.