The Stanley Campus Council had a proud hand in helping open the new Stanley Museum of Art! During the spring 2022 semester, members of the SCC met virtually every other week to discuss both the museum's opening events and the plan for the fall semester's Monthly Meetup event series.
For the opening, we worked together to plan four separate initiatives:
Firstly, the SCC was tasked with designing and setting up entertainment in Gibson Square Park.
For this, we ordered giant lawn games: connect 4, ladders, and cornhole! We took special care to incorporate aspects of the Stanley into these games; the cornhole boards were painted to resemble art from the Stanley's collections that visitors would be able to see once they made it into the galleries!
The pieces we chose to replicate onto the cornhole boards were Leon Polk Smith's "Center Columns, Blue Red," Miriam Schapiro's "Connection," Marsden Hartley's "E," and Andy Warhol's "Flowers."
Hopefully, these boards will get continued use during Stanley Museum of Art events in Gibson Square Park when the weather is nice.
Art-making and a community project
Secondly, we wanted to offer Stanley visitors the opportunity to make and take something for themselves, as well as contribute to something larger commemorating the opening of the new museum building. So we offered two little creative opportunities: button-making and our guest book!
For the button-making, we as a group decided upon the message we wanted to convey: "art is for everyone." We picked eight works from the Stanley's collection to go on the buttons alongside that slogan, and premade one thousand buttons for people to pick up and take with them.
We also had supplies for an additional 200 more buttons--blank ones, with just the slogan, so people could color their own and really rock the "art is for everyone" message! We had a lot of fun helping students, families, and community members hand-press their own pinback buttons during opening weekend.
We decided to make a guest book because we wanted to have something that reflected and privileged the viewpoint of the guest--because what is art if there's no one to look at it? We took people's photographs with Polaroid cameras and pasted them into the book alongside their signatures, well-wishes, thoughts, and drawings. It was amazing to see how many people came to opening weekend, and where they'd come from. We got to talk to many Iowa alums and hear about their experiences at the University and with the museum itself pre-flood. Everyone expressed pleasure and excitement that the Stanley was finally back on campus in full force! Even after the opening, the guest book has remained in the lobby, and visitors from around the state, country, and world have filled almost 50 pages.
Thirdly, we wanted people to really connect with the collection. We discussed how oftentimes museums feel like really restrictive spaces with lots of rules. And, of course, a lot of these rules are in place for good reason, but we still hoped that visitors would learn to feel comfortable and the museum, and wanted to really promote the idea that the Stanley is OUR museum!
So we created a few of those carnival-style photo opportunity boards, giving visitors a chance to "see themselves at the Stanley"--as part of some of our works of art! For these, we used Hannah Höch's "Sperrende Kräfte (Locking Powers)" and Judy Chicago's series "Through The Flower" 1, 2, and 3. And guests had a lot of fun interacting with and becoming part of the art using these photo opportunity boards!
The dedication ceremony
And finally, we participated in the building dedication ceremony alongside the University of Iowa President's Office and the UI Center for Advancement. Three SCC members were chosen to speak at the event, joining the ranks of other esteemed speakers like University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson and the Stanley Museum of Art Director Lauren Lessing.
Students Lauren Smith (BA 25), Megan Dehner (MA 23), and Philip Dixon (PhD 25) each delivered remarks that described their involvement with the Stanley, and how they envisioned the Stanley's new building, resources, and collection would contribute to their educations and their overall time at Iowa. These students also got to help with the official ribbon cutting and welcoming the public into the new building for the first time.
Helping with the opening celebrations for the Stanley Museum of Art was an incredible experience--and we were glad that students (who are at the heart of the University community) were able to help in so many ways.
Watch the video below to listen to what three SCC members had to say at the building's dedication ceremony.