Wellin Museum Debuts During Fallcoming

Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art
Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art

Director Tracy Adler and her staff are in the process of putting the finishing touches on The Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art in preparation for the official opening celebration. On Thursday, Oct. 4, the festivities will begin. The museum will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. and will be the site of the Senior Gift Kick-off Reception at 5 p.m. followed by an opening reception with refreshments and music for the campus community from 7 to 9 p.m. On Friday, William Huggins P ’14, associate director of the physical plant, will offer an architectural tour at 11 a.m. A dedication ceremony, to which the campus community is invited, will be held at 5:30 on the terrace.

Watch the Dedication Ceremony Live

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The public is invited to day-long activities at the museum on Saturday beginning with student docent-guided tours on the hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Other events include a Careers in the Arts panel discussion at 1:30 p.m., screening of the documentary film Waste Land by Lucy Walker about exhibiting artist Vik Muniz with an introduction and post-screening discussion by Director of the Days-Massolo Center Amit Taneja, at 3 p.m., and an opening reception at 5 p.m. with remarks by Hamilton College President Joan Hinde Stewart, Director Tracy Adler and Guest Curator Ian Berry and a keynote address by Michael E. Shapiro ’71, the Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Media attention to the museum opening has included an article in Dexigner, a leading online portal for designers. Locally both Mohawk Valley Living, WKTV and the Observer-Dispatch have featured the museum’s opening. Hamilton's radio station, WHCL, featured an interview with Adler on Oct. 1.

The 30,537-square-foot teaching museum was designed by Machado and Silvetti to place object-based learning at the fore, promoting interdisciplinary research and the cross-fertilization of concepts and ideas vital to a liberal arts education. “The Wellin Museum is a new model for the museum of the future,” said Adler. “At the core of our mission are exploration and experimentation. The museum is designed to be a teaching tool and a laboratory, with multiple spaces for engagement, from open archives to flexible gallery space, two seminar rooms, and a smart classroom. The Wellin provides a unique opportunity for students to develop critical thinking, aesthetic discernment, and creative expression and build new bridges between disparate ideas and schools of thought. We look forward to collaborating with faculty in diverse areas of study on exhibitions and events.”

Designed by Machado and Silvetti Associates, the museum is entered through a striking 27-foot-high archive hall that serves as visible storage for a majority of the museum’s permanent collection. A 6,200-square-foot flexible, exhibition space will host two major exhibitions each academic year and provide space for frequently rotating exhibitions.

With the exception of a workshop and the basement level storage, all rooms in the museum are open and visible to the public. Students and patrons can see all of the parts of a museum and understand how museums operate. Working areas, offices and archive spaces are all seen through the glass cases. The intent was to demystify the inner workings of the museum. This layering of objects and activity will create a very rich and dynamic spatial experience.

Demonstrating the Wellin’s interdisciplinary and liberal arts focus, the museum’s first exhibition will chart an exploratory path among art history, traditional history, astronomy, astrophysics and many other disciplines. Affinity Atlas draws inspiration from the last work of the pioneering art historian Aby Warburg, who, from 1924 to his death in 1929, worked on an ambitious cataloguing project — a map of the legacy of antiquity on Western culture. Drawing from the Wellin’s teaching collection, which spans thousands of years and diverse media, as well as from U.S. and international collections, the exhibition will bring together prints, drawings, objects and sculptures to create juxtapositions that mirror Warburg’s own methodology. The exhibition will run from Oct. 4 to April 7. It is organized by guest curator and consulting director Ian Berry, associate director for curatorial affairs and curator at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College.

Two additional exhibitions are also on view at the museum: Case Histories: The Hidden Meaning of Objects, inspired by Hamilton College’s campus-wide Common Reading and Art and Artifacts, visible storage evoking a modern day cabinet of curiosities with objects representing a wide range of media, time periods, and disciplines of study.

The museum is located on the corner of College Hill and Griffin Roads. Parking will be available in North Lot on Campus Road, with shuttle service to museum from 1-9 p.m., on Saturday, October 6.  For more information on parking and wheelchair accessibility, please contact the Wellin Museum of Art at 315-859-4396, wellin@hamilton.edu.

The museum is the first of two new buildings in a Machado and Silvetti-designed arts complex. The second project, a theatre and studio arts building, broke ground in late July and will open in fall 2014. The complex incorporates the McKim, Mead and White-designed Molly Root House—the current home of the art history department—and a revitalized pond and landscape by Reed Hilderbrand Associates.

More about Affinity Atlas

Guided by Warburg’s impulse to collect and generate connections, Affinity Atlas sets up a series of montages and shifting perspectives using artworks from Hamilton College’s holdings, as well as recent pieces on loan by a range of international contemporary artists. Affinity Atlas builds on the strengths and surprises of Hamilton’s collections, which suggest certain areas or themes for exploration, including the Romantic landscape, early Modernist abstraction, and the natural world—animal, mineral, and vegetable.

One such grouping probes the mysteries of the cosmos, juxtaposing nineteenth-century scientific prints of solar flares by Isaac Hollister Hall with Demetrius Oliver’s contemporary orrery, an abstract, three-dimensional model of the solar system made from hanging umbrella spokes and studio scraps. Another collection of objects, which includes a trompe l’oeil installation of a crumbling wall and disintegrating painting by Valerie Hegarty and a kaleidoscopic animated video by Chris Doyle, explores the natural world and references the work of nineteenth-century Hudson River School painters. Other works that will be on view include paintings by Marsden Hartley and Charles Burchfield, prints by Jasper Johns and Kiki Smith, and new works by Terry Winters and Ruby Sky Stiler. Two large-scale photographs from Brazilian artist Vik Muniz’s series Pictures of Junk, which were featured in the Academy Award nominated documentary film Waste Land, will be on view alongside London-based artist Hew Locke’s 18-foot-tall tapestry Chariots of the Gods, and Sara VanDerBeek’s epic, four-part, photographic response to Detroit, first featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s New Photography 2009. 

Other objects on view include wooden, geometric teaching models on loan from the Geology Department, a brightly-colored beaded blanket strip made by Plains Indians in the 1880s, a sixteenth-century manuscript page from a Persian bestiary, and many never before exhibited works from the Wellin Museum’s permanent collection by artists such as Anni Albers, Silvia Saunders, Henry Moore, and Dorothy Shakespear.

More about Case Histories: The Hidden Meaning of Objects

Arranged chronologically to chart the human experience through art and material culture, the exhibition presents works from the Wellin Museum’s permanent collection from the Paleolithic era to today. Featured objects in the exhibition include prehistoric stone tools and points, funerary figurines from Egypt, ancient Greek vases, a wing from a sixteenth-century Austrian altarpiece, and works by modern and contemporary artists. Several of the objects are accompanied by interpretative texts written by Hamilton faculty and students.

More about Art and Artifacts

The 27-foot-high glass cases in the museum’s Archive Hall feature highlights from the teaching collection, as well as works on extended loan. Among the objects on view are Greek and Roman antiquities, Native American art from the Central Plains and Northwest coast, Chinese ritual bronzes and a Song Dynasty Bodhisattva on extended loan from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, and art from pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

About Machado and Silvetti Associates

Machado and Silvetti Associates is an architecture and urban design firm with offices in Boston and Buenos Aires. The firm is known for distinctive spaces and unique works of architecture in the United States and abroad. Their designs are the result of careful integration of the client’s aspirations, the project’s programmatic requirements, and the unique nature and character of the place for which a proposal is designed.

Machado and Silvetti’s extensive museum experience includes the Getty Villa in Malibu, CA, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum in Provincetown, MA, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, ME, the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC and the recently completed Chazen Museum of Art at the University of Wisconsin. Machado and Silvetti Associates draw on their urban design experience to create buildings that are integral parts of a larger campus context. Building projects at Princeton University, Harvard University, American University of Beirut, Arizona State University and the Black Family Visual Arts Center at Dartmouth College, scheduled to open this fall in Hanover, NH, demonstrate this important aspect of their work.   

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