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Senior Week: The Permanent Collection

This week we will be hearing from senior student docents before they graduate on Sunday. Today’s post comes from Jennie Msall. Jennie has been a docent at the Art Center for the past two years.

In my four years of enjoying the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, I have come to think of the phrase “permanent collection” as a bit misleading. To me, this phrase implies a collection that is static, unchanging, and it is a phrase that doesn’t do justice to the surprises that the Art Center’s collection holds.

As a student docent, there have been many times that I have come to docent training on Wednesday afternoons—the two hour period of the week where I interact most with the collection—and have found that something doesn’t feel “quite right.” After several minutes of pondering and discussing with my fellow docents, we realize that a new piece has been taken out of the basement and hung on the wall. And when I first learned that there were more works in the basement, I figured they were the works that weren’t famous, that the museum had hung the Picasso, Miro, and Pollock on the walls and put the rest in storage. Professors who had these works pulled out for artful dodgers on Tuesdays at lunchtime or professors who selected these works to be hung in the project gallery quickly disproved my assumptions. I attended a lecture where a professor talked about a Cindy Sherman photograph I had never seen before, and have been thrilled to see Hokusai woodblocks emerge from the basement on an annual basis.

Cindy Sherman (American, 1954-  ), Untitled #304, 1994, C-print, 61" x 40 7/8", Purchase, Betsy Mudge Wilson, class of 1956, Memorial Fund
Cindy Sherman (American, 1954- ), Untitled #304, 1994, C-print, 61″ x 40 7/8″, Purchase, Betsy Mudge Wilson, class of 1956, Memorial Fund

This past year, while working for the Art Center’s afterschool program at Poughkeepsie Middle School, I discovered even more of the museum’s collection. While picking out images to look at with eighth graders, I discovered an incredible photography collection and several more works by Miro than I knew we had. Working at the middle school allowed me to experience the museum’s collection beyond the walls of the gallery, and beyond the pieces that had been chosen to be displayed on those walls.

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