It’s no secret that the McMullen Museum of Art has undergone some drastic changes in the past year. What started out as a smaller museum on the first and ground floors of Devlin Hall has transformed into a three-story building, complete with a rooftop terrace overlooking Brighton.
The renovations were made possible in part by a generous lead gift from the late John and Jacqueline McMullen and the McMullen Family Foundation as well as generous gifts from the Daley Family and Chris Toomey in honor of our late Chancellor Father J. Donald Monan, S.J.
Before the renovations, the McMullen gallery tucked away in the back of Devlin’s first floor mounted more than 50 world-class exhibitions, some of which attracted herds of visitors, but it did not have any amenities for visitors or space for gatherings. The new, expanded McMullen has experienced a surge in public activity and student involvement since it opened in September 2016.
The museum has presented two major exhibits among several student events since its renovation. The expansion to Brighton has created greater availability of space to host large art collections and events such as Art After Dark, creative writing workshops, and DIY craft nights.
Rachel Chamberlain, who is dedicated to education outreach, works with student ambassadors and campus organizations to plan student-aimed events. The museum has 30 student ambassadors thanks to the generosity of benefactors Bob and Judy Winston of the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics.
Student ambassadors are paid positions open to Boston College undergraduates. They collaborate on student events and exhibit openings. The ambassadors are split into several committees and work with full-time staff in event planning, collections management, publications, and social media.
The ambassadors perform a number of tasks, whether it’s working the front desk, assisting with research, or managing the museum’s social media. They are involved in much of the behind-the-scene action it takes to organize an exhibition.
Student ambassador, Sarya Baladi, MCAS ‘19, has been involved in gathering research and working multiple programs at the museum. There have been many impressive events this year, but Baladi reveals that her favorite was the McMullen Student Opening at the beginning of the fall semester for the museum’s Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections exhibit.
“It was so great seeing so many students going to the museum, and we got great feedback from the BC community!” said Baladi.
The McMullen is renowned both nationally and internationally for its interdisciplinary exhibitions and research. As part of an academic institution, it aims not only to present beautiful works of art, but also to foster curiosity and learning among viewers.
The museum provides research on the historical, political, and social context of its collections and exhibitions. Its current exhibit is Rafael Soriano: The Artist as Mystic, which will continue until June 4, 2017.
One of the most popular events this year was the grand opening of the museum last fall. It was largely successful, attracting hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and residents from the community. The museum hopes to collaborate more with student organizations on campus.
In fact, it is partnering with the Caribbean Culture Club to host another “Art After Dark” event this upcoming Friday. “Art After Dark” is open exclusively to BC students and combines art exhibits with games and music to create an immersive cultural experience. It is an interactive environment where students can learn about the current exhibition, watch dance performances, and show their artistic side through coloring and crafts.
Students have more to look forward to in the upcoming months. On Saturday, April 8, the McMullen will be hosting a Spring Celebration day filled with live music, games, art-making, and an Easter egg hunt. To honor the museum's quiet, peaceful features, its galleries will be opened to students after hours as a study space for finals on May 7 and 8. In addition to taking advantage of large tables and chairs, studiers can enjoy cups of coffee and a beautiful view overlooking the terrace as a study break.
Director of the McMullen Museum and professor of Art History, Nancy Netzer, has played an integral role in the museum's restoration. Her extensive knowledge of art history and dedication to the museum has contributed to the positive reception of its exhibits.
As the director, Netzer works to enhance the educational and cultural benefits of the museum by curating exhibitions and working closely with the staff. When asked about the museum’s goal, she replied, “We hope to attract more students to the building and have more students participate.”
This goal seems entirely feasible based on the initial success of the past year. The McMullen Museum will undoubtedly continue to flourish and earn praise from students and artists alike.
The McMullen Museum of Art is open Monday–Friday and is free of charge for all. For more information about upcoming events, visit the McMullen's events calendar.