Henry Behind the Scenes: Visiting the Eleanor Reed Collection Study Center

This is a guest blog post by Dawn Cerny, artist and Cornish Faculty, who recently visited the Henry’s Reed Collection Study Center with her students.

For most artists a trip to an art museum is a means to see and understand materials, scale, color, texture, and thinking in a way that is impossible to do from a reproduction. Yet, in most institutions, your ability to get close to the work can be mediated by vitrines, framing, and security devises that make it difficult to see a work.  Museums are a wonderful resource for studying the work of artist and the Study Center at the Henry is an incredibly helpful resource for getting closer to the work in order to understand how it is doing what it is doing.

Students getting an up-close view of artwork in the Reed Study Center

I can cruise through the online database for objects that relate to material, thematic, or technical subjects I am teaching in class, then send my requests to Rachael Faust (who is Assistant Curator of Collections and manages the Study Center) and show up with my class, a few weeks later, to get incredibly close to examples of what I am talking about in the classroom.

It’s one thing to see a photo of an Elsa Schiaparelli dress in a book; but when you are able to look at that same dress in person, you start to comprehend that even the buttons and hand-stitched beadwork are part of a larger narrative the garment is exploring. There is something to be said for looking at a Rembrandt drypoint with a magnifying glass and seeing where he too was using hesitant marks to try and figure out the form and composition.

The Study Center acts as a wonderful satellite classroom. Faust has a tremendous working relationship with the collection and she is committed to contextualizing the objects within time, medium, or landscape. Student questions are met with enthusiasm and curiosity—if Faust doesn’t have a ready answer she will help guide a student to the answer as best she can.

My students come away from our trips to the collection buzzing with ideas and the general feeling that they have witnessed a work of art behind the curtains of the institution. I think the Study Center also serves young artists by helping them begin to comprehend the amount of labor and education that goes into taking care of a work of art decade after decade—especially in relation to their own emerging practice. It is an important part of their education that they begin to comprehend the things that artist make are in relation with larger conversations and academic dialogs—and that what they do in their studio practices matter to other people and have larger consequences.

The Henry’s Eleanor Reed Collection Study Center is open to individuals and groups of 30 or less by advance appointment. Up to 20 objects from the collection may be requested for study per visit. Study Center hours are Tuesday–Friday from 9 am–5 pm. A limited number of evening appointments between 5-9 pm are available on Thursdays and Fridays. To make an appointment, contact Study Center staff at 206.616.9630 or contact collections@henryart.org.

Henry Behind the Scenes: Portrait of the Staff as Artists

Do art museums attract artists as staff? Do you need an affinity for the arts to work at an art museum? Yes, and it helps.

The Henry staff artistic profile
A word cloud representing the staff of the Henry

Of the Henry’s 38 full-time staff, 26 percent are practicing artists. They identify as painters, illustrators, writers, actors, filmmakers, multimedia artists, photographers, or a combination of mediums.

Laura Kinney, a Gallery Service Representative who also works with our prep crew, works with various media including “painting, drawing, assemblage, bookbinding/bookarts, and eglomise (reverse glass).” She also occasionally works with video and dabbles in website design and coding.

Webster Crowell, also on prep crew, is a filmmaker and the creator of Rocketmen the Series which had a phenomenally successful Kickstarter campaign this summer.

Webster Crowell. Photo By Michael Doucett

When Dustin Engstrom, Executive Assistant to Director Sylvia Wolf, isn’t managing her packed schedule, he’s an actor and playwright.

Dustin Engstrom. Photo By David Wulzen

Four of us are non-practicing artists, meaning we were formally trained and have worked as artists in our respective creative fields, but no longer do. We are a musician, fiction writer, photographer, and sculptor.

Nearly 60 percent of our staff considers themselves to have an “artistic nature.” What’s that mean? It’s a wide-ranging field: arts and crafts, textiles, cooking, decorating, art history/critical theory, cinematography, photography, video, digital media, music, printmaking, art writing, drawing, illustrating, acting, gardening, and serving as an artistic liaison/interpreter.

One staff member, when we were discussing how practicing artists often need “day jobs” in the United States, responded passionately, “Being an artist is a professional occupation. We need to recognize the value it has. Creative content is America’s biggest export.”

At the Henry, we believe that originality and creative thought belong to us all: the working artist, the hobbyist, the supporter, and the audience. Our work at the museum inspires us to push past limits and imagine with more daring. What should we write, film, sculpt, or bake next?

Calling All Architects!

Are you a member of AIA Seattle? Planning on taking a UW campus tour with Seattle Architecture Foundation this summer? Then you’re in luck — The Henry has worked out a special deal just for you with these organizations.

For the run of “The Ghost of Architecture” — open now through September 29 — AIA members can show their membership cards and get half-price admission to the Henry.

Participants the UW Campus tours organized by Seattle Architecture Foundation will receive a ticket good for free admission to the Henry the day of their tour.

Curated from recent gifts and promised gifts to our permanent collection, “The Ghost of Architecture” focuses on contemporary works that invoke architecture without citing it directly. Architecture or the architectural dimension is referenced by the artists in the show, either as a displaced or isolated fragment, as fantasy or folly, as the site of ordinary or extraordinary events, or as memory or the missing context in larger narratives.

Featured artists include: Kevin Appel, assume vivid astro focus, Edward Burtynsky, Jacob Dahlgren, Carsten Höller, Los Carpinteros, Christian Marclay, and Shirin Neshat, among others.

Dawn Clements. Middlebury [detail]. 2000. Sumi ink and IVA glue on paper. Promised gift of William and Ruth True. Photo credit: Beth Phillips.
Dawn Clements. Middlebury [detail]. 2000. Sumi ink and IVA glue on paper. Promised gift of William and Ruth True. Photo credit: Beth Phillips.
Spencer Finch. The Light at Lascaux (Cave Entrance) Sept 29, 2005 5:27 PM. 2005. 38 fluorescent light fixtures and lamps with filters and gel filters on clear acrylic tubes. Promised gift of William and Ruth True. © The Artist / Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York/Shanghai.


Andy Coolquitt. nycha (samuel gompers). 2010. Metal, wire, and light bulb. Promised gift of William and Ruth True.


Check out these photos from our July 11th Patron Preview. See you at the museum!

The Week Ahead @ the Henry

Here’s what’s happening this week at the Henry!

Thursday, June 6th
4:45-6 - The 2013 Annual Meeting of the Henry Gallery Association - Come hear about what we have accomplished in the past year and what we have to look forward to in 2013-14.

7-8 - Artist Talk: Rebecca Chernow - Join us for a discussion on and around issues of labor, trade, currency, and gift economies inspired by Rebecca Chernow’s concurrent study on the topic. Small Change is a four-week presentation of research into themes of reciprocity, barter, debt, and the emergence of markets and related value systems through the creation and distribution of an invented currency.

Rbecca Chernow, artist
Rebecca Chernow works on installing “Small Change” (photo credit: Robert Wade)

Sunday, June 9th
2-3:30 – Family Sundays at the Henry! -  Family Sundays at the Henry are especially designed for adults and children to learn and create togetherJoin us as we explore Richard Elliott’s Cycle of the Sun and the influences that helped shape his work including geometry, quilting patterns and basket weaving designs.  Register at Stranger Tickets.

children making art
If you liked the Arty Party, you’ll love Family Sundays! (photo credit: Marilyn Montufar)

The Week Ahead @ the Henry

Here’s what’s happening this week at the Henry!

Wednesday, April 24th
12-12:30 pm – Art Break Tour: Henry Exhibition Guides will encourage a lively discussion around a selection of objects in our exhibitions.

Thursday, April 25th
7-8 pm – Music of Today with Abby Aresty. Abby Aresty, a UW School of Music graduate student, investigates the role of breath in music through creative manipulations of a performer’s relationship to her own breath. This performance is part of the UW’s ongoing centennial celebration of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

Have you seen Sean Scully: Passages/Impressions/Surfaces yet?


Bocanegra and McDormand perform “Bodycast” tonight

In her artist lecture “Bodycast,” Suzanne Bocanegra (right) details her struggle with a body cast to treat scoliosis during her teenage years and how it influenced her artistic process. It will be performed indirectly with actress Frances McDormand (left) taking on Bocanegra’s persona.
Actor Frances McDormand and artist Suzanne Bocanegra

Tonight at the Henry, we welcome artist Suzanne Bocanegra who, with Academy Award-winning actor Frances McDormand, will tell a multimedia story of Titian, girls’ drill teams, rose queens, scoliosis, and the history of how artists are taught to make art, and how all of us are taught to look at it. The performance is sold out.

Based in New York, Suzanne Bocanegra’s work  involves large-scale performance and installation, frequently translating two dimensional information, images and ideas from the past into three dimensional scenarios for staging, movement, ballet, and music. Bocanegra’s work has been seen in exhibitions in the United States and abroad, in such venues as the Serpentine Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Hayward Gallery in London, the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Fabric Workshop in Philadelphia. Her theatrical, video, and film work has been presented at the Bang on Can Festival, the New Haven Festival of Art and Ideas, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and as part of the Wordless Music series in New York.

Bodycast is organized by the Henry and presented in partnership with the UW School of Drama. The School of Drama investigates the art of theatre and performance — its practice, history, meaning — and fosters a spirit of inquiry by providing artists and scholars with tools for critical and inventive thinking and opportunities for practical application. Check out their 2012-2013 Season HERE.

Photo credit: Hammer Museum