Zach Miller didn’t know much about the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art when he first arrived at CSU three years ago to begin a master of fine arts program. But the 28-year-old recent graduate sure is glad he found his way to Fort Collins.
“I had no idea CSU was working on this museum when I decided to come here,” said Miller, who graduated in May with an MFA after earning an undergraduate degree in art from Oklahoma State. “When I first got here, my first shift working was the museum’s grand opening. It really is a special place to work and study.”
Miller, now the visitor services manager for the museum, and eight of his fellow MFA students recently learned first-hand about the remarkable potential of the state-of-the-art museum, completed in 2016. Those students, working with three faculty from the Department of Art and Art History, spent two semesters putting together “Spatial Flux: Contemporary Drawings from the JoAnn Gonzalez Hickey Collection,” an exhibit of works from around the world that are part of a collection assembled by Beaver Creek resident JoAnn Gonzalez Hickey.
Hickey initiated a program called SYZYGY, a curatorial and study platform focused on unique contemporary works on paper. CSU’s grad students worked with Hickey to select more than 50 unique works – prints, drawings and sculptures – to display at the Allicar Museum.
The students communicated with the individual artists to and to learn more about the works themselves.
“Working with JoAnn’s collection is a privilege,” Miller said. “It’s really quite rare that a collector opens up her collection the way she did for us. We had total freedom to curate a thematic experience. I even got to visit her at her home in Beaver Creek – she was very welcoming.
“Working together on this project really brought all of the grad students together – we shared ideas and shared the work. It was an amazing experience.”
Artist’s visit caps two-year project
The experience was capped by a visit and lecture from Mauro Giaconi, a renowned Argentinian artist whose work “El Atlas Nuestro Tiempo” was part of the exhibit. Giaconi, who now lives in Mexico City, has shown his work in galleries and museums around the world.
“My art school was very traditional, but then we started getting curious about contemporary art and talking about our own processes,” he said. “That brought about change in the way I produce art. Now I work in different mediums, with different strategies. I started working in a very free way, expressing the way I am now.”
Giaconi was particularly pleased with the quality of Allicar and the way it is used as a teaching tool.
“This new museum is amazingly beautiful,” he said. “I didn’t have an asset like this when I was in art school. The students here really have everything they need to develop as artists.”
10th anniversary for UCA
“Spatial Flux” was part of the 10th anniversary celebration at the University Center for the Arts. It’s run has concluded, but the museum continues to serve its designed purpose as a high-quality gallery that doubles as a working classroom for CSU students, faculty and the community.
“Our state-of-the-art climate and security provide the utmost care for our collection while making possible loans of works of art of the highest caliber from world-class institutions, and being part of a university means we can draw on expertise in every field in the service of their interpretation,” said museum director and chief curator Lynn Boland. “Free and open to all, we make objects available for both enjoyment and study that can’t be seen elsewhere nearby, and we offer interpretation that includes not only art history, but considerations from other disciplines as well. We bring people together around art and ideas, so I hope we’re thought of as a resource and as a hub.”
Building the museum’s reputation
Boland said Hickey and Liz Tenenbaum, the director of SYZYGY, were highly impressed with the museum and the way it is used to educate. As a result, he is already exploring similar projects in the near future to bring high-caliber art to Fort Collins – both to be enjoyed and studied.
“Simply put, we’ve got the space to pursue more projects and larger ones, which allows more opportunities for students,” Boland said. “It allows us to build on and grow the museum’s model of student and faculty involvement, something our accreditation report from the American Alliance of Museums noted as exemplary last year, before the Spatial Flux/SYZYGY project was even off the ground.”