Crystal Bridges is temporarily closed to support efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Follow our updates.
Crystal Bridges is temporarily closed to support efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Follow our updates.

Museum Way Podcast: Personal Space + Museum Design

On this episode of Museum Way, we learn more about our focus exhibition Personal Space with Associate Curator Allison Glenn. Then, we talk with Creative Director Anna Vernon all about museum design.

 

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Episode Transcript

Stace Treat:
Welcome to Museum Way, the podcast of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. We’re sharing all the ins and outs of the museum, from the galleries to the trails, the architecture, and more. You’ll learn the Museum Way of Crystal Bridges.

Stace Treat:
This month, we’re talking with Allison Glenn, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art about her role in the museum and her focused exhibition, Personal Space. Then we’ll talk with Creative Director Anna Vernon and talk all about the museum’s branding and design strategies. It’s a good conversation today on Museum Way.

Stace Treat:
We’re here with Allison Glenn, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art. Allison, welcome to Museum Way.

Allison Glenn:
Thank you, Stace. It’s so great to be here.

Stace Treat:
Well, listen, you’re one of our newer additions to our curatorial staff. You joined us in February of this year. Can you tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you joined us?

Allison Glenn:
Yes. So, I moved here from New Orleans where I was working with the Prospect.4 curatorial team, and my role there was a dual role. I was the publications manager and a curatorial associate. So, I basically edited the book and wrote many of the essays, worked directly with the artistic director and many of the artists to realize artist projects.

Stace Treat:
All right. That’s quite a wonderful city to work in, for sure.

Allison Glenn:
It was fantastic.

Stace Treat:
So, was it city-wide kind of thing?

Allison Glenn:
Yeah, we were across … it was the fourth iteration of Prospect New Orleans, and it was started post-Katrina as a way to bring tourism to the city through arts and culture. So, really this kind of nexus of art and the environment. Many of the artists are thinking about the city and thinking about the landscape of New Orleans, both the physical and kind of sociopolitical landscape. So yeah, it was citywide. We had 17 partner venues and 19 outdoor sites. That’s a total of 36 sites in the city.

Stace Treat:
Wow. So, you also come from Chicago as well, right? What did you do in Chicago?

Allison Glenn:
Well, in Chicago, I had many different roles. Before I moved to New Orleans, I was the director of a commercial gallery, and I also worked at the University of Chicago with the artist, Theaster Gates.

Stace Treat:
That’s wonderful. Yeah, Theaster Gates.

Allison Glenn:
Yeah.

Stace Treat:
He’s a legend.

Allison Glenn:
He is. He’s another artist that’s thinking really critically about site, the environment, collectivity.

Stace Treat:
Okay. Well, that brings me to asking you what is it that you’re doing for us?

Allison Glenn:
Well, Crystal Bridges is such an incredible institution, and I feel that all of us move at an expedited rate. There’s such a desire to achieve. And so, I’m doing a lot of things at the museum, but everyone is doing a lot.

Stace Treat:
Yes. We’re all very busy all the time.

Allison Glenn:
Yes. So, as associate curator, I am responsible for thinking about collections exhibitions, so focus exhibitions that put a lens on the collection and group ideas, objects, artworks thematically. I am also responsible for the North Forest, which is a 33-acre area of land that’s just north of the museum and our larger campus, and I’m thinking about exhibitions in that space, and also temporary touring exhibitions. So, kind of just …

Stace Treat:
A lot of different things. But it’s an interesting blend of what you’ve been doing before that’s brought you here, because you’re thinking inside and outside as well.

Allison Glenn:
Absolutely.

Stace Treat:
So, a lot of our guests I think are very curious about what a curator does. And we’ve had conversations before about what does a curator do, what are their responsibilities or what do they think of? And I was having a conversation with you, and you brought up the concept of curatorial style. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Allison Glenn:
Sure. Yeah, I was recently on a panel, and one of the questions that we received from the audience was what was our curatorial style. And I opted to go last because I really wanted to give some thought. And for me, my curatorial style starts with the site. So where am I? , What is the institution? What is the interior architecture? What does the collection look like? What is the audience? What are some of the key concerns in this area or region? So, what can happen at Crystal Bridges might not be able to happen anywhere else.

Allison Glenn:
So, my style starts first with where I’m at, and then I start to delve into things like collections, ideas. And there are so many ideas that are larger universal concerns that can be filtered into a local context. So, I really think about pairing the international with the local and having some of those conversations that you’ll see really play out in some exhibitions that are upcoming.

Stace Treat:
Yeah, because we have a real interest here at Crystal Bridges in diversity and inclusion. And you’ve often talked about the importance of a perspective when it comes to curation and finding a lot of perspectives, offering a lot of perspectives. Can you talk a little bit more about how coming into a collection that you’re not familiar with, how that kind of works for you? How do you get to know a collection and start thinking about the perspectives you can bring to it?

Allison Glenn:
Yeah. Well, I started to first look at our database and do thematic searches. So, because I’m focusing on contemporary art, I’m really looking at roughly we say 1940, but really kind of late ’50s to now. And looking at objects both within the database and also in our vaults, looking at what’s on view in the galleries, thinking about the thematic groupings that already exist within the exhibition space, and then bringing my knowledge of diverse practices and trying to really pair it together. So, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to think about what could be included, what are some other perspectives that might be able to add to the rich discourse that the Crystal Bridges collection already has.

Stace Treat:
Right. So this brings us to Personal Space. This is, I guess, your first indoor project, right?

Allison Glenn:
It is, yes.

Stace Treat:
Exhibition. Tell me a little bit about that show and your process of thinking about it.

Allison Glenn:
Yeah, so exhibitions – going back to that question of “what does a curator do?” – exhibitions can happen in many forms. In this particular case, there’s an artwork that guests love, and it’s by an artist named Alison Elizabeth Taylor, and it’s called Room. And it’s a room-sized installation that is made by the intarsia process, which is inlaid wood. And I was asked to consider this object and make an exhibition that considers what the object is saying, what it is doing. And so, from there, Personal Space was born.

Allison Glenn:
And so what I’m thinking about with this exhibition is what are some of the objects that we surround ourselves with? What are some of the ways that we think about interior space? How are we creating and immersing ourselves in environments? And how is that a reflection of who we are as individuals? So, you’ll see this articulated across a few different diverse practices.

Allison Glenn:
What I want to start with are the photographs in the lower levels. So, there are many depictions of artists in their personal space, whether they’re home or their studio. And there are photographs by an artist named Carrie Schneider, who’s based in Brooklyn. And she was really inspired by Linda Nochlin’s essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”

Allison Glenn:
And so, she asked 50 women in the art world, primarily artists, to pick their favorite book by a female author, and asked them to allow her to photograph and record them on video while they’re reading this book in their favorite space, so whether their home or their studio. And what’s really beautiful is, if you are have a chance to look at the film, after a couple hours, the sitter becomes really unaware of Carrie’s presence.

Allison Glenn:
And you see the furrow of the brow, the brushing back of bangs, and these women really kind of leaning into their space and getting comfortable with the book that they’re reading. And I thought that was a really lovely depiction of how literature can create a personal space and an environment, but also comfort and allowing someone into your personal space.

Allison Glenn:
And then across the way from that, there will be some photographs by Kat Wilson. Kat’s an Arkansas-based photographer, and she has a series – a couple of different series – of works. One of them is a habitat, and the other one is this larger body of work where she’s been documenting Arkansas-based artists.

Allison Glenn:
And so, I really … this is tied to the idea of site. I’m in Arkansas, and Kat’s work fit the exhibition so perfectly. And when we talk about what is the space of the museum, who is it for? Is it for local artists? Is it for international artists? Can it be for both? Right? And what does it mean to have an artistic practice in Arkansas? What do some of these artists’ studios look like?

Stace Treat:
Yeah, exactly. The other thing I love about that is part of having a museum like Crystal Bridges in this area has really done a lot for the local arts scene. It’s brought new artists here. It’s really expanded this sort of arts consciousness of the area. And I love that we’re able to find that this artist fits so perfectly with the themes of the show that you’re able to include her in it.

Stace Treat:
The other thing about Personal Space. And as you were talking about those photographs, I was really struck by sort of the layering of personal/intimate space when you think about, okay, not only is the photographer being invited into the personal space of the studio or the home, but then you’re photographing these women who are having very intimate experiences of personal space in their minds. Right? So, the thing of like you mentioned literature and how it brings out a person … it creates a personal space when we envision that kind of thing. There are other works in this show that also play on different ideas of personal space. Can you mention a couple of those?

Allison Glenn:
Certainly, yeah. And I really appreciate you mentioning that layering, because it is. There’s a few metanarratives that flow throughout. Another one is intimacy. And there are two works in the exhibition, one by Félix González-Torres, and one by Roni Horn. And what these works are doing are not only creating interesting installations. One of the works is installed on the floor, and the other is leaning against the wall, so nontraditional installation techniques.

Allison Glenn:
But also, Félix and Roni had a very intimate friendship. And I wanted to be able to talk about how they became friends and the intimacy in their friendship as artists respecting each other’s practices, and chose these two works not only for the way that they’re nontraditionally displayed, but also how this relationship between artists and this intimacy and this allowing.

Allison Glenn:
Another way that personal space has played out is in the work of Genevieve Gaignard.

Stace Treat:
Tell us about that. That’s a really exciting installation. I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this at Crystal Bridges yet.

Allison Glenn:
Yeah. So, Genevieve is a … she’s an emerging to mid-career artist based in LA, and a lot of her work is reliant on the tension between reality and fiction. Right? So, we could call them para-fictions, but they’re really rooted in truth. And this particular installation is called Black is Beautiful, and it’s an homage to her niece who passed away in a house fire when she was eight-and-a-half.

Allison Glenn:
And so, the interior has different objects that point to childhood. There’s a series of Cabbage Patches on the doll, or there’s a series of cabbage patches on the bed. Pink is a key color. But there are these tales in the interior that point to a potential for development. So, they point to this idea of aging and growing up, which is something that her niece, unfortunately…

Stace Treat:
Was denied.

Allison Glenn:
Yeah.

Stace Treat:
Yeah.

Allison Glenn:
Yeah.

Stace Treat:
So, it’s kind of a piece of memory, of grief, of hope, of all these complicated emotions. I just find the concept of creating a room like that, it’s like her bedroom. It’s going in a little girl’s bedroom, and then kind of knowing the impetus for the artist’s expression. It’s a very powerful experience, I imagine.

Allison Glenn:
Yeah, it is definitely powerful. And this idea of allowing in and the idea of intimacy and creating space for people to share the experience is something that carries through. So, it’s seen in Carrie Schneider’s work, it’s seen in the relationship between Félix and Roni. And this idea of allowing is really present.

Stace Treat:
I’m thinking back to our mission, basically, of Crystal Bridges of welcoming all and creating this sort of exhibit around just this concept of opening and allowing. And I’m curious to know, is there a particular favorite space in the museum that you like?

Allison Glenn:
Wow. It’s so tough because the museum is gorgeous.

Stace Treat:
Yeah.

Allison Glenn:
There are so many vantage points and views that I love and I often take photos and post them to social media of various places in the museum. So, one of my favorite spaces in the museum is the long corridor that curves around to the south entrance and it connects the Main Lobby with the South Lobby. There’s a particular point in that corridor where you can see Eleven, so you can see the bridge that Eleven is on, and then you see the Great Hall. And on a perfect day when the sun is shining and it’s not too hot, there is this reflection in the water of the trees, and it’s the most captivating space in the museum. So, I would say that that’s my favorite spot. And especially after yoga on Tuesdays when I’m all zenned out looking across the water, it’s my favorite spot.

Stace Treat:
That’s a good ending to a good … Yeah. And oftentimes you can catch that at a quiet time, so if it’s not crazy busy or whatever. But you can have a quiet moment in that spot that you’re talking about. And I also love it when you can see the turtles and the fish in the water.

Allison Glenn:
Absolutely.

Stace Treat:
Just has the little critters coming around. It’s beautiful.

Stace Treat:
All right. Well, Allison, we should tell everybody that Personal Space there will be on view through March 2019. So, we have a good few months of that in our personal space that we’re very excited about. Allison Glenn, Associate Curator, thank you so much for joining us today on Museum Way.

Allison Glenn:
Thank you, Stace.

Stace Treat:
We’re here with creative director, Anna Vernon. Anna, thanks so much for being on Museum Way.

Anna Vernon:
Thank you so much for having me. I’m quite excited.

Stace Treat:
All right, well let’s jump into it. Something a lot of our guests probably don’t know about Crystal Bridges is that we actually have our own in-house essentially ad/marketing/PR agency, and you’re a big part of that. So, tell me what you do as creative director in our communication department.

Anna Vernon:
Sure thing. I would start by saying I feel very lucky to work at an institution that recognized early that we should have an in-house marketing firm. So, we’re in the communications department, and I’m the creative director, so we have the creative department. And we are a team of designers that essentially takes care of everything visual that’s not the art. And that kind of sounds strange to say, but it’s a way to communicate that we’re taking care of large marketing campaigns, exhibition graphics, but then things as small as out of order signs or way finding, menus. So, it’s a little of everything, and it’s all very fun.

Stace Treat:
Yeah, so you also have all of those calendars. There’s also in the same kind of department the digital team, so the people that do the website. I think a lot of people really don’t realize how central design as a concept is to Crystal Bridges. We are an art museum, clearly, and we have wonderful things in the art, but there also has to be a cohesion to the design that also fits the design of the building, for example. Can you talk a little bit about what your design philosophy is and what you think about as a designer?

Anna Vernon:
Oh my, that is a loaded question, but a fun one. So, in the design realm it’s been fascinating to see more and more companies, institutions, look more towards internal in-house agencies. And a lot of times that used to have this stigma because it wouldn’t be as exciting or fun.

Anna Vernon:
And what’s great about our museum in particular is we’re essentially a microcosm of a community. We have a 120 acres, so outside grounds to take care of. We have retail, a restaurant, a massive education program, not to mention the entire art side of everything, and then also moving guests through the place itself. So, everything changes on a daily basis, it seems. And we just roll with it.

Anna Vernon:
For a strategy or vision creatively, we have to look at the brand on the whole as the guest experiences it. So, what we’ve learned over the years is in the beginning, we were really focused on announcing ourselves. We are Crystal Bridges. This is who we are.

Stace Treat:
So, identity branding really was a big part of the early years.

Anna Vernon:
Yes. People didn’t know who we were. They didn’t understand the scope of what we had to offer. And then a few years ago, it became much easier working regionally, nationally, internationally, because people could more readily understand who we were. And so, our branding shifted a bit to be a little simpler. And overall, what we’re wanting people to feel when they walk in the door or experience our brand online is a sense of welcoming, being able to feel welcomed into the museum, for it to feel relatable, and not interrupt their experience with the art.

Stace Treat:
Be comfortable in some ways.

Anna Vernon:
Yes, yes, definitely.

Stace Treat:
So, how do you do that from a designer’s perspective when you’re thinking about … I know that you work closely with our exhibition designer, Jessi Mueller, in terms of crafting space inside the permanent galleries. We just did a complete re-install of our permanent galleries, for example. Also, the large shows like The Beyond, Art for a New Understanding, Chihuly, for example. How do you start thinking about those projects and how you’re going to brand what essentially begins as a concept?

Anna Vernon:
That’s a very good question, and the answer is there are two ways we go about it. For a temporary exhibition, those change every time. Every exhibition is unique, which keeps things really dynamic. And we look at what the curator is hoping to achieve. We work with you as well. So, the curator and the interpretation, how do we want the guest to interact with this set of artworks? What are the goals? And that’s inside the gallery.

Anna Vernon:
And I work very closely with Jessi and y’all to make sure that we’re achieving those goals, making the guest feel as they should. So, Chihuly was a very fun eye candy type of exhibition that attracted people very easily. And then we had to more in depth make them understand how this was made, the concept behind it, Chihuly as a person. But then there’s something a little more tricky with The Beyond, which is pairing Georgia O’Keeffe and these contemporary artists. And so, it has this feeling of old and new. So, every exhibition is different and we start there.

Anna Vernon:
But there’s another side to it, and that’s marketing. So, inside the gallery, the artworks have … they’re contextualized with all of your wonderful words that you write. And everything kind of feels together, and there’s a story being told. But in order to get people in the door, we have to realize that marketing is a different beast altogether.

Anna Vernon:
So, we do a ton of focus groups, and we work with y’all to make sure everything stays cohesive with the show. But it kind of changes a little how we get people in the door to get excited about the exhibition as to when they walk in the door, the feeling they’ll have going through the exhibition.

Anna Vernon:
And you also mentioned galleries, our early American galleries, and those have a whole different strategy. Those need to feel timeless. They need to be able to stand the test of time, which in our realm isn’t that long, but a few years. We didn’t change our galleries for about six years. So, they need to last 5 or 10 years and not get taken away with any design fad, and be able to work with all types of art because those change out. We get loans, all sorts of things. So, making sure they feel a little more elegant, if you will, with the art that surrounds them.

Stace Treat:
Sure. And that actually brings me to what I think is an interesting question in terms of design is what is it like designing for a museum in particular? It’s a very specific kind of client. It’s a cultural institution. It’s a destination. Certainly in this region, it’s one of the biggest … Crystal Bridges is one of the largest tourist attracting destinations in Northwest Arkansas. What is so specifically interesting and unique designing for this kind of a place?

Anna Vernon:
The easiest way to answer that is the art. It is so wonderful to be able to communicate with the visuals that we’re provided. Whether it’s a Rothko or Picasso that’s on loan, or a brand new artist who’s emerging like our State of the Art exhibition, there are all sorts of art that we’re able to communicate to guests. And at its heart, working at a museum, most people, as you well know, work here because they feel drawn to communicating and helping people become more culturally aware and having good experiences with art. And so, the design then reflects that.

Anna Vernon:
And there’s also the flipside to that, and that would be working with the art can be difficult. It’s one of the biggest learning curves I think for designers when they enter the museum world is knowing about image copyrights. So, we work very closely with our registration team.

Stace Treat:
Yeah, it is funny because this is something I have to work with as well in interpretation is that being able to use an image, say in an exhibition, or in some kind of a pamphlet or program or whatever, they’re not all the same.

Anna Vernon:
No.

Stace Treat:
Whether it’s a living artist or whether it’s an artist’s estate, for example. So, I can imagine that’s quite a constraint when you want to use a particular image.

Anna Vernon:
It’s definitely been interesting to walk through that. And I think that our process now has been really finely honed, even though we continue to evolve it. But using our community groups, we use a lot of focus groups from the area that come in, and they let us know their thoughts about a particular set of images. But then we also tell them at the same time, “Thank you so much. Now we’re going to have to go talk to our registration team and figure out what is possible, what’s affordable, what we can get in terms of the actual image.” You mentioned this. Each one is unique. It’s fascinating that they’re almost like they’re little individuals themselves with how we can actually use them.

Stace Treat:
So, you also work with a lot of interesting materials, like vinyl or wood or metal. You’ve done some really fascinating things. What’s that like, being able to utilize those kinds of materials?

Anna Vernon:
I will say that is an incredibly fun part of working in a place that … We have our bread and butter, our permanent collection that stays constant even though we update it often. But having these temporary exhibitions come through allows for such creativity and the ability to change. But at every point, we’re always looking back at what is best for the guest. So, how does this show need to come alive for the guest? And this makes me think of American Made, a show we had a couple of years ago.

Stace Treat:
Yeah, the folk art show that we had.

Anna Vernon:
Yeah.

Stace Treat:
Yes.,

Anna Vernon:
So, for that one on our title wall, we did both wood and steel. And we wanted materials … I wanted materials that really felt like you could touch them. Of course, if you wanted to, you could. We had those materials so that people would connect immediately to materials that they know and hopefully love and that they’ll see inside the exhibition. But then for something like Chihuly, that’s obviously an all glass show. So, we used a gloss acrylic that had the same effect, but obviously was not glass, but kind of paired with that nicely. So, it’s very fun.

Stace Treat:
It’s funny, because the Chihuly show in contrast to some of the others was actually fairly minimal on your part. Part of design is also knowing when to step back and allow whatever material or whatever art that you’re working with and just kind of support it. But there are other times when like an exhibition that’s coming up called Men of Steel, Women of Wonder where there might be opportunity to really play with graphics. Are you excited about some of the shows coming up next year?

Anna Vernon:
I feel that our next year or two of exhibitions is just killer. I feel like our Beyond show this past summer was outstanding. And then with a contemporary Native American exhibition, it’s going to really completely make you rethink what you already thought you knew. And oh my goodness, Men of Steel, Women of Wonder I am very excited about.

Anna Vernon:
And you’re right. Having the ability to switch tactics and understand the exhibition and what it needs. Chihuly, we knew it would be packed. We knew people would come in droves. And so, allowing a lot of space physically but also visually is what was important. So, everything there was handheld. And that one, you’re right, was the most minimal I think we’ve been inside the gallery. But wow, if you came that summer, you saw all of the way finding. There was red all over the museum to get people from…

Stace Treat:
And you argued to use that red, as a matter of fact.

Anna Vernon:
Yes, I did. It had to feel good in the summer and the fall. So, it drew you from the gallery out to the forest. But then with Men of Steel, Women of Wonder, it will be a different story. I’m excited to work with you on that, looking at ways to really bring superheroes alive, but in ways you don’t always think of. So, I’m very excited about it.

Stace Treat:
Yeah. It’ll be a fun design challenge, for sure. So, speaking of Art for a New Understanding, I would to hear where … since that’s kind of where you’re at right now, tell me a little bit about your design philosophy behind that show.

Anna Vernon:
Certainly. So, with Art for a New Understanding, we’re bringing this contemporary Native American group of artists. The goal of the show is to dispel the stereotypes that you might think of. And so, that was really a fun concept to work with and design.

Anna Vernon:
So, for marketing, we really wanted to get out of the way. You’ll see a little more simpler set of graphics, but where it lets the art really stand out. And the reason we chose to do that is because with our focus groups, we figured out that the overriding nature of the show is excitement through color. So many of the works are full of life, full of color. And so, we wanted to really put that at the forefront, and then also bring out the Native voice from the show itself. So, paired with all of our marketing materials are quotes from the artists themselves, and that is what really carries into the gallery. We have quotes from the artists themselves everywhere.

Anna Vernon:
And the show is set up in three themes, three major themes. And our exhibition designer, Jessi, and the curator and interpretation manager worked through those. And Jessi’s idea was to have three major colors that would carry you through the gallery and allow you to experience each theme separately, which I love that thought. So, as we’re working through it, we really wanted to make sure that what you’re feeling in the gallery is matching the complex nature of the show. So, we have contemporary artists who are making amazing work who also happen to be Native American. So, there’s a very complex history associated.

Anna Vernon:
So, within the show, if you will come see it, you will see that the graphics have a color gradient. So, Jessi wanted these paint colors, but she really didn’t want hard lines on the wall. So, we thought about doing gradients, paint gradients, so that way it softens it. It’s a little unexpected. It’s very contemporary right now, very trendy, but it also allows your mind to subtly realize not everything is black and white, not everything is A or B. There’s reasons for a whole host of subjects to be there and the complexities that surround this show.

Stace Treat:
Right. So, there are a lot of historical, legal, political, personal, identity-based, a lot of factual, et cetera, and experiential things that these artists are expressing in different ways. And it seems that there is so much gray area, if you will, in it, that the gradient idea is really interesting. It makes a lot of sense that there’s vibrant color, but that it’s not clean, per se.

Anna Vernon:
Yes. And having this experience of, as I mentioned, all of the works, a lot of the works, the overriding sense of the show is color. And so, allowing the graphics to be a little minimal but still striking was a goal. And so, at the beginning and end of the show, the bookends, we combine all three color gradients into one. So, it’s also coming together, everything in the end. We all need to relate to each other and understand each other and where we’re coming from. But then they’re split up within the show into their themes.

Anna Vernon:
So, as you walk through and you see these gradients on the wall that are with the graphics, and then Jessi’s incorporated them with some of the artworks to really make them pop, as she likes to say, it lets you feel almost enveloped in a sense, so kind of a warm blanket type feel. But then the graphics on the wall are very strong, that the fonts used are very striking. And so, it’s both this sense of comfort, but also as …

Stace Treat:
Interruption.

Anna Vernon:
A disruption, yes.

Stace Treat:
Yeah.

Anna Vernon:
That kind of goes along with the entire concept of the show. And at every turn there’s the voice of the artist that we draw back to, because that is the point of the show.

Stace Treat:
It’s interesting that you … It’s almost like you’re using color as a visual equivalent of a voice.

Anna Vernon:
Yes. Color is very effective that way. I’m a type of designer that definitely always has concepts behind every use of color or font, and whether or not anyone needs to realize that or does is besides the point. But there’s a reason for using it other than saying, “Oh it’s pretty.” So, there’s always a reason.

Stace Treat:
What’s the difference between art and design?

Anna Vernon:
That is a really good question, Stace. That is often asked. People will look at a poster or graphics on a wall and ask that question, and it’s an easy answer, actually. The main difference between art and design is intent. So, with art, it is all about intent, and art can be anything.

Anna Vernon:
With design, at its core, design is problem solving, and design is problem solving for a particular audience. So, that is definitely something we always hearken back to with the museum is problem solving a design solution for whichever audience we’re working with. And oftentimes it’s a mass audience, a general audience, one that spans all ages and cultures. So, we’re looking at a set of design solutions that work for almost everyone.

Anna Vernon:
Along with that, and similar to art, you understand that not everyone is going to like everything. It is subjective. At the end together, both art and design are subjective. And so, it’s realizing that you need to affect a solution that works whether or not someone is visually attracted to it, which is difficult to do. Through all of our critiques and everything, not everyone likes everything we do on the design team. But it’s about coming to a consensus, making sure we’re always serving the guest who’s coming in the door, and not forgetting the audience we’re speaking to.

Stace Treat:
Well, Anna Vernon, Creative Director at Crystal Bridges, thank you so much for joining us on Museum Way. This has been a great conversation. Thanks.

Anna Vernon:
It was really fun, Stace. Thanks for having me.

Stace Treat:
‘Tis the season of giving, and we hope this holiday season you’ll give the gift of membership. Members enjoy free admission to temporary exhibitions, discounts on programs, and much more, all while becoming a part of a vibrant community supporting the region’s leading cultural institution. Share your museum with the ones you love. More info at crystalbridges.org.