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Diversifying collection, BCMA highlights new acquisitions spanning countries and centuries

November 11, 2022

Alex Spear
IN WITH THE NEW: Curator Cassandra Braun presents drawings by Argentinian artist Josefina Auslandera as part of the museum’s new acquisitions event on Thursday. The museum is introducing 400 new works into its collection as curators look to diversify what has historically been a Eurocentric collection.

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) presented its new acquisitions yesterday in the Zuckert Seminar Room to members of the campus and community. The works discussed by the curatorial staff spanned decades and came from as far as Uruguay to as close as Cape Elizabeth.

In acquiring around 400 new pieces this year, curatorial staff at the museum has attempted to diversify the Museum’s over 25,000-work collection to include pieces that fall outside of traditional representation. Curator Cassandra Mesick Braun, who joined the BCMA team this fall from the University of Kansas, noted that this year’s acquisitions brought more representation among female artists, indigenous artists and artists of color, challenging the norms within which the museum has historically functioned.

“The Museum was founded with this amazing collection of art within the Euro-American framework, but throughout its history does have strengths in more typically Western forms of art,” Braun said. “We are thinking very carefully about what types of artists have been typically underrepresented or misrepresented in museum settings.”

At the event, Braun and other members of the curatorial staff each presented one or two pieces that represent the diverse range of new acquisitions. Braun spoke on a set of carved panels by Italian artist Lott Torrelli depicting scenes from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which Braun said connects Harriet Beecher Stowe’s writing of the novel in Brunswick to the international abolition movement. Braun also highlighted a set of three drawings by Argentinian artist Josefina Auslander, who completed this work in the 1970s during the Argentine Dirty War, a politically-charged era of civilian disappearances.

“I’m really excited about these drawings because they show a realm where the Museum has been trying to expand with contemporary Latin American art, and a lot of what we currently have in Latin American art is by male-identifying artists, so she adds this female perspective,” Braun said.

Co-Director of the BCMA Frank Goodyear highlighted an image of a Chicago shoe shine shop by photojournalist Mickey Ferrell, which he noted is now the earliest work by a Black female photographer in the collection.

“In acquisitions, we try to balance contemporary and historic, Western and non-Western, and bring works from across all media,” Frank Goodyear said.

Post-Baccalaureate Curatorial Assistant Sabrina Lin ’21, who takes on the primary role of event planning for the BCMA, said that this is just one of many events that the Museum has embarked upon to try to educate community members about its works. This year’s student night at the BCMA saw a record-breaking turnout, with 800 students in attendance. Many students have also engaged with Bowdoin faculty and outside scholars in talks at the Museum, and classes often use the Zuckert Seminar Room for viewing works in tandem with course curricula. Art history major Emily Jacobs ’23 noted her excitement that the museum has been so accessible to students and community members, especially in its post-Covid reopening.

“The fact that the museum is available and open to the community is probably the nicest part of having it on campus,” Jacobs said.

Co-Director of the BCMA Anne Goodyear noted that the openness of the museum—both to students and to Brunswick residents, who made up a large majority of the event’s attendance—is one of her favorite parts of working on such a small campus.

“We have students and members of the community in here a lot and that’s one of the things I love about the museum,” Anne Goodyear said. “One of the most important things the fine arts does is give us the opportunity to come together as a community.”


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