A Bright Future for Picker Art Gallery

The Picker Art Gallery is Colgate’s own on-campus art museum. Hidden away within the brutalist architecture of Dana Arts Center, Picker is truly one of Colgate’s hidden gems. The museum rotates through exhibits carefully curated by the exceptional gallery staff.

Anyone can stop by the art gallery to view two current exhibits, both of which will be around until Dec. 19. One of the exhibits is a collection of black and white Larry Fink photographs depicting the gritty and real world of boxing. This exhibit, like much of Fink’s work, focuses on social relations and also comments on how race constructs the world around us. On Oct. 27, Larry Fink was able to give a talk here on campus to chat with students and faculty about his work. The second exhibit visitors can experience is “EXXIT,” which consists of eight print portfolios from artists such as Sanford Biggers, Chitra Ganesh and Diana al-Hadid. The works in this exhibit come from the Manhattan-based Exit Art, which acted as a creative art space for underrepresented artists before it shut down in 2012. These works have been in the Picker collection since 2013 and have never been presented all together until now. The works represent some of the gallery’s most contemporary and diverse pieces.

After the Fink exhibit and “EXXIT” close in December, the gallery has more exciting exhibits planned. Nick West, co-director of university museums and curator of the Picker Art Gallery, spoke on some of the upcoming events.

“What we’re working on for the spring is actually a collaboration with the Longyear Museum of Anthropology and looking at some of the contemporary Native American prints in their collection.”

The gallery is also working on an exhibition of photographs centered on the transatlantic slave trade by William Williams, a professor at Haverford College. This proposed exhibit would feature Williams’ newest work to date.

The faculty at Picker is also always looking within their own collection of around 11,000 pieces for possible exhibits. One artist that the gallery would like to feature is Lee Brown Coye, the central New Yorker who was best known for his macabre fantasy horror illustrations. The gallery has thousands of Coye’s sketches, prints and paintings in its collection. For any fans of interesting illustrations or the occult, be on the lookout for a future Coye exhibition.

Just as important as what’s in the galleries is what happens behind the scene. The proposed Third Century Plan, which promises new art facilities, has made the future of Picker even brighter. The plan is arranged to be set in motion within the next few years, so the gallery has to get ready to move its entire collection, which is no small feat. However, the promise of new facilities is worth the effort of moving.

“The facility we have right now was really planned for teaching in the 60s, which is a lot different than teaching today. The way in which faculty and students engage with collections is very different,” said Head of Collections for University Museums Susanna White. “That’s going to be a big moment when we have a facility that more accurately reflects the way we teach on campus with collections now.”

Another exciting development within Picker is that during the next year its entire collection will be searchable online. This will make all the art here at Colgate much more open and accessible to anybody. White, one of the heads behind this move, spoke fondly of making the collection available to a wider audience.

“It’s here for people to learn from — for everybody to learn from, at Colgate and beyond.”

If any readers want some up-close interaction with the artwork right now there is an online exhibit titled “POV: Personal Observations Vary” that was created by students from the fall 2020 course, “Museum Curating in the Digital Age.” POV guides viewers through a “choose your own adventure” style display of art, where your interactions with the art determines what you see next. This exhibition and information on the other two current exhibitions are all available on the Picker Art Gallery section of the Colgate website.

“We want students to come visit the museum outside of classes. We want it to be more of a place where people want to go to relax, chill out and enjoy some good art,” West said. “We want to see Picker become more of a central part of campus life. We want to make sure that we are a museum for everyone here on campus.”

Junior Ally Griffith, an intern at Picker, said she views the art gallery as an opportunity for students to connect even more with Colgate.

“Picker provides a lot of really cool opportunities to get involved with exhibitions that I wish more students took advantage of. The exhibitions and collections themselves are of course really interesting for anyone to visit, but they also have opportunities for students to get involved from the other side. Art history and museum studies students help curate exhibits, and I work with students from a variety of majors in collections management,” said Griffith.

Moving forward, Picker is truly becoming a place for everyone. With new facilities on the horizon and interesting exhibitions always on the way, the future appears to be very bright.