Just one month after opening its first exhibition season in February 2020, the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery (LWAG) temporarily closed its doors to the public.
As with so many arts and culture organisations around the world, LWAG’s temporary closure prompted a series of new digital programs. This shift in focus saw the development of unique engagement initiatives that reflected the overlap between accessibility and digitisation, as well as the crucial role the arts play in our personal well-being and our collective sense of community and connection.
In March, the Gallery launched its new digital programs under the title LWAG+. These included new virtual tours of its then-current exhibitions The Long Kiss Goodbye (for the Perth Festival) and Boomerang – A National Symbol, alongside virtual tours of popular exhibitions from its archives. Gallery staff worked together with Perth-based artist Penny Coss to record her cancelled public performance Pendulum Acts, released on the gallery’s YouTube channel.
A longstanding partnership with Rosalie Primary School also continued, as the Gallery published on its website student art reflecting on the recent bush fires as a source of inspiration for those at home. The Gallery has been highlighting select art-making activities ideal for at-home projects from its archive of education kits.
Also launched earlier in the year was the new LWAG Student Advisory Committee comprising Gallery staff and UWA students who have been meeting fortnightly over Zoom. The group’s first project was the social media challenge #LWAGIsolationRecreation. Inspired by the global art museum trend #BetweenArtandQuarantine, the project encouraged audiences to recreate select artworks from the UWA Art Collection at home and resulted in a range of amusing and creative responses. LWAG staff and students shared reflections on their favourite artworks from the University’s art collections on the Gallery’s social media channels as part of #OurLWAGCollection.
Increasing the digital accessibility of its collections has been the focus of two major new initiatives. In June, the Gallery launched a new online database of the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art, which features more than 700 artworks by female artists created from the 1890s to the present day. The CCWA is the largest public specialist collection of artwork created by Australian women artists.
In July, the Gallery published a new, custom-designed digital exhibition for Expressions of India: From the Ronald M. and Catherine H. Berndt Collection, with the team working to create a rich, dynamic digital presentation of the exhibition. The new online exhibition was launched on the LWAG website on 11 July, making this amazing collection accessible to audiences both locally and internationally.
The Gallery has also launched a new podcast, LWAGTalks. Featuring conversations with artists, curators and LWAG staff, the podcast delivers unique, behind-the-scenes discussions and information about the Gallery’s programs. It also shares recordings from public talks and symposia dating as far back as 2013. A feature of the podcast is the Art Aside series with LWAG Director Professor Ted Snell. These short episodes share fascinating, little known stories from the history of art.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery. Followers of LWAG’s social media channels will find a weekly series of stories, photographs and highlights from the Gallery’s 30-year history. The first purpose-built university art museum in Australia, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery officially opened its doors for its first exhibition on 18 July 1990.
Director of Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, Professor Ted Snell explains: “As we look towards the future, when we will reopen the Gallery’s doors in late August with a new series of exhibitions that explore themes of queer history and culture, sexuality and gender. They will feature new work by contemporary artists as well as recent additions to the Cruthers Collection of Women’s Art. Gallery staff look forward to presenting artwork and reconnecting in-person with the campus and surrounding communities through the rich conversations and experiences art provokes. With an innovative new approach to digital programming, the new season aims to provide a dynamic mix of in-person experiences and online offerings.”
More information on the digital offerings can be found at LWAG+ Highlights: lwag.uwa.edu.au/plus
Image credit: Opening night, The Long Kiss Goodbye, LWAG, 2020, featuring Penny Coss, ANXIOUS SPACES, 2020. Photograph by Ilkka K Photography.
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