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December 19, 2019

Smash hit: UMMA photography exhibition draws big crowds, asks big questions about museums

Photo by by Mark Gjukich



The votes are in, and UMMA’s latest photography exhibition, Take Your Pick, is a runaway hit.

Update: Voting in Take Your Pick closed on Jan 12, 2020. More than 100,000 votes were received.

Original Posting Date: December 2019 — Since opening in September, the exhibition has received more than 60,000 votes (and counting) from visitors, all vying to have their say in deciding which of the 1,000 amateur photographs on display should be adopted into UMMA’s permanent collection. The collection’s owner, Peter Cohen, will donate the top 250 vote-getters to the Museum when voting closes in January.

The photographs showcase every aspect of 20th-century American life you can imagine — and some you probably can’t. The sheer variety and range of images engross viewers, who not only have cast votes, but also have argued for their choices on thousands of cards posted inside the exhibition. Explore several of these cards via the slideshow below.

“The response we’ve seen from visitors so far has been incredible,” said Jennifer M. Friess, exhibition curator and assistant curator of photography at UMMA. “People are engaging in ways they haven’t been able to with traditional art exhibitions, showing us that there is tremendous enthusiasm among our visitors for thinking with us about possibilities for the future of museums.”

Christina Olsen, UMMA’s Director, says that hunger from the public underscores the importance of the diversity of input required to ensure that UMMA’s work continues to be relevant for all.

“What belongs in a permanent collection, and why? What will future visitors, students, and community members want to see and what will they think is important for the museum to display and study from 20th-century American life?” Olsen said. “These are the questions museums grapple with, and we can’t do that alone, by ourselves. Instead, we need to engage in this work with the public, as partners. Otherwise we risk irrelevance and deep arrogance.”

The Take Your Pick exhibition is the first installation in the newly renamed ArtGym gallery at UMMA, a testing site for developing new roles and rules for art museums. And it’s just one of the many current and future forays into rethinking the spaces and programming throughout UMMA.

You can visit Take Your Pick: Collecting Found Photographs and cast your vote before January 12, 2020. After that, the top-vote getters will be on display through February 23.

If you haven’t yet voted, or even if you have, come by UMMA this winter to make your voice heard!

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