The past year brought students back to campus after an eighteen-month absence and, as a result, we could operate our beautiful new museum building as it was designed to function. With a mixture of apprehension and then accelerating enthusiasm for in-person class visits, events, and mentoring sessions, we gained momentum as the academic year progressed. By May of this year, we had received more than 70 distinct college class visits to exhibitions and collections; third-grade class groups from each school in the Claremont Unified School district came to study Native American ancestral items; and alumni, students, trustees, and community members alike celebrated the opportunity to gather in our courtyard, pavilion, and galleries. We have lifted our reservation require-ment for general visitation, and we are looking forward to more predictable rhythms for exhibition and program planning. We give thanks for the health and well-being of our museum colleagues and their families. I personally continue to feel deeply proud of how our museum team met the challenges of the last few years and found the strength to do excellent work.
After this first full year of operating our museum, we are also mapping out the future in strategic terms. We were delighted to collaborate with Paul Ingram, Kravis Professor of Business at Columbia Business School, who facilitated our strategy development process. We began by considering our individual values, and then we identified our core constituent groups—students, faculty, local community members, artists, scholars, and fellow museum professionals. We hosted focus groups and circulated surveys to better understand the needs of these groups, our field of action, and what we feel we are best able to contribute. Our ambitions are great: exhibitions on a grander scale; more layered and visible interpretation for public art; more interactive in-gallery experiences; new staff positions to expand our capacity for engagement; new formats for artist residencies; deeper community impact. There is so much we can do and so much that we feel called to do. Paul helped us identify short- and long-term goals and, crucially, how to prioritize them, which can mean setting aside some tempting opportunities to focus our energies on what feels most critical.
We acknowledged collectively that we must serve our academic community first and continuously, even as we look to engage community partnerships with enhanced vigor. What distinguishes a college art museum, especially one so fortunate to have its home at Pomona College, is the human resources of our students, staff, and faculty. With this context as our touchstone, we have developed a set of strategic directives (see overleaf) that will guide us in the next few years. These priorities are rooted in our institutional values, key motivating principles that we arrived at collaboratively (see page 9). In the next few months, we will make our strategy more concrete in the form of a strategic plan, which we will post on our website.
We were pleased to recognize that so much of what we want to accomplish in the future has a strong foundation in already established programs like the Project Series, our undergraduate intern program, and the Native American Collection Study Center Outreach Program. In a more recent context, we have extended these efforts with new initiatives including our collection database enhancement project, which is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. We have also bolstered our undergraduate internship program with a regular series of professional training sessions and guest speakers. Our commitment to help train the next generation of museum professionals has led us to establish an intensive program directed to the study of prints, drawings, and photographs. A Getty Foundation–funded initiative, the AllPaper Seminar launched this year with our first cohort of twelve emerging professionals concentrated in the southwestern region of the United States. We have recently been awarded another grant from the Getty Foundation that will enable us to offer full-time employment to a curatorial assistant whom we will recruit from the ranks of the Getty Marrow internship alumni. These and other projects in development will help us realize the vision we worked hard to establish together with Paul’s help.
We must also acknowledge how much upheaval and anxiety we have witnessed in these past twelve months. Waves of pandemic-related uncer-tainty, disruption, and danger have remained as a backdrop to our activities. We have been deeply saddened by the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the continual heartbreak of fatal gun violence, and the jeopardy in which women’s fundamental rights have been placed. Through these challenges, we take comfort in our belief that direct encounters with art can be an engine for good. These encounters can take place outside the museum, as they did last summer when we brought art-making activities to the children at the Fairplex in Pomona, which had been converted into temporary migrant housing. But we also believe that by making experiences in our galleries, classrooms, vaults, and public spaces engaging and accessible, we can foster a sense of belonging within our community, one that we hope will engender greater empathy for others and hope for how all facets of our society may find common purpose.
Victoria Sancho Lobis, Sarah Rempel and Herbert S. Rempel ’23 Director Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College
Elevate and activate visitor experience
Consider a broad set of faculty and students in all museum activities
Maximize student voice
Align collections and exhibitions with needs of community and contemporary issues
Inspire a Benton culture of openness, empathy, and belonging
Deliver compelling art experiences and model exemplary professional practices to prepare students for future careers and academic pursuits
Present innovative exhibitions, stimulating programs, and an inviting visitor experience in the context of a college-based teaching institution
Facilitate meaningful interactions with art and across diverse communities to promote dialogue, educate, and illuminate
Foster empathy and understanding through direct access to art
Explore human connection, respect individual experience, and amplify student voices through a collaborative process of planning and presenting museum programs
We opened our first year of full operations here at the Benton with Sadie Barnette: Legacy & Legend, the second Project Series exhibition in our new building and another collaboration with Pitzer College Art Galleries. Barnette was in attendance at both venues to help us install, and she returned in November for the first exhibition opening reception in the new building. With her father, activist Rodney Barnette, and her extended family, we celebrated the exhibition with street tacos and champagne. Sahara: Acts of Memory also compellingly responded to current events. Guest curated by Karen Kice, Sahara eloquently demonstrated the power of graphic design to preserve a sense of humanity in response to urgent crises; the featured graphic designer and artist Amir Berbić had been inspired by the images of Syrian refugees fleeing their country to reflect on his own childhood experiences. In February, the long-postponed exhibition Each Day Begins with the Sun Rising: Four Artists from Hiroshima finally opened with three of the artists in attendance. While there are too many highlights to fully recount, I recall most vividly our team’s ingenuity installing eight solar panels on our (new) roof to activate Megumi Fukuda’s installation (created in ten days with the artist on site); our wonderful cohort of five curatorial interns, who helped create Fukuda’s work while organizing class visits and public events; and the connections we made with students and faculty across campus and with our colleagues in Hiroshima, Japan. Two Benton staff members—Solomon Salim Moore, assistant curator of collections, and Claire Nettleton, academic curator—opened their first exhibitions focusing on our impressive and growing permanent collection. Known and Understood, organized by Moore, highlighted works of art that participate in the making of knowledge, and Parisian Ecologies, curated by Nettleton, explored the massive shifts as Paris was transformed from a medieval city to the modern city we know today. Lastly, we were thrilled to be able to extend two immersive projects in our galleries—Alia Ali: حب / Love and Helen Pashgian: Primavera.
Rebecca McGrew, Senior Curator
Wardell Milan is a New York–based artist deeply engaged in materiality, process, and storytelling. Milan works across media, combining drawing, photography, and collage in multi-layered works that serve as almost geological records of individual, social, and collective experience. My knees getting weak . . . is a recent monumental painting on paper that was created in the early moments of the COVID pandemic. Despite being firmly rooted in a par-ticular time and place, it elicits references to epic narratives and multifigural compositions, speaking to the august tradition of 18th- and 19th- century history painting. Milan harnesses the evocative force of fragmentation to engender grief and hope.
The painting will be featured in the fall of 2022 at the Benton within a larger collaboration between the museum and the artist. For his first outdoor campus-based project, Milan is creating five bill-boards for Pomona College that are inspired by the work of the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy. At the museum, four works on view in the lobby, with My knees getting weak . . . as a centerpiece, employ multiple techniques of image-making to disassemble and reassemble the human form, examining no less than the practice and concept of figuration itself.
Steve Comba, Assistant Director/Registrar
Total Objects Acquired in 2021 = 1,846
1 Assemblage, 4 Sculptures, 13 Baskets, 22 Paintings, 40 Prints/Drawings, 1,766 Photographs
Before 2021, 16,086 objects // After 2020, 17,932 objects
Dawoud Bey, Cabin Door and Light from the portfolio In This Here Place, 2019. Gelatin silver print on paper. 17 7 /16 × 21 7/8 in. (44.29 × 55.56 cm). Pomona College Collection. Restricted gift of Janet Inskeep Benton ’79. P2022.7.9.
Dawoud Bey’s most recent photography series, produced on the occasion
of the citywide art triennial Prospect New Orleans, evokes the painful history of American slavery with images of the landscapes of plantation sites. The Benton acquired the limited edition portfolio format for closer study and accessibility.
Pedro López Calderón, Our Lady of Guadalupe with Donor Early, 18th century. Oil on canvas. 16.2 × 11.1 in. (41.2 × 28.2 cm). Pomona College Collection. Walter and Elise Mosher Memorial Fund. P2022.19.1.
Widely considered one of the most iconic images of present-day Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe has been represented across the Americas for centuries. This Guadalupe was created in the early 18th century in the Viceroyalty of New Spain—a vast territory of what is now the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Central America. An early signed and dated work, it also features a male donor at the lower left.
June Harwood, Untitled from the Loop series, 1966. Acrylic on canvas. 40 × 60 in. (101.6 × 152.4 cm) Pomona College Collection. A gift from the June Harwood Charitable Trust. P2022.21.3.
A new partnership between the Benton and the June Harwood Charitable Trust brings a sweeping exhibition of the Hard-Edge artist’s signature paintings to the museum in 2023 as well as ten of Harwood’s works, including this untitled acrylic from the Loop series. These acquisitions are all gifts of the Trust and will come to the museum in two phases.
Civil Rights Photography
A gift from Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg in honor of activist Myrlie Evers-Williams, this collection of approx-imately 1700 photographs comprises one of the most important bodies of material from this critical time in our nation’s history. The works include both well-known press photographs, such as Thornell’s, which won the Pulitzer Prize, as well as searing images that document the individuals and events central to the Civil Rights movement.
As Pomona College resumed full operations in earnest this year, we were finally able to realize our vision of being fully integrated into academic life. Our number of class visits tripled from last year—we hosted 71 class visits from 27 departments, ranging from Geology to Studio Art. We were also excited to offer students the opportunity to spend time with collaborating artists Alison Saar, Wardell Milan, and the artists in residence from Hiroshima, Japan, as part of the opening of Each Day Begins with the Sun Rising. For me and my colleagues, it was an honor to develop course-specific object lists for everything from social justice photography to the relationship between art and science. We not only served as an extension of the classroom but also became the classroom for three courses taught at the museum: Victoria Sancho Lobis’s freshman seminar on public art; her col-laboration with Physics professor Dwight Whitaker on the art and science of optics, which will be the subject of an exhibition in Fall 2022; and my own class on Parisian Ecologies cotaught in two sections with French professor Virginie Duzer, which became the basis for the exhibition of the same name.
Claire Nettleton, Academic Curator
After more than a year of remote learning, we kicked off the academic year hosting Pomona’s first- and second-year classes at the Benton during New Student Orientation week. Our goals, formulated with our Art After Hours interns, were clear: inject the visual arts and creativity into each student’s on-campus life and certify the Benton as a hub for student engagement and partnership. Our programs provided a platform and respite for student expression, visibility, and community—whether we were hosting 30 students to build Iftar Jars for Ramadan or care packages for clients of the Foothill AIDS Project, or 300 students at our first annual 5C fashion show and semesterly student art markets with 5C Art for Liberation, or live music co-sponsored by KSPC 88.7fm. Art After Hours and other student-centered programs boasted some of the museum’s highest exhibition attendance with our most important constituents—the students.
Justine Bae Bias, Communications and Engagement Manager
The Benton’s long-awaited Community Welcome event gathered civic leaders, local families, businesses, artists and arts professionals, and Pomona’s entire campus on a bright day in November to celebrate the museum’s opening with food, music, student interns, staff—and most importantly art. We followed that event with several more throughout the year that expanded our reach into Claremont and beyond: the first-ever Print Pomona Art Book Fair in partnership with The Arts Area; an ikebana (flower-arranging) workshop with the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center; and a spoken word open-mic night with A Mic and Dim Lights. Before the academic year started, Benton staff and interns, members of the Draper Center for Community Engagement, and Pomona faculty mem-bers visited the Pomona Fairplex to assess how we might be of service to the large number of migrant children housed there. We returned in August and September with a cohort of students and Benton staff members to make art with the children.
When the Fairplex center closed abruptly in late October, the team recalibrated its efforts by planning partnerships with smaller youth-serving groups who hailed from recently arrived immigrant communities. Contacts were established with San Bernardino Community Service Center, The Garcia Center for the Arts, The Inland Empire Youth Collective, and Claremont Canopy so that Benton’s Art Engagement team could share their work and art-making with youth. Finally, at the end of the school year, to build bridges and provide service through arts engage-ment, we hosted a Benton Appreciation Event and open house for community leaders and K–12 educa-tors, inviting the aforementioned groups together with Gente Organizada, Think Together, Uncommon Good, De Anza Community & Teen Center, School of Arts and Enterprise, The dA Center for the Arts, and American Museum of Ceramic Art.
Justine Bae Bias, Communications and Engagement Manager & Rich Deely, K–12 Education Specialist
When Ruthie Metcalfe ’25 and Elisabeth Lootus ’25 first joined the Benton’s Native American Collection Study Center (NACSC) Outreach Program as education interns, much was in question. Would school visits be allowed? Or would everything remain online? Could students come to the Benton, or would other measures be required? As it turned out, the 2021–22 school year required a blend of remote and in-person learning. Associate Director/ Registrar Steve Comba and I encouraged Ruthie and Elisabeth to develop new filmed content for StoryMaps, the format we use to create presenta-tions online. In the meantime, we also prepared to teach in person. To aid their presentation, assistant curator of collections Solomon Salim Moore shared his research on Kiowa artist Silver Horn’s work for the Known and Understood exhibition, and our interns participated in the Native blanket program facilitated by Pitzer professor Erich Steinman. They made films inside the NACSC and other collec-tion vaults, while retaining interactive components in the presentations, like storytelling and art-making. While the spike in COVID-19 cases forced a return to remote learning in January 2022, most classes visited the museum in person the rest of the year, with Elisabeth and Ruthie presenting previews and concluding lessons at schools onsite. Thanks to the efforts of our entire team, including Rembrandt Club volunteers, the NACSC outreach program reached a record 784 students this year.
Rich Deely, K-12 Education Specialist
Last year the Benton was awarded a generous grant from the Getty Foundation’s Paper Project to introduce the field of works on paper to emerging museum professionals from diverse backgrounds. With that support we developed a three-year program called the AllPaper Seminar and kicked off our inaugural year, focusing on prints and print-making techniques. After a few months meeting with our 12 fellows virtually, we convened in per-son for the first time in April, when we spent two days in the special collections rooms and vaults at the Getty Museum and Research Institute. The Getty curators generously shared their expertise during our April intensive. Naoko Takahatake, curator of prints and drawings at the Getty Research Institute, presented a selection of works that helped train our eyes to identify distinct printmaking techniques and shared her own professional path, which was of real benefit to our fellows. We also visited the photography department, where curators Jim Ganz and Virginia Heckert as well as curatorial assistant Antares Wells had prepared a small survey of recently acquired photographs to facilitate a discussion of how collections take shape. Curators Edina Adam and Elizabeth Morrison brought out drawings and manuscripts and led us into the history of the print-ing press and the availability of handmade paper.
In early June the fellows returned to California, this time for a weeklong residency at the Benton. For this trip our fellows had a specific assignment: each adopted a print and were tasked with designing a hypothetical exhibition with other works from the Benton’s collection around their selected print. Our week, however, was not just full of quiet study. It was jam-packed with field trips and visits to special collections, hands-on workshops, and special guests. It is too hard to pick out a single special moment from our seminar, but one that I would like to highlight is our behind-the-scenes tour of the fine arts printer and publisher Mixografia. Mixografia is currently located in the Vernon neighborhood of Los Angeles, but its origins date back to the Plaza de Santo Domingo in Mexico City in 1968. The founders, Luis and Lea Remba, were present for our visit, and the assistant director, Milo Smolin, walked us through their current exhibition and the custom equipment the Remba family built to achieve their highly specialized way of making—get this—sculptural prints out of paper pulp. While the first year of the AllPaper Seminar has focused mainly on prints and printmaking techniques, the next year will take us into the strange and wonderful world of drawings. And if that seminar turns out to be just half as good as this one, it would be a grand success!
Solomon Salim Moore, Assistant Curator of Collections
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