An institution that has progressively cultivated an emergent art scene associating art students, campus faculty and the South Florida community, the Lowe Art Museum is an underpinning establishment at University of Miami with a rich history and a promising future.
“We have an ideology of serving town and gown, as we like to say,” said Denise M. Gerson, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs. “And what I mean is that we are an important museum in this area that is here to educate both the campus community and the greater Miami-Dade population.”
The Lowe has just closed an exhibition of famed American sculptor Louise Nevelson and has also exposed recent works by Milton Avery. As noted by Gerson, the museum chooses pertinent exhibitions that attempt to complement their own collections.
“We have a philosophy that directs us to offer changing exhibitions in all media and genres and that relates in some way to our permanent collection,” she said.
In her 12 years at the Lowe, Gerson has ascended from her start as a curator assistant to her current position as the curator of exhibitions. This title holds her responsible for the organization of all exhibitions and for matters concerning research in the museum’s collection, which totals at around 12,000 pieces and was seen by over 135,000 people during the last fiscal year.
“This is the only museum around here that has the breadth of collections that we have,” she said. “We display almost 5,000 years of art.”
The holdings are divided into Western and non-Western art, with works displayed in discrete areas such as Asian, African, Native American, Renaissance and Greco-Roman art. Sections for American Contemporary art showcase acclaimed artists like Roy Litchenstein, Frank Stella and John Sloan. In the early 1980s, the Lowe garnered credibility as the first museum in South Florida to exhibit works of Andy Warhol.
The on-campus collaboration between the Lowe, the art department and the New Gallery is key in the nurturing of the university’s art scene. Many faculty members are professionally and voluntarily involved in its functioning. For instance, Marceline Wiltmer and Perry Lee Roberts of the art department are both adjunct curators of African and Renaissance art, respectively.
Faculty members provide invaluable assistance to the museum as art historians and contributors as well. The museum holds an annual individual or collective exhibition of faculty artwork in April or May. Students are also able to have their own exhibitions.
“We try to stay in touch with the art department,” Gerson said.
The New Gallery has its own direction and runs on a different schedule than that of the Lowe. Gerson is convinced, however, that this independence will promote the growth of an art scene on campus, despite a general lack of awareness among the majority of students. The number of students set to graduate from the masters program of film arts has increased to a dozen, with many art students utilizing digital technology to experiment with innovative techniques in computer-generated art and photography. Gerson is hopeful for a new art building and sees the art scene on campus getting “bigger and better for sure.”
Linking this scene to the greater panorama of artistic creation around Miami, Gerson, who has been a resident of South Beach in the past, gives credit to SoBe for generating a bohemian, independent outlook on the expansion of art in the region. Recently though, the scene has witnessed a gradual migration downtown, as many galleries open around the Design District and the Biscayne area.
“I don’t see any meaningful crossover between these galleries and South Beach, which has been the core for artists around here,” she said. “But we still regularly go to the new galleries to familiarize ourselves with the art, sometimes inviting some artists to show their work here, such as Carlos Alves.” Alves is a local artist who did the the rosaries on the fountains on Lincoln Road.
As an institution located on a diverse campus, the Lowe is dedicated to outreach underserved groups with a multifaceted agenda.
“We try to attract minority students by showing works by ethnically diverse artists and then hope these students will come back for more,” she said.
The schedule at the Lowe has an edge of variety and doesn’t strictly adhere to the visual arts. Arranged by the curator of education, events such as poetry slams, yoga classes and musical performances take place monthly and are open to off-campus activities and people not affiliated with UM.
For now, there are no scheduled renovations, but the museum has arranged for a number of future exhibitions, including an exposition of works by Andrew Morgan, a former chairman of the Art Department, and a summer exhibition on contemporary Jamaican art. A booklet celebrating its 50th Anniversary will be distributed on March 7th.
Every summer, local artists are invited to present their pieces in the museum. Gerson personally believes that it is important to expose a lot of Florida artists, so as to show support for the state and private grants they receive.
When asked about the future of the museum, Gerson, sitting in her office, said she envisioned what she called a “unique resource” to be “continuously growing and becoming more and more significant” to the university. Gerson said she also plans to increase faculty and student participation, and that of members of the greater South Florida community.
“We have collections here that can’t be found anywhere in the region,” she said. “We’re a jewel in the UM crown.”