Siddhartha V. Shah Named Director of The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College

A photo of Siddhartha V. Shah

Amherst College News | August 10, 2022

Siddhartha V. Shah comes from the Peabody Essex Museum, where he was Curator and Director of Education and Civic Engagement

Amherst College announced today that Siddhartha V. Shah, director of education and civic engagement and the curator of South Asian art at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), has been named the John Wieland 1958 Director of the College’s Mead Art Museum. In his new role, Shah will oversee the museum’s collections, acquisitions, exhibitions and programs, as well as a variety of initiatives aimed at deepening engagement with the community both on and off campus.

Fostering intersectional learning and cross-cultural understanding through the arts has long been a guiding principle of Shah’s life and career. That philosophy has shaped his curatorial work, as well as his commitment to education and community engagement, he said. “I aspire to help people see their lives and experiences reflected back at them, through objects and stories from cultures that may be completely different from their own,” he explained. “This is how art helps us better understand ourselves and each other. This is how art can break down barriers to grow and nourish a community. I am excited to do my own part to do exactly that at the Mead, the College and in Western Massachusetts.”

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Mead Art Museum introduces “Mead on the Move”

A group of children playing outside

The Reminder | August, 26, 2022

In April of 2022, the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College announced a “Mead on the Move” initiative, a program that brings art education from the museum’s galleries into pre-K through 12th grade classrooms.

“Mead on the Move” draws from the Mead’s core teaching themes designed to complement Massachusetts state learning guidelines. The themes include representing the self and others, stories in art, and playing with process, which pays homage to the artist’s known or unknown work in making and creating.

All interested instructors in the Amherst area can register their class for free on the museum’s website. Visits are developed and facilitated by the Mead’s trained and paid student museum educators from Amherst College and led by Museum Educator Olivia Feal. Teachers can default to the Mead for a lesson on one of those themes or work with the staff in advance to specialize a lesson. For More information, visit the original news story below.

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Mass Humanities awards the Mead Art Museum

A photo saying Expand Massachusetts Stories 2022

Mass Humanities | September 22, 2022

The Mead Art Museum is a recipient of the Mass Humanities' Expand Massachusetts Stories grant program initiative. The Mass Humanities announced it has awarded $713,876 in Expand Massachusetts Stories grants to 42 cultural nonprofit organizations across the Commonwealth. The funded projects will surface new narratives about the people and ideas that shape Massachusetts. 

The Mead was selected as one of the recipients for this initiative to support its upcoming exhibition, Boundless: Indigenous Art and Stories Across Massachusetts.

The supported program is an evergreen educational initiative that will expand the access and reach of local Indigenous objects and histories from the “Boundless” exhibition to K-12 classrooms through developing digital teaching resources and curricula. The project will Expand Massachusetts  stories by linking the Kim-Wait Eisenberg Collection of Native American literature (KWE) at Frost Library and the Mead Art Museum’s collection for the first time, bringing the two Amherst College collections together at the Mead from September 12, 2023–January 7, 2024.

Though the featured artists in the exhibition reflect a range of tribal affiliations, both the exhibition and the education program “Boundless: K-12” will focus on local Northeastern creators and the connections many non-local artists had to Massachusetts. 

Read more at Mass Humanities

When the Avant-garde Met E=mc2

A painting of a woman painting

The Art Newspaper | November 7, 2018

Cubism. Futurism. Constructivism. Dadaism. Surrealism. Amid the maelstrom of artistic “isms” that swirled in the first decades of the 20th century, an obscure Hungarian poet saw a clear and unstoppable logic. Charles Sirató had begun composing “planar” poems in the 1920s that freed words from their lines and gave them pictorial form. As an émigré in Paris, he felt the shock of Modern art: paintings with depth, and sculptures with inner voids and moving, even motorised, elements. In 1936, he wrote a manifesto declaring that all these avant-garde tendencies were offshoots of the same movement: Dimensionism.

Their emergence after 1905, the year that Albert Einstein published his special theory of relativity, was no accident. “At the origin of Dimensionism are the European spirit’s new conceptions of space-time (promulgated most particularly by Einstein’s theories) and the recent technical givens of our age,” Sirató wrote. He used the formula “N + 1” to express how literature, painting and sculpture had each “absorbed a new dimension” on top of those they already had. So, painting would go from two to three dimensions, while sculpture would now have four. The movement’s endpoint would be “cosmic art”, which would not be passively viewed but experienced with all five senses.

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Groundbreaking Exhibition Examines the Role of Science in Mid-century Art

The Mead Art Museum with a large wall that says Dimensionalism

ArtDaily | November 7, 2018

This fall, the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive presents the premiere of a nationally touring exhibition that explores the influence of scientific discovery on some of the twentieth century’s most celebrated artists. Organized by the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein is the first exhibition to highlight the untold story of the “Dimensionist Manifesto”—a proclamation authored by Hungarian poet Charles Sirató in 1936 and endorsed by such artistic luminaries as Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró, László Moholy-Nagy, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and others—which called for an artistic response to the era’s groundbreaking scientific discoveries. Featuring nearly seventy artworks by the Manifesto’s signatories and their contemporaries, the exhibition illuminates remarkable connections between the scientific and artistic revolutions that shaped the twentieth century.

Dimensionism features new scholarship on the influence of science on European and American artists of the 1930s, who were active at a time when mass media was exposing the general public to radical new developments in scientific theory. Inspired by new conceptions of time and space engendered by physics, mathematics, astronomy, and microbiology, an emerging avant-garde movement sought to expand the “dimensionality” of modern art. These artists engaged with scientific concepts to advance bold new forms of creative expression, from the fourth dimension of space-time embodied by Calder’s free-moving mobiles to new perceptions of the cosmos evoked by Noguchi’s lunar landscapes.

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Mead Acquires Installation by Yinka Shonibare

A colorful model ship in a large bottle

Artforum | June 30, 2018

The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College in Massachusetts has acquired a large-scale installation by the Britain-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare. Titled the American Library Collection (Activists), the work comprises 234 books wrapped in Dutch wax print fabric.

Inscribed in gold foil on the spines of each book are the names of first or second generation American activists and writers from across the political spectrum, such as Grace Lee Boggs, Cesar Chavez, and Sonia Sotomayor.

“Yinka Shonibare’s library highlights the vital, complex, and important contributions of American immigrants, and the descendants of immigrants, who brought forward ideas that represent a spectrum of social and political thought,” said David E. Little, director and chief curator of the museum. “Touching on current debates on immigration, the artist invites viewers to consider the varied people and cultural sources that inform our sense of history and culture, and shape our perceptions of our own place within it.”

The work will also serve as a starting point for a number of programs that will be hosted by the museum, including a debate among Amherst College faculty on the subject of the global migration of people, commodities and ideas. The debate will take place as part of the public opening for the Shonibare installation on October 30.

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Emily Potter-Ndiaye Appointed Head of Education, Curator of Academic Programs

A photo of Emily Potter-Ndiaye

ARTnews | June 26, 2018

The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College announced that Emily Potter-Ndiaye has been named its new head of education and curator of academic programs, effective August 20. Potter-Ndiaye will be responsible for helping the college’s faculty and students engage with the museum’s nineteen-thousand-work collection.

Potter-Ndiaye comes to the Mead from the Brooklyn Historical Society, where she has been director of education since August 2013. During her tenure, Potter-Ndiaye has grown the organization’s programs across all three of its sites—its flagship building at 128 Pierrepont Street and its satellite spaces in DUMBO and at the Brooklyn Navy Yard—so that it could serve more than fifteen thousand students and teachers annually through free school programs, teacher workshops, and other initiatives.

“We are so happy to have Emily Potter-Ndiaye join the talented staff at the Mead,” said David E. Little, director and chief curator of the museum. “Emily is passionate about connecting students of all backgrounds with art. She brings to the position natural leadership skills and a new vision of education that emphasizes collaboration, scholarly rigor, and experiential learning through working with artists.”

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Artist Unravels Confederate Flag

Two people standing in front of a confederate flag that is unraveling

NEPR | April 4, 2018

A performance artist at Amherst College on Thursday uses the threads of a confederate flag to draw attention to the United States’ history of racism. Sonya Clark, an Amherst College alumna, has gained national attention for publicly unraveling a confederate flag she bought online. As part of a series of performances at different locations, she invites audience members to undo the cloth alongside her over the course of a couple hours.

“Racial injustice is part of the fabric of this nation,” she said. “Its complexity is also part of the fabric of this nation. Its undoing is slow, and requires many people.”

In 2015, a week after Clark bought her first confederate flag for an art performance, white supremacist Dylan Roof murdered nine black church-goers in South Carolina. Clark said the flags were briefly harder to come by after that—but now they are abundant again. The performance art takes place on Thursday, April 5, at Amherst College.

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Sue and John Wieland Give $3M to Mead Art Museum

A room in a museum with a giant model house in the middle of the room

The Reminder | January 11, 2018

The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College in Massachusetts has received a $3 million gift from the collectors Sue and John Wieland. (John is an Amherst College alumnus, having graduated from there in 1958.) Their gift will endow the director and chief curator position, which is currently held by David E. Little, and support the acquisition of artworks.

In conjunction with the gift, the Mead will host “HOUSE: Selections from the Collection of John and Sue Wieland,” an exhibition that features 60 pieces from the Wielands’ 400-work collection. Included in that show will be works by Cindy Sherman, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Louise Bourgeois, and Ai Weiwei, with a specific focus on the way that homes structure people’s lives. The exhibition will open on February 8 and run through July 1.

“We are so grateful to John and Sue for their contribution to the Mead, and for sharing key works from their collection with the Amherst community,” Little said in a statement, adding, “That the Wielands have come forward with endowment support for the Museum, too, reflects their generosity and commitment to us and, ultimately, to the Amherst students of the future.”

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