Embracing the Wider Audience Through Creative Engagement and Installation Practices

By Abbie Dean.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

At the suggestion of the Advisory Board of the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, and with funding support from the Chinese Cultural Ministry, Drexel University undertook a survey scale exhibition of Chinese contemporary art organized by the Shenzhen Museum of Art with the goal of bringing increased awareness for the university internationally and to present itself as a new cultural beacon for the region. Several steps were taken to achieve this result: 1. Location Shift. The exhibition’s scale—more than eighty works by forty artists-- called for the university to enlarge the venue beyond the gallery. Drexel offered several large discreet and public spaces for the exhibit in addition to the seven hundred square feet of the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery. 2. Creative Installation. With the approval of the Chinese curator, Lu Hong, Drexel’s co-directors added a six-story human hair artwork by Wenda Gu. It was installed in the main glass atrium in Drexel’s I. M. Pei building where it engaged the city and public. Corresponding way finding graphics provided thematic continuity and focus and guided visitors throughout four separate exhibit spaces in three adjacent buildings. 3. Curatorial Sensitivity to the Western Audience. Several substitutions of artworks were made where understanding of Mandarin was central to appreciation of the work. New media works by Lin Tianmiao and others were added. Also, contrary to the Shenzhen curator’s inclination to install according the artists’ status, the co-directors pressed to install the exhibition as a thematic journey. 4. Bilingual Symposium. The distinguished panel attracted an audience of several hundred throughout the region and New York and provided another opportunity to build positive awareness through a tightly executed format. The panel included: Robert Storr, Dean of the Yale School of Art, Richard Vine, senior art editor of Art in America, Melissa Chiu, curator of the Asia Society, New York, Lu Hong, curator of the Shenzhen Museum of Art, and Pan Qing, curator and ink painting specialist at the National Art Museum of China. 5. Engaging New Communities For Support. The exhibit organizers reached out to many political, cultural and business leaders and the media. The goal of raising awareness for the gallery and the university as a cultural beacon was met and measured by wide media coverage, favorable critical reviews, and substantial funding commitments for the arts at Drexel. These helped spur the acquisition of a new building to house the Westphal College of Media Art and Design with a greatly enlarged Leonard Pearlstein Gallery.

Keywords: Ink Not Ink, Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, Chinese Contemporary Art, Drexel University, Westphal College of Media Art and Design, Installation Design

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.105-112. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 646.745KB).

Abbie Dean

Leonard Pearlstein Gallery of Drexel University, Leonard Pearlstein Gallery of Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA

Director of the Advisory Board of the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery at Drexel University. Member Board of Trustees Drexel University Master of Science, Interior Architecture and Design, Drexel University. Bachelor of Arts, Art History and Theater, Tufts University. Magna cum laude. Prior to her involvement with the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, the author had a professional career in New York City for more than twenty years as creative director, which afforded the opportunity to work in all media—print, film, video, music and performance. Her campaigns won industry creative awards including three Clio Awards, One Show, Best of New York, Art Directors Award, and Echo. The Ad Council campaign for food stamps was featured in “Ad Age” and on CNN.


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