Drive-in art presentation set at UI Stanley Museum of Art

The museum will host a discussion during the collection exhibition event this weekend with director Lauren Lessing and associate curator Brady Plunger.


Megan Conroy

The Stanley Museum of Art sign is seen outside of the IMU on Monday, January 14, 2019. The Stanley Museum of Art is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Darren Chen, Arts Reporter

On Oct. 10, visitors will be able to drive up in their cars for the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art’s Drive-in: The Big Picture. The family-friendly event, part of the museum’s Dive in with the Stanley series, will be a discussion of the museum’s collection on the big screen with museum Director Lauren Lessing and Brady Plunger, the associate curator of education.

“This event is inspired by drive-in movies or theaters. Even though in the present, we still have social distancing, people still want to get out and have this kind of experience,” Plunger said. “We were able to pair up this concept of the drive-in movies or theaters with this concept of the Big Picture.”

The discussion will revolve around “the big picture,” a collection of the museum’s referring to a period in America’s 1930s-50s which was fed by big picture paintings by artists like Jackson Pollock’s Mural that later transitioned to film. By the 70s Black artists like Sam Gilliam and Gordon Parks, who had previously been largely excluded from the artistic movement, changed the language of painting and film, according to a press release from the museum.

“When we are talking about the Big Picture of the art museum, we are specifically thinking of our fantastic collection of large scale, mid-century, American paintings, especially abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock, Sam Gilliam, and other abstract artists in the early 20th century the U.S.” Plunger said.

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The curator said the entire organization is trying to create a type of viewing experience that their audience would have if they were physically in the museum.

“It’s an exciting opportunity. It is a big, enormous kind of event,” Plunger said. “Also, it kind of feeds everyone’s desire to be connected to our amazing art collection here at the university.”

Lessing said audiences who might attend this event will mainly be a mix of folks from the university communities such as faculty, staff, and students — though the event will be free and open to everyone.

“We will be very excited to see who shows up because we always get a wonderful mix of folks from Iowa City and even from further, such as Davenport or Des Moines,” she said. “They know the incredible art collections that we have here, and they are always excited to connect with us.”

The director said she views the event as a great, creative way to bring people together and continue to engage them with the museum.

“We sort of had this lightbulb moment when we said: what about having this drive-in event? Because we know that these communities want to connect with us, they want to connect to our collections and our university,” Lessing said. “Then it’s just about, ‘How do we do this safely?’ and “How can we still make it engaging?’ All of a sudden, this drive-in idea sort of seemed to tick all the boxes for us.”

This event will take place Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Levitt Center for University Advancement in Parking Lot 55.