Lena Vigna joins RAM as new exhibitions curator
Starting Monday, Lena Vigna will join the Racine Art Museum (RAM) as its new curator of exhibitions. It’s a job that she knows will come with built-in challenges.
“Sometimes, the challenge is just that: how do you engage people and recognize that different people are going to respond to different things? I try to keep things focused but also varied at the same time,” says Vigna of her personal philosophy.
Her responsibilities at RAM will include directing a department that organizes and changes out exhibitions three times annually for RAM and its Wustum Museum of Fine Arts campus. This could be a daunting task, but Vigna is aptly equipped. Her credentials include BFA and MA degrees in art history and stints as a curator at Miami University Art Museum in Oxford, OH, where she worked for the past two years, and at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, where she worked for seven years.
“Although my emphasis has really been on contemporary art, I like to look at all kinds of work from everywhere and all time periods,” says Vigna. “I also want to try to share what I think is enthusiasm for objects and ideas and creative expression with people.”
The Racine Art Museum’s specialty is in collections of contemporary crafts, including those made from metals, ceramics and wood, among other materials. This seems to be right up Vigna’s alley, as “she has done quite a bit of work with contemporary artists working in fibers, art jewelry, and in a variety of traditional fine art media used by artists in new and creative ways that hark back to craft traditions and forms,” according to RAM Executive Director and Curator of Collections Bruce Pepich. “This will be a great opportunity for RAM to offer new kinds of exhibitions to the museum’s growing audience.”
“I don’t want people to see contemporary artists as if they operate in a vacuum; they’re very much connected to you and me, and they’re influenced by some of the same things that we’re influenced by,” she says of artistry. “It just might be that some of the ways they express it come out differently. I want to show that; I want people to be engaged on multiple levels.”
As a way to achieve this goal, Vigna often tries to do more than just exhibit artwork in the shows she oversees; she wants people to experience it. One example she cites is Laced with History, a show she produced for the Kohler in 2007. The exhibit consisted of contemporary artists who used or made lace in their work. Vigna brought in some historical lace objects and juxtaposed those with the materials contemporary artists were using. “That gave me the best of both worlds because I could look historically at something, but then I could also bring it to bear in a contemporary context,” she explains.
Vigna remains tight-lipped about upcoming exhibits planned for RAM, but you can tell that she’s excited to fill her new post. “One of the nice things about Racine Art Museum is that it has multiple layers of programming so that you can see an individual artist’s work and explore it sort of isolated in one exhibition, but then you also have the opportunity to see artists in a group exhibition, so you see how their work plays off of other pieces,” Vigna says. And of her specific plans at RAM? “I don’t have anything definitive to share but I will say that I’ve already got things percolating.”