Collections Growth, Exhibition Programming and Educational Initiatives
Under the leadership of Cara McCarty, curatorial director, Cooper-Hewitt has undertaken an ambitious acquisitions strategy, with a particular focus on enhancing the quality, depth and coherence of the contemporary collection. The Collections Committee, led by Cooper-Hewitt trustee Elizabeth Ainslie, evaluates future gifts and purchases for the collection based on the level of design innovation, workmanship, virtuosity, and addresses significant gaps in the collection. After one year in her post, McCarty has overseen the challenge of moving 160,000 objects to a new off-site storage facility that will not only allow more room for growth, but will enable the digitization of the collection. Twenty percent of the permanent collection, representing the most significant and frequently researched objects, will remain at the current campus as a core resource for graduate students and scholars.
“Thanks to the generosity of the museum’s supporters, Cooper-Hewitt is able to continue building its permanent collection,” said McCarty. “We look forward to showcasing more works in the permanent collection galleries, following the museum’s forthcoming renovation.”
Recent acquisitions include:
• The 1928 film poster, “Symphony of a Big City,” by Georgii and Vladimir Stenberg, whose innovative use of photo montage and typography influenced the development of modern graphic design.
• Two 1774 prints by French artist Louis-Marin Bonnet, “The Woman Taking Coffee” and “The Milk Woman,” which are early examples of printmaking in the “pastel manner,” a technique perfected by Bonnet.
• Tracy Kendall’s 2008 “In the White Room,” a wallpaper that puts a unique 3-D spin on a traditionally flat-surface treatment and reflects a new trend in wallcoverings design.
• Architect Frank Gehry’s 1994 ribbon-like laminated maple “Cross Check” chair, which furthers the story of bentwood furniture.
• A gold, enamel and diamond locket made between 1899 and 1908 by August Hollming, a workmaster in the Fabergé Workshop.
• A silver “Lotus” bowl manufactured between 1912 and 1917 by the Kalo Shops, an innovator of the American Arts and Crafts aesthetic.
• Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka’s 2001 “Honey-Pop” chair made completely of paper.
• Examples of mid-18th-century tin-glazed earthenware from Moustiers, France, part of an ongoing gift from Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw, that will help enhance scholarship in this field.
• Sheila Hicks’ 1997 “Cour de Rohan,” made of heavy, embroidered linen.
The expanded scope of work in the museum’s townhouses and subsequent extension of the construction schedule allow Cooper-Hewitt to continue exhibition programming on-site through 2010. Exhibition highlights for this period include:
• “Design for a Living World,” Spring 2009
Ten leading designers develop new uses for sustainably grown and harvested materials in order to tell a unique story about the life cycle of materials and the power of conservation and design.
• “The National Design Awards, 2000 – 2009,” Fall 2009
On the 10th anniversary of the awards, Cooper-Hewitt will feature the work of the designers who have received the prestigious honor in all categories.
• “Why Design Now? National Design Triennial 2010,” Spring 2010
In the fourth exhibition in the series, the 2010 Triennial will explore the work of designers addressing human and environmental problems across many fields of the design practice.
The 2008 and 2009 touring exhibitions include:
• “Design for Other 90%”
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Ontario College of Art & Design, Canada
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
• “Feeding Desire: Design and Tools of the Table”
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Massachusetts
• “Piranesi as Designer”
Teylers Museum, the Netherlands
• “Frederic Church, Winslow Homer and Thomas Moran: Tourism and the American Landscape”
Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, California
• “Design Life Now: National Design Triennial 2006”
The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston
The physical renovation will be paralleled by the continuing virtual expansion of Cooper-Hewitt’s Web site, www.cooperhewitt.org. The Web site has exponentially increased the museum’s reach and will continue to serve as a resource for educators, students, design professionals and the general public. To date, the site offers more than 250 lesson plans, an increase of 108 percent from 2007, for K-12 educators; the lesson plans are aligned to national and state standards and highlight design as a teaching tool across the curriculum and expand professional development programs for teachers. Other highlights of the online offerings include access to featured works from the museum’s 200,000-object collection, educational games and a forum for design-school professors to exchange research.
Cooper-Hewitt’s annual National Design Week, now in its third year, is the museum’s largest public education initiative. Offering a series of programs and online resources for students, teachers, design professionals and the general public, National Design Week celebrates the important role that design plays in all aspects of daily life. Held in conjunction with the National Design Awards, the week includes the Teen Design Fair, which welcomes over 400 New York City High School students to the museum to learn about careers in design; the National Design Awards Winners’ Panel; the Business Breakfast, which brings together business leaders to discuss design and the bottom line; and the Educator Open House, where New York City teachers participate in workshops and learn about the museum’s many professional development resources.
The museum’s national roster of education programs include Design Directions, a series of free design-education programs for New York City high-school students, developed to introduce them to collegiate and career opportunities in design; Summer Design Institute, a one-week program for educators and designers to share strategies for engaging K-12 students in the design process; and City of Neighborhoods, a community-based design education and advocacy program, which aims to foster civic engagement and apply design education to a neighborhood context, recently held in Philadelphia, New Orleans, and southern Texas.