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Alan Chong, director and CEO, Currier Museum of Art. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

Alan Chong, director and CEO, Currier Museum of Art. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

Museums are for everyone

Dr. Alan Chong on why the power of art should be accessible to all

Art museums suffer a sense of split personality. On one hand, they are immensely popular: institutions like the British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum in New York are among the top tourist attractions in the world. However, museums still suffer from a reputation of being forbidding and stuffy. The buildings don’t help, as museums have traditionally been constructed in a grand manner — all stone and no windows. Surveys consistently rate museums as “intimidating.” We want to make the Currier Museum “open” and even “fun.”

The Currier Museum houses a wonderful collection of precious and sometimes fragile works of art held in trust for the public. The museum belongs to everyone. Founded nearly a century ago by Gov. Moody Currier and his wife, Hannah, it has grown through the generosity of donors and collectors. While the collection must be carefully protected, the imagination of artists needs to be revealed to as many people as possible.

Art can play an important and unexpected role in people’s lives. We have seen that, firsthand: The museum has worked closely with war veterans to share their experiences through combat photographs and literature devoted to war. Our Alzheimer’s Café has provided a comforting setting in the museum for people suffering from memory loss. And we are piloting a new program involving viewing and making art for families who have been affected by the opioid epidemic.

We are welcoming more people to the museum with a series of events — from dance parties to indie concerts and summer block parties. We are starting an artist-in-residence program to further explore the artistic process, and to commission new work. Later this year, we will launch a project that will invite the community to participate in the creation of new art.

We are committed to breaking down barriers to participation. For New Hampshire residents, we provide one free Saturday morning per month for tours and family art activities. In the last year, we’ve also added at least one free community-focused Thursday evening per month for the general public. Additionally, with the support of Lincoln Financial, we continue to provide all 3rd and 5th graders of Manchester, and all 4th graders of Concord and Nashua, access to free school programs at the Currier that include tours and art activities tied to school learning objectives.

We would love to reduce or eliminate admission fees, to extend our hours into the evenings, to hold more special events and to create more exhibitions of wide impact — all of which will take resources, and time.

We want the Currier Museum to be a shared source of beauty and inspiration — we want the power of art to be accessible to all.