Written and photographed by Robert Gale
On November 7, 2016, St. Petersburg College, in collaboration with LRMA, hosted an event called Art Break. It was a way for students to take a break, enjoy some free food, talk with fellow art enthusiasts, interact by creating their our art, and explore a behind the scenes tour of the museum. The event lasted from 12pm – 2pm in the interaction center. Around 12:30pm, curator Christine Renc-Cater took around 12 students and faculty/staff underneath the museum. “Very few people get to exercise what lies below the museum so you are all in for a real treat!” said Ms. Renc-Cater. Indeed, it was a wonderful exercise for all that attended.
Before the tour, guests were greeted with live music performed by fellow students as guests walked into the museum. The guests received free food consisting of sandwiches, wraps, and delicious sweet treats. This created a really good atmosphere for the guests to gather and to talk about art. After lunch, guests had the opportunity to create their own art with paint rollers and cut up pieces of color paper. Creating art relaxes the mind, especially from a coming stressful exam period.
The group first visited the preparation room. This is where the pieces of art are matted, framed, and assembled, together. When the group arrived, there were already pieces of work that were in preparation to be on display. One of Ratner’s works was lying on the table and Ms. Renc-Cater was glad to hold up the piece and to explain the process of preparation.
Next, the group visited the collection management room. This is where artwork is gathered together to be archived and detailed records are prepared for each piece that is in the collection. Ms. Ren-Cater was very glad to show the group an actual manuscript of Ratner. His font of writing is very unique and only an exercised eye can read his handwriting.
After the management room, the group visited the resource center. This area is where all of Ratner’s manuscripts are held, including his personal diaries, along with other forms of research material from other artists. Art scholars and staff faculty usually hold their meetings on how to conduct business and to plan out future activities for students and guests at the museum.
Finally, the most impressive part of the tour was the vault. This contains all of the art that is not on display at the museum. Many of the art is hung on rolling metal doors that looks like slim bookshelves. Each piece is categorized so the curator and the staff know exactly is identified. The artwork consists of Ratner’s personal work, other local artists, and some famous artists known around the world. For a special surprise, Ms. Renc-Cater pulled out a Picasso painting! For many in the room, it was a treat to see a famous piece of art only a few feet from them. Apparently, the vault still has many more pieces of work to be uncovered.
Having visited the museum, each guest gained an appreciation and insight for what goes on behind the scenes of an art museum. It became evident to all that artwork is not just simply hanging art on a wall. Rather, it is with intense preparation that goes on behind closed doors where the real magic happens. Because of the LRMA staff’s passion and dedication to art, guests are able to appreciate the real richness of art.