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What Goes on at the Haggerty Museum of Art

A mission of community service at Marquette University

Sep. 6, 2016
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The Haggerty Museum of Art is no normal art museum. Sure, it’s glutted with cultural treasures by the likes of Rembrandt van Rijn, Robert Rauschenberg and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. But instead of emphasizing acquisition, the Haggerty takes its cue from the mission of its parent institution, Marquette University.

“What’s unique about Marquette is its Jesuit mission that focuses on community engagement and a holistic, personal approach to learning,” says Susan Longhenry, director and chief curator. “At the Haggerty, one of the ways we align with this mission is by working with artists who explore social issues in their work or who have social practice as part of their work.” 

Longhenry points to a project currently in development called “WATERMARKS: An Atlas of Water and the City of Milwaukee.” Developed in collaboration with environmental artist Mary Miss, the project aims to improve the community’s understanding of our dependency on water and how complicated of a resource it is to manage. The project will yield an interactive map with educational “map pins” making visible the complex network of sites that tell Milwaukee’s water story. Involving teams of scientists and engineers from multiple universities, water-related industries and governmental organizations, “WATERMARKS” points to another central component of the Haggerty’s mission: its interdisciplinary orientation. “As an academic museum we have our very own brain trust at the university,” notes Longhenry. “We want to harness that expertise and use it to educate and benefit the community.”

The Jesuit educational principle cura personalis (care of the whole person) is also front and center at the Haggerty. For the creation of “Happiness-Home-Milwaukee: (Re)Housing the American Dream,” Chicago-based artist Kirsten Leenaars embedded herself in the Near West Side of Milwaukee to research the relationship between happiness and home-ownership. Through collaboration with school groups, community leaders, organizations and residents, Leenaars will present a three-channel video installation with a screenplay performed by community members.

“Marquette wants to have a dialogue about Native American culture,” says Longhenry, “so next spring we have scheduled two exhibitions of work by Native American artists.” Choctaw Cherokee artist Jeffrey Gibson is the subject of one exhibition, which will feature a specially commissioned work that takes its inspiration from local history and culture. The second exhibition will borrow historic and contemporary works from another Jesuit institution: the Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School located on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. 

Community health, happiness, hearing the voices of silenced groups: The Haggerty is a museum with a mission. In Susan Longhenry’s words, “Our goal is to learn through the arts and not just about the arts.” With a student population of approximately 12,000, this mission would always benefit from more space. Fundraising is in early stages to add 67% more gallery space along with two in-house classrooms and infrastructural upgrades.

The Haggerty Museum of Art is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Thursdays to 8 p.m.) and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

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