The opening reception for ‘You Like This’

An attendee at the 'You Like This' exhibition voting on a work of art. Photo by Britta Trygstad, Milestones Photography.

Everyone has opinions. In a gallery setting, sharing these opinions can be an important part of the experience. We have the ability to learn new things about ourselves by sharing our thoughts on a piece of art, even if they are opposite from the person standing next to us. With this in mind, the Museum unveiled You Like This: A Democratic Approach to the Museum Collection in the Jane L. Stern Gallery with an opening reception on October 6 featuring great art, music, and lots of opportunity for discussion.

People munched on candied bacon, fresh spring rolls and artisan cheeses while enjoying the sounds of local ambient rock group, Opinions About Dinosaurs. Their sound was new to many people, but because this exhibition is experimental in its own right, it was a great match. Before walking through the gallery, there was uncertainty and anticipation in the air. People were wondering what they would see, why the Museum would choose to have an exhibition like this, and how this all came about. Visitors said the You Like This timeline, which explained each event that led to the opening, and videos featuring interviews with community curators helped explain the process more clearly. You can watch these videos in the gallery or online here. Once everyone knew the scoop, it was time to start voting and sharing opinions.

Visitors were encouraged to interact with exhibition  in a variety of ways. People browsed the exhibition and filled out ballots that asked for a “I like this” or “I don’t like this” response for each piece. Others posted sticky-notes on the comment wall in the gallery about certain pieces or general reactions about the exhibition.  These comments, as well as some gathered earlier in the process and posted on the labels of each piece, are an interesting and central part to this exhibition. Good, bad, or hilarious, the opinions they share spark discussions.

The sticky-note comment wall in the 'You Like This' exhibition.

You Like This is the first crowdsourcing exhibition the Museum has shown. It involved handing curatorial duties over to the Fargo-Moorhead community (rather than a staff-appointed “authority”) to select the featured works of art. This meant they also had to choose how the works would be displayed in the gallery. The curators felt that since the the exhibition was unlike any other at the Museum, the experience of visiting it should be too.  A sofa and lazy boy recliner were placed in the space, the pieces were hung at uneven levels (some very high, some low to the ground), and the use of frames and color blocks behind the art all helped visitors experience the art in different ways than they normally do.

This process has gone through many changes since the first initial survey last spring. Since then, we used more surveys, community curating panels, and lots of discussion to allow the community to handpick their favorite art. At the opening, visitors saw the selections in the order the results indicated by their popularity. Now, a week later as the comment wall continues to grow and the ballot box gets more votes, this exhibition will also continue to grow and change in response to the feedback.

You Like This will run October 6, 2011 – January 15, 2012, so stop in occasionally to see how your votes are changing this reflection of Fargo-Moorhead’s favorite art in the Museum permanent collection.

The exhibition features unorthodox hangings and splashes of color per the requests of community curators. Photo by Britta Trygstad, Milestones Photography.