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IU Art Museum features special installation

For the first time, the IU Art Museum participated in Art Museum Day.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, the museum featured a special installation and activity as well as a one-day sale at Angles Café & Gift Shop.

The event was part of the fourth annual Association of Art Museum Directors Art Museum Day, an initiative in cooperation with International Museum Day.

Students enrolled in “On Exhibit: The Pacific Islands” last semester curated the special installation “Tapa: Unwrapping Polynesian Barkcloth.”

Jennifer Wagelie, the museum’s senior academic officer, taught the course.

“The idea was born out of a response to students wanting more in-depth museum experience and our goal in offering courses that provide students with the experience of working with original works of art,” Wagelie said in an email. “The course was offered in tandem with Diane Pelrine’s ‘Art of the South Pacific’ course that was offered the previous semester through the History of Art department.”

“On Exhibit” students split into departments to coordinate the event, including an education department, a department to create a website about tapa and an events and marketing department.

Emma Kessler, a master’s student in art history, said the class researched and wrote about the objects on display with the installation.

The installation will be displayed through September 1 in the Raymond and Laura Wielgus Gallery of the Arts of Africa, the South Pacific and the Americas.

In addition to viewing the installations and galleries, Art Museum Day guests had the opportunity to participate in a tapa pattern workshop from 2 to 4 p.m.

Polynesians harvest the inner bark of trees, soften it with water and dry out the bark to make authentic tapa, according to the class website. After the pieces of bark are combined and felted, the barkcloth is dyed and painted.

Kessler, Justina Yee and their classmates in the education department created the tapa pattern workshop for Slow Art Day on April 27.

“We wanted an activity to do for families of all ages, where it was fun for little kids but also educational,” she said. “They can learn about what tapa is and how to make it.”

Attendees emulated the process of making tapa with paper mulberry a student in the class purchased in Japan.

Rubbing and painting stations were set up to decorate tapa. Colors common to
Polynesian art, such as orange, yellow, red and brown were available in ink and paint form.

Rubbing or stamping tapa follows the Samoa tradition while painting is more common in Hawaiian tapa, Kessler said.

Community member and fabric artist RJ Trubitt said she purchased a tapa in Hawaii “many years ago.”

While she did not participate in the tapa workshop, Trubitt said she enjoys the patterns and designs in tapa.

“I think it’s always fun when the museum has interactive activities,” she said.
The International Council of Museums created International Museum Day in 1977 to help educate the public about the role museums play in society, according to their website.

Katherine Paschal, manager of communications at the museum, said the IU Art Museum also works to increase public interest in the museum with its programming.          

“It’s another opportunity to raise awareness about the museum,” Paschal said. “It makes that museum visit a little more special.”

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