Last week, I visited the Smith College Museum of Art for the first time — my loss — and it made me laugh as well as appreciate what I saw. The collection is fine — among college museums, it’s really quite good. But I came away with good feelings about it for a different reason: It’s the first museum I know that pushed the idea of art down to nitty-gritty details. And I mean nitty-gritty — those of you who have been there know what I’m talking about. The museum’s lower-level bathrooms were designed by artists, and I’ve never seen that before.
Ok, this isn’t new (except to me) — the museum opened in its current location in 2003. And maybe it received attention at the time. But the idea is clever and shows original thinking. Another example of that — Smith put 12 artist-designed, handcrafted benches in the galleries (sample below left). I love that. Last year, on another visit to New England, I discovered that the New Britain Museum of American Art also used hand-crafted seating in its galleries. The curious — some were truly lovely — could have obtained a list of those artists, as I recall (in case they’d like to purchase works from them? I’m not sure) from the receptionist/information desk.
At left, above, is a shot of the ladies’ room — the facilities were so beautiful that the pictures are not indelicate. At right is the men’s room — which I asked a staff member if I could visit, hardly an unusual request. (Still, I took the picture too quickly to focus properly!)
Ah, the artists’ names… I can’t find them at the moment. If and when I do, I’ll update this.
But you get the point — what a fine idea to make visitors realize that art, real art, can be found throughout a museum.