Iit looks like something that only extremely art-loving locals know, but Spokane has a free art museum. Located on the shore of Lake Arthur, on the edge of campus, Gonzaga University’s Jundt Art Museum has been offering visual art showcases to students, faculty and the general public since its opening in 1995. Although He is best known for his magnificent chandelier red blown glass by Dale Chihuly which hangs permanently in the chancellor’s room of the building, it is not a space that can be defined by a single impressive work.
Starting this Saturday, January 15, Jundt will host two new exhibitions taken from the museum’s own collection and related to the culture of Gonzaga University. Revisited: A Grand Tour: Images of Italy from the Permanent Collection presents an array of works by artists who spent time in Italy as tourists and used these trips as their muses. From the collection: The Bible in Art draws on centuries of art based on religious imagery – with works by masters ranging from Rembrandt to Dalí. You will have plenty of time to explore both exhibitions, as they will remain on display until May 7.
To get a glimpse of the two new exhibitions, we caught up with Jundt Art Museum director / curator Paul Manoguerra to discuss pandemic curation, collection favorites, and the connection between art and academic study. .
What role do you think Jundt plays in Gonzaga and the wider art community of Spokane?
So our goal with the university and looking inward is to make sure that our exhibits and programs somehow connect with research and teaching service. That what we are doing corresponds to the Jesuit humanist tradition of the university. And thus ensure that our exhibits are useful for faculty, students and staff to deepen their learning and knowledge in relation to the arts and humanities.
The other idea is for our exhibits to be attractive and interesting to people living in Spokane and the Northwest Interior. Our Jundt Gallery space is a great white box gallery, and we try to vary our exhibits so that there is an overview of the media over time – so we don’t do 16 photo shows in a row, for example – but also [so that there’s] a mix of historic and contemporary art.
And that’s our goal with what we try to do with our exhibitions: does this art have historical significance? Can it be used in teaching research at university? And do we think it will be of interest to locals? Can we afford it? Time? Budget? If we can answer yes to most of these things, we try to fit it into our program.
What do you think are the strengths of Jundt, both as a space and as an institution?
One of [the strengths] is with the objects that are in the collection. We are very strong in works on paper, especially prints, ranging from Renaissance to contemporary. And we try to make sure that we highlight it with some of our exhibits.
The other strength is that we are a university museum and that we are free. So our exhibits don’t necessarily need to be focused on how many people we can bring in to buy tickets. We can do academically-oriented exhibitions – the sole purpose of which is dissemination of knowledge – without really having to worry about making sure we make ends meet through ticket sales.
On the other side of that coin, what are some of the challenges of Jundt’s curation?
Well, we’re relatively small. What this means is that we don’t always have some of the best items in the collection on display. [because] we just have the three exhibition spaces: we have this arcade gallery with these display cases in the front where we do temporary exhibitions; we have the chancellor’s room with all the Chihuly glass and some of the other three-dimensional objects – which remain relatively static; and then we have the Jundt Gallery, which is this big gallery of white boxes.
But that means we basically operate like a Kunsthalle. The museum changes completely, basically three times a year. But the flip side is that there is always something new to see.
Has the COVID pandemic changed your approach to healing?
The biggest change is simply our decision to trust our collection and not have to worry about borrowing works of art from other institutions or private collectors. [With] the cost of transportation, the insecurity of contracts and the fear of opening and closing and opening and closing and all that stuff, it made sense to focus on our collection.
Do you have personal favorites in the collection?
Both of these exhibitions are filled with favorites. With the pandemic situation, we are just planning exhibitions right now using our collection. So everything on display belongs to the Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga University.
We often have people [ask], because we have it on our website, [about the] Rembrandt etchings in our collection. Now, because they’re etchings, because they’re works on paper, they can’t stand full time and be in the gallery lights and stuff. So these Rembrandts are usually not on display, but we’re going to have two Rembrandts in The Bible in art exposure.
Gonzaga has a long-standing study abroad program based in Florence, Italy, but was there another rationale behind the programming? A great tour?
The idea that visiting Italy as a tourist has a long tradition, and artists are just a subset of those tourists who have visited Italy for centuries. Artists have been doing this for decades, centuries, and were inspired to create art based on these Italian journeys.
But then, also, you are right. The connection with the concept of global engagement and study abroad, and the aspects of creating a global citizen are important for the university. By offering the ability to do so by proxy through the exhibition, you are essentially traveling the Italian peninsula by proxy through the travels of these artists and the images they have created.
So he has this kind of dual purpose.
And then beyond the obvious connection of being a Jesuit institution, was there anything else that you specifically wanted to highlight by organizing The Bible in art?
If you teach history or art history, religion plays an important role in the humanities, and it has been the subject of artists since ancient times. And so it was just a good opportunity because there was so much work in the collection that themed with a certain aspect of a Bible story. [It let’s us] exhibit some of these works, like these two Rembrandts. There is a Marc Chagall in the exhibition. There is a Salvador Dali, The resurrection, in the exhibition. So there is an opportunity to take out some big name artists that are in stock and, like you said, to have something on the theme that makes sense to be a Jesuit university.
Revisited: A Grand Tour: Images of Italy from the Permanent Collection & From the collection: The Bible in Art • January 15-May 7 • Jundt Art Museum • Open Monday-Saturday 10 am-4pm • Free • 200 E Desmet Ave. • 509-313-6843