reACT gallery hopes to generate conversations in community

Kickoff-goers view the “leadership” themed wall in the gallery, largely occupied by a photograph of Mount Rushmore from the side, showing only George Washington’s carved bust.


Museums have always been known as a place to appreciate the artistic works of others in a quaint, quiet environment, but now, University Museums is asking those same attendees to think about what they’re viewing in a different way.

“I think it’s important for people not just to learn … but to think about what’s happening today,” said Sarah Nusser, Vice President for Research for Iowa State. “How is that affecting us?”

The reACT Gallery is a series of artistic showcases which encourage people not only to absorb and appreciate the physical attributes of the artwork being showcased, but also to think and react to what is being presented before you.

“There is a conversation about everything,” said Nancy Gebhart, Educator of Visual Literacy and Learning for University Museums. “Whenever anyone starts a conversation with me about a certain piece, I’ll always ask them, ‘What did you see that made you say that?'”

Conversations could be seen and heard everywhere at Tuesday afternoon’s reACT Gallery Kickoff at Morrill Hall’s Christian Petersen Art Museum. On top of the traditionally painted and sculpted pieces arranged on the wall and behind cases, there were also interactive aspects that encouraged attendees to voice their own opinions.

“This gallery hinges on your participation,” Nusser said. “It isn’t a place where you come, look, say ‘That was nice’ and walk away.”

Attendees are encouraged to hang post-it notes on a specific wall defining and giving their opinions on each month’s topic, as well as speaking behind a podium to voice their thoughts on the matter, which also doubles as a photo-op.

On top of that, the reACT Gallery also features commentary from Iowa State scholars that hang next to each piece of art which promotes thinking and reflecting upon each individual piece from different points of view. Scholars are considered any Iowa State student, staff and/or faculty member, and any scholar is eligible to submit their opinions on a specific piece of art.

“It isn’t so much about analyzing the individual details about the art itself, it’s more about responding to what you see and discussing with others about how you feel,” said Aspen Pflanz, Education Intern for University Museums.

This month’s theme at the reACT Gallery is “Leadership.” Every piece presented is based around what it means to be a leader, and how famous leaders in history exemplified that definition. Many pieces are based around viewing these leaders (George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, just to name a couple) in ways that they aren’t often remembered for.

The “Leadership” gallery will run until Sept. 29. The remaining galleries of the year include “Water” (Oct. 23 – Nov. 17), “Green Dot” (Jan. 22 – Feb. 16), and “First Amendment” (Apr. 2 – Apr. 27).

The reACT Gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on days that class are in session. The event is free to attend.