A new exhibit at University Museum includes a couple of firsts for the gallery.
“Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!” — a collection of sculptures, paintings and drawings of animals — premiered at the museum Aug. 16 and will be available for viewing until Dec. 8.
The exhibit, which was created by Carbondale’s Rachel Fischoff during the summer, mixes adult and children’s artwork together in one display, which Fischoff said has never happened before.
Fischoff chose to display the adult-made artwork higher for adults to view, while the artwork created by children is hung lower on the wall for the younger audience to see better.
“When kids go to museums, they always have to look up because things are too high,” Fischoff said. “My whole thing for this exhibit was to make sure the children don’t have to look up and the adults instead have to look down.”
Eric Jones, registrar at the University Museum, said the exhibit’s setup is very unique.
“Having a two-tiered exhibit is something we’ve never had before,” he said. “We’ve never had an exhibit that is aimed at two different audiences. It is very innovative.”
Fischoff, a former Hollywood script editor, wrote all of the exhibit’s text and selected all of the display pieces, Jones said. Most of the pieces were selected from the museum’s archives, he said.
Fischoff chose everything from sculptures and paintings to abstract pieces and historical artifacts. She said this is the first time she has ever curated an exhibit for the museum.
“Rachel is a good supporter of the museum,” Jones said. “She promotes events throughout the university and is a good liaison with the community. This (exhibit) is her baby.”
Fischoff also had local elementary school students from all around southern Illinois draw animals for the exhibit. All of the artwork displayed on the lower level was created by local students, Fischoff said.
“My intent was to give the children freedom,” Fischoff said. “Creativity is freedom. I wanted to give that freedom. I wanted them to have the joy of creation and the joy of having it exhibited. I guaranteed every child that if they drew something, it would go up in the museum.”
Fischoff said she also wanted to give children a new reason to come to the museum. She said she didn’t want students to feel like they had to go to the museum because their parents force them, but they would instead want to go on their own.
“I decided to make it a good experience for everybody,” she said. “I wanted to hear laughter at the exhibit. I wanted to change the nature of the museum from something that was serious and solemn, to something that was joyful and creative for the entire family.”
Dona Bachman, director of the University Museum, said she is very pleased with how unique the collection is and thinks Fischoff accomplished her goals.
Bachman said the exhibit looks spectacular and is an excellent opportunity to draw people into the museum.
Jones said the artwork, which includes around 100 different pieces altogether, is displayed on very bright walls and has drawn a lot of interest from local schools that want to take field trips to tour the kid-friendly museum.
“We don’t often combine children’s work with adults’ work,” she said. “This was a unique perspective that Rachel brought to the museum. I think she wanted to show that learning in a museum goes in a lot of different directions.”
Jones said he thinks Fischoff did a wonderful job creating something special for the museum.
“To put all of this stuff together and to make it work is pretty tricky,” Jones said. “It can come out as repelling and you just don’t see it, but somehow this all comes together. People get tired of seeing art paintings and frames, but there is much more than that with this.”
The University Museum occupies the first floor of Faner Hall’s north wing and is free to visit. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.