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THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS BOSTON – ARTISTS’ CHOICE TABLE – FINE ART IN THE NEW MEDIA IN ACTION
“The MFA’s Artist’s Table is one of the most vibrant and active places in the Museum.”
The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston has developed a truly unique electronic “Artists’ Choice Table” which allows visitors to create their own works of art using works by Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe, Charles Sheeler and Ralph Coburn as starting points. From there, the new artists can choose to change colors, add objects, as well as crop and enlarge their own creations.
The Artist’s Table is located in the Sandra and William H. Lane Galleries in the Museum’s impressive new Art of the Americas Wing, on the third floor.
ARTISTS’ CHOICE TABLE: CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO SEE THE TABLE IN ACTION
(Video produced by Richard Lewis Media Group and provided by TacTable)
According to Barbara T. Martin, Alfond Curator of Education at the MFA, the Artist’s Table is an example of how the Museum is approaching Art in the New Media. “One of the things visitors wanted to know was what are the criteria for abstract art and that lead us to think about artists choices. One of the reasons O’Keefe was chosen was because of the choices she made in creating her art. Sheeler, on the other hand, was chosen because his was a different way of creating abstraction.”
“The Table lets the visitor compare the work of these different artists all in one place, which you can do in the collection, but you have to go from room to room,” Martin said.
These interactions serve to dispel some of the mystery of how art is created. It also breaks down the intimidating atmosphere of a traditional museum. Another plus is the fact that the MFA thought to display the actual pictures by the artists on the Table in the same room, so that the “new” artists can see the real thing right on the walls around them.
The MFA also thought about social learning and the question, “Is this a way for people to engage with each other in the museum? I think for people who work in museums it is their dream to see this,” Martin said. “I have seen people from every age work with it,” she said. This kind of interactive learning, interacting with the artist and with others at the Table is something one can’t do in an ordinary gallery. Further, The Artist’s Table is original to the MFA. The concept is different when compared to other museums. “The Walker Art Center has another arts table, but it’s totally different,” Martin said.
THE RICHARD LEWIS MEDIA GROUP
The Richard Lewis Media Group (RLMG) was a major participant in the creation of the Artist’s Table. They managed the project, and designed the all the graphics. RLMG primarily works with museums in interactive media projects. In fact, they have managed about 6 different projects in the MFA.
“One of the most important things about this project and one thing that I am very proud of is that it is about creating art in the manner of some of the most important artists of the 20th century, so it’s very different than just telling you [about] something. It’s learning by doing,” said Stephanie Stewart, RLMG Creative Director.
“You are being put in the position of the artist, and you are asked to make decisions, and you feel a little uncomfortable, and of course, that is what the artist feels,” she said. Once into it, all the decisions about color and form are your own and you become the artist.
Although the Table has information on the artist, “It’s not pushing the information. I think that’s a fascinating way of presenting [these artists], a different way,” Stewart said.
For her one of the most fulfilling parts of this project is working with accomplished scholars and translating their ideas. When asked if she was satisfied with the results, Stewart said, “Yes. I think it’s all we thought of and more.”
TacTable was the second major participant in the Artist’s Table Project. According to Henry Kaufman, President and Founder of TacTable, the main focus of the company is museums. Among the company’s projects were Tactables for the National Air and Mueseum, The Walker Art Center,Museum of Modern Art,(MOMA), National Air and Space Museum in Washington,DC., the Peabody Essex Museum. Under the previous name of the company, Nearlife, the company also did a project for the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
TacTable wrote the software, For the Artist’s Table, and made the physical design of the Table which was a custom design for the MFA. “There isn’t any table that’s exactly like that one anywhere,” Kaufman said.
The physical table structure was designed and built byInterEx, with the MFA Design Team’s input. InterEx is a full-service exhibit firm that specializes in the design, fabrication, management and service of custom trade show exhibits, point of purchase programs and retail interiors.
It is hoped that in the future the MFA will be able to rotate the artists, and add features which will allow the artists to print and email their creations.