NVAM FOCUS: Ask a Collections Specialist - An Interview with NVAM Collections & Exhibitions Manager, Megan Owoc
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE SPECIALIZED FIELD OF COLLECTIONS MANAGEMENT?
My formal background is in Art History. I’ve been a student of the practice since my sophomore year of high school. I didn’t go to a fancy private high school or anything like that…it was really your average Northeast Ohio public school that was somehow blessed with two incredibly knowledgeable art teachers that were also both trained Art Historians - one a Doctor of the Arts that went by “Doc.” She awarded me an Arts Recognition at the end of my senior year. I remember thinking that my graduation gown looked pretty silly with the single decoration, the Arts Recognition Pin. I was proud of it though – I’ve always found a “home” in the Fine Arts. From there, I continued my journey into the study of Art History in college at Ohio University through graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. From the beginning of my studies in Art History I was fascinated by the impact of war on material and visual culture. My undergraduate independent study focused on the impact of WWI and its relationship to the performance of photography and the Readymade. In graduate school the impact of the New Order (1965-1998) in Indonesia and its relationship to contemporary performance art.
After graduate school, I ended up working part-time as a museum docent and later full-time as a Studio Manager for a local Chicago artist. The Studio Manager gig was a foundational professional experience for me…but near the end of my experience, I realized I missed working with objects – spending time with them, learning about their materials and the historical context they were created in. So I moved on to begin work in a private conservation firm in administrative role. It was a very “boots on the ground” professional experience. It involved a lot of onsite assessments, so determining an objects condition and coming back to the lab to liaison with the conservators to determine the appropriate conservation treatment and later communicate that with the client. I also traveled quite a bit to Disaster Response (DR) Sites where collections had been affected by the elements…floods, fires, and once even a lightning strike! Those were very demanding and fast-paced projects that involved inventory, assessment and coordination of transport for often large collections of work, some in the high hundreds of object count. I was definitely exposed to a lot of different types of objects, artifacts and artworks in varying conditions…some in need of minimal cleaning while others demanding onsite triage before they could even be transported.
Overall, I worked in the private conservation field as an account manager and collections specialist for roughly five years before joining NVAM full-time in November of 2019.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A COLLECTIONS MANAGER AND A CONSERVATOR?
Conservators are highly trained specialists with either the educational background gained through formal training at university, or many years of apprenticeship under a Master Conservator. Simply put, they are the individuals responsible for the ethical repair, conservation, and restoration of historical artifacts and works of art. Collections Specialist are trained, often through working professional experience or continuing education courses on fine art facility and storage requirements, inventory and documentation, and fine art insurance. And if you are lucky enough to find the opportunity, conservation methods which allow the Collections Specialist to determine conservation priorities.
HOW HAVE YOU DONE YOUR JOB DURING THE PANDEMIC?
With the museum being closed because of the pandemic, I’ve been able to use this time to really take a deep dive into the collection and spend some quality time with the artworks and artifacts both in storage and on display – ensuring that they are properly maintained and cared with the best use of current resources.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
The greatest joy for me during the time I have been at NVAM has been working with a permanent collection, which is very different than the setting of a conservation lab wherein objects are delivered for treatment and upon completion, returned to their owners. In those scenarios I had very little time to spend time with –and study— the artworks and artifacts that came through the doors for treatment.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE ARTWORK IN THE NVAM COLLECTION?
I've really come to know the artworks both aesthetically and conceptually. And I've also come to know the artists who created them through the study of their work. And for me, that's a very special, very powerful thing. There is material history here that acts as window into unique and often personal moments in time —whether that's from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam or Post 9/11 Eras— there’s a story, and it’s one that you should be listening to…you could get lost in this collection and I quite frequently do…I don’t think I can name a favorite to that end – I have too many! And each is special to me in their individual message and interpretation of the time period in which they were created. I'm honored and compelled to share them with the world, but also ensure that future generations can have the same experience that I get to have today.
ARE YOU WORKING ON ANY SPECIAL PROJECTS OR INITIATIVES CURRENTLY?
We are working on an exhibition that is scheduled to open next month featuring a selection of Works on Paper from the NVAM permanent collection. There will be a virtual component that functions as a “Behind the Scenes Look” at the process of preparing Works on Paper for exhibition and the collections care maintenance required for long-term storage.
I'm really looking forward to sharing our efforts and the educational aspect of maintaining a collection in a way that is also hand-in-hand with interpretation – so with future “Behind the Scenes Looks” we will not only be talking about routine maintenance; we'll also be learning more about the artists and their artwork.
OPEN CALL FOR ARTWORK: 2021 Survey Exhibition of Contemporary Art by Post-9/11 U.S. Military Veteran Artists
OPEN CALL FOR ARTWORK:
2021 Survey Exhibition of Contemporary Art by Post-9/11 U.S. Military Veteran Artists
Exhibition Dates: September 4, 2021 – August 13, 2022
Submittable: Open Call Post-9/11 Vet/Art
Opening in September 2021 at the National Veterans Art Museum, Chicago, IL, the 2021 Survey Exhibition will showcase artwork created by practicing Post-9/11 veteran artists with diverse prior military service experiences.
The theme for the exhibition is art and service, and how these two worlds conflate within the Post-9/11 veteran artist’s practice and work.
Submitting artists are challenged to translate the theme into visual representations. Artwork that exemplifies the diversity and multitude of perspectives within the veteran artist community and/or challenges the notion of the military as an art-less space, or one exclusive to art for therapy, will be given preference.
Selection Process and Schedule:
Deadline to Submit: March 20, 2021
Preliminary Review by NVAM: March 22, 2021
Notification of Artists to Exhibit: March 29, 2021
Installation: August 2021
Art Reception/Dedication: September 2021
The Times Media Company | nwi.com
Joseph S. Pete
CHICAGO — The National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago, which seeks to celebrate and preserve the work of veteran artists around the country, has switched to an online format during the coronavirus pandemic, such as through its virtual program, “Today & Every Day.”
The museum at 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave. has temporarily closed its doors but created an online component to its permanent exhibit "The Things They Carried." The exhibit celebrates acclaimed author Tim O'Brien's collection of connected short stories about his experience in the Vietnam War, linked by the central metaphor of rucking with a heavy load while out on patrol.
The widely feted book, taught at universities across the country, has sold more than 2 million copies and is considered one of the greatest works of literature about the Vietnam War and modern war itself.
It's won a truck worth of awards as well as ending up as a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
The museum also is hosting artist spotlights online, including an artist talk with exhibiting artist and National Veterans Art Museum Maurice Costello who appeared in conversation with National Veterans Art Museum Gallery Coordination and Collection Manager Megan Owoc.
"As 2020 comes to an end, and we begin our 2021 programs and initiatives, remember that our mission to collect, preserve, and exhibit the work of veteran artists will continue," the National Veterans Art Museum said in a press release.
"Through our virtual museum, we will continue to share these captivating stories with you and look forward to welcoming you back to the museum in the near future."
The online "The Things They Carried" exhibit and all of the museum's past programs from 2020 can be viewed online at www.nvam.org.
We are so excited to have completed our first week with a group of 16 amazing teens across Chicago for our After School Matters Summer 2020 - Remote Learning Edition! Our program, Creativity Caught Me Making, formerly NVAM Teen Council, invites teens of all ages to engage with NVAM's permanent collection, develop technical art making skills, and research social justice issues to create art with social impact! Thank you to our instructor Verónica Casado Hernández, a visual artist and cultural historian! We are looking forward to the artwork you all make this summer! #teensMATTER
Dear Friend of NVAM,
During this unprecedented time in our lives, with the extraordinary unknowns, I frequently reflect on what this uncertainty means, and how we respond. One simple conclusion that I always come to is… during extraordinary times, we do extraordinary things. Over the past several months, we have all seen individuals and communities around the world accomplish amazing things together. Giving back, celebrating nurses, doctors and educators, or shopping for a neighbor or family member, has proven to have tremendous impact on our collective efforts to reclaim normalcy. Together, our generosity, our extraordinary efforts, is what will get us through this uncertain time to a place where we are stronger and better connected.
On May 5, 2020, NVAM is participating in #GivingTuesdayNow, a global day of unity and giving. Thanks to supporters like you during these unprecedented times, NVAM is able to continue fundamental elements of its mission; to preserve the veteran story and world class art within our permanent collection, to educate, and to connect. Although NVAM remains closed to the public in order to best protect the health and safety of our community, NVAM will continue to provide unique opportunities for reflection, understanding, and civic engagement among all audiences in the ongoing conversation surrounding the impact of conflict on society.
Stand by NVAM – Be Extraordinary!
As a friend of NVAM, your support will make a difference. Please share your passion and support for NVAM with friends and family. On this #GivingTuesdayNow, we ask that you remember NVAM, support our mission, and know that we will continue to provide a resounding voice for veterans now, and well into the future! Thank you for your generosity!
Please check Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) for COVID-19 updates.
Dear Friends of NVAM,
For the health, safety and well-being of our guests, volunteers, staff and community, NVAM will remain temporarily closed through APRIL 30, 2020 as we continue to navigate the escalating impact of COVID-19.
All public events, including programs and tours remain on hiatus in support of preventative care efforts to help stop the further spread of COVID-19.
In commitment to our mission, we are developing and sharing content through our social media channels and website. Follow along as we continue to digitally exhibit veteran-created art and engage our followers to think about the impact of conflict on our society, community and nation.
We will continue to work with Chicago and Illinois public health officials and will update our website with any new developments.
March 13, 2020
To support preventative care efforts to help stop further spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of our community, we have decided to temporarily close starting Tuesday, March 17 through Tuesday, April 7. Additional measures may be made next week as we monitor the impact of the steps taken locally and nationally. Public events, including programs and tours, are canceled through the end of March.
We do not have any known cases of COVID-19 connected to NVAM. Our utmost priority is to minimize the chances that infectious disease could spread among the visitors, staff and volunteers at NVAM and in the community.
Thank you for your continued support of our mission to preserve and exhibit Veteran Art. We look forward to seeing you back at the museum.
When you enter the National Veterans Art Museum, one of the first artworks you encounter is the Lionehearted artwork, created by US Air Force Veteran, Shawn Ganther. Lionhearted features 24 ceramic plates painted with portraits of 22 Veterans of all branches of the Iraq and Afghanistan War. Each portrait is tied to a interview from the Lionhearted Project created by US Army Veteran Shane Ruiz. The two Chicago-based Veterans, US Army Veteran Chris Groleau, and US Air Force Veteran Brent Webb, revisit their experience from the Lionhearted Project and the Lionhearted Artwork in its permanent home at NVAM, one year later.