Questions of Practice: Barnes Foundation’s Thom Collins on Unpacking the Museum’s Collection Through Performance

We asked Thom Collins, director and president of the Barnes Foundation, about the role of performance within the museum. “We have historically not done so much in terms of unpacking all of the different ideas and histories that are attached to…the discrete works of art [at the Barnes],” he says. Collins explains how newly commissioned performance works from artists “who are thinking in a progressive way about the collection” are now part of the museum’s strategy to more fully tell the stories of the Barnes Foundation.

Thom Collins on unpacking the Barnes collection through performance. Filmed at the Barnes Foundation on May 31, 2016.

With Center support, the Barnes Foundation premiered Room 21, a musical performance piece created by composer Jace Clayton and curated by Lee Tusman, in September 2016. This month, the Barnes will open the Center-funded multi-part project, Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flânerie, which will capture city life through a gallery exhibition, newly commissioned public installations and performances, and citizen-created photos and videos, on view through May 22, 2017.

Thom Collins is executive director and president of the Barnes Foundation. An educator, art historian, administrator, and author, Collins joined the Barnes in 2015 after serving for five years as director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Florida. Prior to that, Collins served as director of the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, NY and the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, MA. Collins earned his MA in art history from Northwestern University.

Students, teachers, parents, administrators, and community members gathered at the closed Fairhill Elementary School on May 1, 2015 for the launch of Temple Contemporary’s Center-funded reFORM.

Three concerts showcased classical Carnatic music of Southern India.

Grants & Grantees

Andrea Cooper is a visual artist and a 2003 Pew Fellow.

Artist Ken Lum discusses the importance of “the local” in the globalized realm of the visual arts.

Grants & Grantees

Charles Burns is a graphic novelist and a 1994 Pew Fellow.

Filmmaker and Pew Fellow Heidi Saman recalls the first film that influenced her practice, what inspires her to tell stories of the immigrant experience, and more.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Paola Antonelli, senior curator of the architecture and design department at the Museum of Modern Art, is one of the world’s foremost experts on design.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Cathy Stanton is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at Tufts University and an active public historian. She served as a 2015 LOI panelist in Exhibitions & Public Interpretation.

In conjunction with the opening of Framing Fraktur, three contemporary artists from the exhibition will be in conversation with Judith Tannenbaum, curator of Word & Image: Contemporary Artists Connect to Fraktur.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Eric Booth, author of The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible, is widely regarded as one of America’s most creative and effective teachers of the arts.

Taking Harbison’s Songs American Loves to Sing as inspiration, Philadelphia composers layer jazz and classical traditions to create works that tell America’s story with today’s voices.

Grants & Grantees

Mufulu Kingambo Gilonda is a dance artist and a 2004 Pew Fellow in folk and traditional arts.