Midway through RAM’s first 20 years, the museum’s contemporary craft collection was identified as the largest in North America—a designation that remains true today. Add in the considerable number of works on paper also on hand and it means that RAM represents a variety of voices—be that in terms of personal backgrounds and heritage or artistic range of expression as regards media, process, and subject matter.
A collection is a layering of choices. Who decides what one looks like? RAM staff and board consider many logistical and philosophical factors beyond the artwork itself. Who benefits from an acquisition? Does a gift further a museum or community goal? Are diverse perspectives truly being represented? Can the museum reasonably care for and maintain the artwork in perpetuity?
In addition to developing historical collection strengths such as establishing multi-piece archives that reflect an artist’s career, RAM continues to expand initiatives to champion historically underrepresented voices like those of women and artists of color. Notably, one recent step towards an even more robust and equitable landscape is the creation of a fund dedicated specifically to acquiring work by artists of color.
An anniversary allows looking back while also considering the future. On the surface, Gathering Voices is a cursory, media-specific look at 20 years of building RAM’s collection. With an emphasis on works acquired in the last five to seven years, it also highlights critical and more expansive directions to be taken.