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Spring 2000

Swinging the Hammer
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When the auditorium is completed toward the end of 2002, it will host not only three evenings a week of museum programming, but four nights of screenings organized by UCLA's world-renowned Film and TV Archive, the first such programs ever presented off-campus. The auditorium will in fact become the archive's new home.

That is only the leading edge of Philbin's plan to integrate the museum more fully into the life and operation of the university. "I see UCLA as one giant resource for the museum," she enthuses, "and vice versa." Her redesign plans for the museum space itself to incorporate classrooms and study spaces-including expanded facilities for the Grunwald Center-in order to engage students that much more actively and effectively.

Philbin also plans an increased program beyond the university's purview: She has not yet decided what will constitute children's programming, but she has committed herself to a full adult-education program, with its own curator. And in a couple of years, Philbin says, the museum will start collecting again. By that time, the museum will have completed its makeover. Local architect Michael Maltzan has modified Barnes' original design, making it more flexible and exhibition-friendly without abandoning its elegance and airiness. In fact, Maltzan's reliance on glass sheathing amplifies Barnes' own light touch but adds warmth and, in Philbin's words, "brings transparency to this building." The project should be completed by fall 2002, but the museum will close for only six months during the first half of 2001, reopening with nearly doubled exhibition space.

The models of great university museums, from Yale and Harvard to Michigan and Iowa, Stanford and UC Berkeley, inspire Philbin. And she wants to retain the Hammer's already established ability "to present the widest range of art and ideas-all periods, all countries, all media, all histories." But in reconfirming its academic purpose, she wants to turn the Hammer outward to the general public and in particular bring in and serve Los Angeles' artist community. To this end, she has not only set about expanding her curatorial staff, but she has brought in a practicing artist, James Elaine-who worked with her at the Drawing Center-to oversee the new Hammer Projects program of contemporary artists' in situ works.

Ambitious plans. But Ann Philbin has awakened sleeping giants before. Her firm but gentle touch should rouse one of UCLA's-and L.A.'s-great cultural resources out of its light but too-long slumber.

Peter Frank is a Los Angeles-based writer on arts and culture.


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