Jeff Rathermel

Bringing Art to Life

Jeff Rathermel, formerly executive and artistic director of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, is the new director and curator of the Perlman Teaching Museum. With his first Carleton exhibit—an exhibition of faculty work titled See—already hanging in the galleries, Rathermel talks shop.

There’s a tendency to think that museums are obsolete, that because we can pull up the Mona Lisa on a computer, we no longer have to travel to France. But that isn’t the case. There is power in interacting physically with art. It’s an innate need that we as humans have.

Talking above a whisper in a gallery is okay. I want people to think of the museum as a community gathering space, not just a place to walk quietly from painting to painting and then leave.

I want to bring out a creative spirit in people from various disciplines—geology, mathematics, sociology—so that everyone understands that this space is for them, too.

Academics and art are closely integrated. A high-quality liberal arts experience is about facilitating discussion and teaching students different ways of looking at the world. Visual arts are an extension of that. They can communicate ideas, even quantitative information, in a format that’s accessible and compelling.

Opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration abound. For example, the Weitz Center’s new Kracum Performance Hall is only a few feet from the museum. Some contemporary composers are creating scores that are more than just notes on a page—they’re visually beautiful, too. I’d like to look into how we can bring music to the museum as both an aural and a visual form.

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