“True accessibility starts with our doors being open,” said Director of Chazen Museum of Art Amy Gilman.
The Chazen officially expanded its hours to 84 hours a week on Wednesday, making it the most-open museum in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, according to an annual survey conducted by the Association of Art Museum Directors.
The museum, located at the center of UW-Madison’s campus, is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, with galleries opening at 11 a.m. The change increases the museum’s hours of operations by a total of 36 from its previous schedule. Additionally, it is now open to the public on Mondays.
Consequently, the museum has begun to explore and experiment with methods of deepening student, faculty and community engagement with art.
The new schedule is the first in a series of changes the museum is making to combat cultural division, entitled “The Chazen Point of View.” The initiative seeks to “fundamentally change how visitors interact with the museum.”
Last year, the New York Times reported that many art museums across the country are reimagining their identities and missions in order to attract new audiences and steady profits.
Some of the sweeping changes are welcomed, some are not.
“It’s very cool that we have something like that on campus that students can access and take advantage of,” John Billings, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said. “It’s nice that they decided to make UW feel even more inclusive than it already does.”
Kirstin Pires, editor of the Chazen, said that being open from nine a.m. to five p.m. makes it difficult for people who are working or going to classes to come into the museum while it’s accessible to the community. The only other time to visit the Chazen was the weekend or Friday evening.
“We have traditionally been closed on Mondays, so we thought, ‘Let's just see what happens if we’re open as much as we possibly can be,’” Pires said. “We definitely are trying to invite more students to come in.”
Along with the added hours, the Chazen made the large addition of a café to the first floor of the building.
“It’ll do some people good to have coffee after 11 [a.m.], but most people want their coffee in the morning, so that was another reason to be open at 8 [a.m.],” Pires added. “It feels like we are breaking some new ground and perhaps leading by example. It’s kind of exciting to be doing something new and different.”
The building and artwork security were also taken into consideration with the surge in hours. Museum staff worked with UWPD to provide security officers to make sure all the resources align with increased traffic.
Recent research conducted by the Chazen found that a number of people felt intimidated by the art museum, Pires explained. She hopes that will change — maybe in baby steps.
“Pretty much everyone knows how to go order a coffee, even if you don’t feel comfortable walking into a museum,” she said. “Everyone is welcome in whatever way they want to experience the museum. You don’t have to dress up, you don’t have to behave in a certain way — just don’t touch the art.”