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Newest art exhibit in Modlin all about going with the flow

Published: February 9, 2013, 5:58 pm ET
Collegian Staff

For visitors to the University of Richmond Museums’ newest art exhibit, here’s one piece of advice: Go with the flow.

“Flow, Just Flow: Variations on a Theme” opened Jan. 29 in the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art, located inside the Modlin Center for the Arts.

“I’m hoping there’s a sense of wonder when people come in,” said N. Elizabeth Schlatter, deputy director and curator of exhibitions, of her expectations for “Flow, Just Flow.” Schlatter, said she had always liked art exhibits that appealed to both novices and experts of art.

When first walking into the exhibit, one sees a television, a PlayStation 3 and two controllers in front of a pair of chairs. Playing on the console is “flOw,” an award-winning, experimental video game in which players control an aquatic creature. The gentle pace and low intensity of “flOw” was a perfect illustration of the exhibit theme, and having a video game at the entrance has helped to entice people to come in, Schlatter said.

The exhibit goes on covering various interpretations of the concept of flow in mediums including painting, photography, video, sculpture and sound. “Magnetoscope” is an interactive piece containing ferrofluid, a dark, magnetic fluid that visitors can manipulate with two magnets. Before this exhibit, the manufacturer of the piece had only ever made them for science museums, Schlatter said.

The idea for this exhibit was developed about three years ago, Schlatter said, and she and her coworkers spent the summer and fall semester of 2012 putting it together. Research, grant applications and loan requests made organizing “Flow, Just Flow” a time-consuming process, Schlatter said.

Since the exhibit opening, which was attended by 174 people, between 50 and 100 visitors have come per day, said Denisse De Leon, coordinator of museum visitor and tour services. It is especially interesting to watch visitors’ sense of discovery in the exhibit, she said.

De Leon’s favorite piece in the exhibit is “Wind,” a projection of a data visualization of the wind patterns in the U.S., updated hourly from a website. Three other pieces in this exhibit are data visualizations, including “The Dumpster,” a collection of blog posts from 2005 by people who had been dumped, and “Flight Patterns,” a computer illustration of every domestic flight in the U.S. on August 12, 2008.

During the next five months, the Harnett Museum staff will host a variety of programs to attract, entertain and teach visitors, said Heather Campbell, curator of museum programs. Campbell is particularly excited about two programs events in February and March, she said.

There will be a talk by dancer and choreographer Jessica Lang, when she will demonstrate how flow pertains to dance. Lang’s dance company performed at the Modlin Center in September of 2012.
The other program will be called “Museum After Hours: College Night,” Campbell said, and will be designed to appeal to students. The program on the evening of March 28 will have games, food, music and performances from Choeur du Roi, a student a cappella group, and Subject to Change, a student improvisational comedy group.

The idea for the college night came from Sarah Matheson, Campbell said. Matheson, a senior and studio art major, worked as a curatorial assistant to Schlatter and helped put together “Flow, Just Flow.”
After taking a class in museum studies taught by Schlatter, Matheson said she had been interested in helping to put together an exhibit before she graduated. She spent many hours helping Schlatter last semester, she said, and did three interviews with artists included in the exhibit for the online catalogue. She also helped plan the coming college night and said she expected a large crowd to attend.

For those interested in learning more about the art in the exhibit, an online catalogue designed by Katreena Clark, museum operations manager, is available at

“Flow, Just Flow” runs until June 28. The Harnett Museum is open from 1 to 5 p.m., Sunday through Friday.

Contact staff writer Ben Panko at

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