North Carolina Museum of Art previews Reinstallation

RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Museum of Art will reopen this weekend with new amenities for art lovers and visitors to explore.


What You Need To Know

Valerie Hillings is the N.C. Museum of Art director

Total reinstallation at NCMA will be unveiled this weekend

New thematic galleries include modern works from N.C. artists

Digital games and labels, more interactive learning stations, touch screen displays have been added


The NCMA reinstallation will offer any person who tours the reformatted galleries a fresh way to engage art pieces.

It has been billed as a reimagining of what art can and could be by NCMA Director Valerie Hillings.

“There’s certainly no shortage of things to see,” Hillings said.

Hillings has been the director for four years. During her time at the helm, the curator-turned-head of the NCMA has weathered a storm of COVID-19 closures and completion of projects to its galleries.

“What we’ve really tried to do in the reinstallation is mirror some of those ways of seeing the world. The idea that you might look at two different representations of a person or a place,” Hillings said.

Touch screens, audio explanations of animal-inspired artistry and interactive engagement will all be part of the anticipated unveiling.

Many displays will feature the work of North Carolina artists. Other exhibits, like the Modern American Art exhibit, presents a user-friendly alternative to the consumption of art for modern-day people.

Hillings believes the role of museums is providing a framework as a starting point for the stories and narratives behind the visuals.

“Art gives the chance to see a world and imagine a world and see oneself in a world more than what you see every day,” Hillings said.

Crews worked fast and furiously on Wednesday to complete all projects for the reinstallation. One of the displays that will welcome visitors as they enter the door is one example of their revised themes. It’s a colorful fusion of a family of an artist from North Carolina. A portrait of a mom flanked by a daughter and grandmother with a son above her head is the first thing the eyes see.

Hillings said these newly themed exhibits will be representations of local creators and their artistic diversity.

The NCMA’s reinterpretation puts forth the idea that artworks form an interconnected family in society.

Spectrum News 1 was given a preview of what visitors can expect ahead of the weekend.

Galleries will reopen on Saturday after a labor intensive reorganization of displays.

This is the first opportunity for public viewing since June. Hillings said the changes present art through digital platforms like the one she demonstrated in the American Art wing.

“These are brand new,” Hillings said. “If you touch this screen it comes up with the basic text of what you’re looking at.”

Each individual artwork has an image and a label. Now touch screens offer a guided text of what you are seeing. Hillings says you can even zoom in for a more detailed look.

“It gives you the opportunity to visually engage, so that it’s not just about reading about the work but seeing it in new ways,” Hillings said.

Her life as a curator has taken her around the world, including curation at the various satellite museums in the Guggenheim constellation.

She said her experience has shown her that for years people were afraid to incorporate digital mediums with the artwork.

“This is really that chance to say what if we study it more closely. I am fascinated by it. I’m someone who has studied art her whole life,” Hillings said.

Bygone ways of thinking are giving way to current technology.

Traditional descriptions are on the walls except the viewer can go deeper if they so choose.

The open-floor plan and setup makes the act of looking at sculptures, paintings and portraits more immersive.

Form, gesture and color are exciting additions to collections.

“I think about art from many different angles. How you see it and what you see in it,” she said.

Hillings said it’s a new take on a formal attraction.

Her opinion is that art evokes memories, experiences, histories and hopefully, curiosity.

“I think that’s what’s so great about art. Art can be an individual experience. Certain pieces of art will never interest some people and you will walk right past it. The individual reaction to the art and how someone consuming the work sees or does not see themselves in it,” Hillings said.

Art as an integrative experience has become more commonplace in the 21st century. The access to those newer veins has been harder to create.

“One goal is to give enough information you can approach to it or understand it but equally leave the door open. We want to have an invitation to learn more, to see more, to question what you do and don’t like about the artwork,” Hillings said.

The goal for her at least is to erase an assumption that specialized knowledge is needed to appreciate what’s on display at a gallery.

“Artists are such a core (component). We don’t exist without artists. Artists have a way of telling us things about the world that are harder to see from other mediums and from other perspectives,” Hillings said.

It’s part of the artistic makeover for visitors this weekend. Another part of the reimagining is placing a perspective from a local artist alongside that of the original curator. By doing so, it gives the consumer a chance to digest an interpretation at the same time they read the curated description.

3) One of the most interesting aspects of this reinstallation to me are the community voices. A local artist’s interpretation is placed beside an original curator’s label. Visitors see they can curate their own thoughts about an artwork, much like the local artist. @SpecNews1RDU

— Patrick Karl Thomas (@PatThomasNews) October 5, 2022

The concept of young people seeing themselves represented can be an invigorating feeling for patrons. Let artists show them a world or worlds they do not know.

“Go on that scavenger hunt and find your favorite,” Hillings said.

Other festivities will be outdoors. All the fun starts Saturday morning and runs through Sunday afternoon. 

Seventy-seven loaned works of art from international and stateside museums will temporarily join the collected works to bolster a wide mix of talents, backgrounds and inspirations.

Some of the same people whose creations cover the gallery walls will be guiding thrill-seekers through galleries. 

New displays embrace this idea of interconnectedness spanning time, continents and cultures. There will also be celebrations of art through movement, the written word and the spoken word from inside the overhauled galleries.

The museum will reveal 100 new pieces of art to the 1,000 total works on display — a large portion of the 4,000 in the NCMA collection.