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Art Museums at UMass: University Museum of Contemporary Art

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A piece of art with the text,  Art Museums at UMass: University Museum of Contemporary Art

One of my personal favorite activities is going to art museums. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City all the way to the RISD Museum out in Rhode Island, I truly enjoy exploring artistic history throughout my travels. From large to small, museums allow visitors the ability to explore foreign and domestic cultures through paintings, sculpture, drawings, photographs, and textile works — a truly unique experience.

One of my favorite parts about attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst is that I am able to continue to explore my love of the arts right here on campus at our very own art museum, the University Museum of Contemporary Art. The UMCA, located in the Fine Arts Center here on campus, is a multidisciplinary, international laboratory for the exploration and advancement of contemporary art.

The museum is open and welcome to all, and is a hidden gem here on campus — a true must see spot during your time here. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the University Museum of Contemporary Art and photograph some of its current exhibits. Here is some insight about this unique art museum located right here on campus. 

Current Exhibits

Exhibits at the University Museum of Contemporary Art are constantly changing, typically lasting for a few months at a time or the duration of a semester. This allows the museum to remain fresh and exciting while introducing students to the diversity of art. Each time students visit the museum, they will be met with a new unique experience, different from their last visit. During the time of my visit, the museum housed various artwork from Leonardo Drew and Avital Sagalyn, both passionate and highly creative artists. 

Leonardo Drew: Cycles

Leonardo Drew’s prints, powerfully large yet fragile, test the versatility of their medium, transforming cotton paper pulp and pigment into what appears to suggest densely populated cities, a forest, or an urban wasteland. Some may look like maps of geographical landscapes viewed from above, while others are reminiscent of the night sky and distant galaxies.

Drew’s sculptural installations use a variety of off-the-shelf materials (wood, cardboard, paint, paper, plastic, rope, and string), combined with natural materials such as branches or tree trunks. Drew then subjects these elements to processes of oxidation, burning, and weathering. Through this process, the artist articulates diverse histories of chaos, and cycles of birth and death.

Avital Sagalyn: A Life of Exploration

This exhibition, researched and curated by a team of three UMass Art History students, provides a glimpse into the range of Sagalyn’s work and rich cultural history. 

Sagalyn and her family fled the Nazi invasion of Belgium in 1940 and settled in New York. She was among few women in the Manhattan art scene of the 1950s. After moving to Amherst in 1968, she helped select the first director of the Fine Arts Center. 

In presenting Sagalyn’s first museum exhibition, the UMCA provides a glimpse into the range of the artist’s work and its rich cultural history that spans three continents. Included in the exhibition is a selection of Sagalyn’s cubist, abstract, and abstract-expressionist paintings, drawings, sculptures, and textile designs.

More Information about the Museum

Is there an admission fee for the museum? When is the museum open? 

Art should be accessible to all and the UMCA truly embodies that message. Admission is FREE. Always. This allows all students and visitors to enjoy the museum with ease and no financial strain.

The UMCA is located in the Fine Arts Center here at UMass and is open Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m., and until 8 p.m. every first Thursday of the month. The museum is closed on Mondays, during academic breaks, and state holidays.

Are there any opportunities for students to get involved? 

As a teaching museum and creative laboratory, the UMCA offers many ways for students to get involved. From joining their Student Educator team, curating an exhibition, or completing a for-credit internship, to doing work-study as a museum attendant, the museum invites students to learn and build professional museum experience while here at UMass.


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