What do you expect to see when you go to a museum store? A selection of art books? Exhibition-related merchandise? It’s been great watching how museums have been shifting their focus looking for non-conventional ways to enrich audiences’ experiences of visiting a museum store. In the case of the Frye Art Museum, their team focused on creating outreach programs for local creative industries. Frye Art Museum opened its doors in 1952 and was Seattle’s first private art museum. It originated from the private collection of Charles and Emma Frye. Charles, owner of a local meatpacking plant, set aside money in his will for a museum to house the Fryes' collection of over 230 paintings.
We first heard of the Frye Museum Store from the museum’s Director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker. Shortly after we headed to Seattle to talk with Rachael Lang, Frye Art Museum Store Manager and Buyer. We met at the museum while she was getting ready for a trunk show and chatted about the strategies of engaging the community and museum’s commitment to the Seattle arts and design scene.
“It used to be a more traditional space, a standard museum store. The look of the store was pretty packed too. Our goal was to reinvent and revitalize the store. What we did bring was the large collection of local Pacific Northwest designers to the store. Me, our team, are a part of this community, the design community. We have a vast collection of postcards, jewellery – these designers do truck shows and present their work to the visitors of the museum”.
“With each exhibition cycle we try to look at what is the show about, how can we integrate the pieces that artists make for the store, or showcase limited editions – in short, every exhibition cycle we change the collection of the store with a focus on what’s going on. For examples, we have a lot of merchandise now related to the Genius show (Genius/21 Century/Seattle is a sixteen-week long project presenting artworks, performances, film festivals and citizen’s forum on Seattle’s future. Exhibition runs through January 10, 2016).
“We are constantly on the look out for artists: on Instagram, Facebook, going to gallery events, getting suggestions from artists and friends who are involved in the local arts scene. People also submit online. It’s an all at once approach”.
“The trunk shows are similar to pop ups: we have artists coming for the day to showcase their collections. We do promotion. Recently we had Alice Wheeler. She is a photographer, who worked with Nirvana, Bikini Kill. We organized a book signing of her first monograph. We had many people coming, everyone was very excited. It’s our first experience with book signing so far and it was very successful”.
Unfortunately, people don’t buy books that much these days. What they want is a small gift, or nice designer item. And if this gift has a story, or can say something about Seattle and Pacific Northwest, and is from the Frye Museum that you can’t get anywhere else – that’s even better!
“Why have a museum that is not showcasing all the amazing things produced by local design community? I have a lot of people coming and saying that it’s a different refreshing take on a museum store, a place to discover new things, familiarize yourself with the local art and design scene. And just have a good time”.
Rachael Lang has been managing and buying for the Museum Store for over 3 years. She researches, develops, and buys inventory related to Museum’s mission, exhibits, and programs. She also manages collaborations with Pacific Northwest designers and artists. She works collaboratively across departments to promote and support exhibitions and programming within the Museum. She grew up on the East Coast and her background is in Fine Art and Photography.
Museeum choice of gifts at the Frye Museum store:
We fell in love with this gorgeous Golden Egg necklace by Stephanie Simek, designer from Portland. Simek makes experimental works using sound, electronics, and natural materials.
This remarkable clutch is produced from paper but is water-resistant and can carry heavy loads. Naoto Fukasawa is a Japanese industrial designer who collaborates with brands all over the world.