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Hanging new artwork at the MacNider Museum

MASON CITY, Iowa – Visitors to the Charles H. MacNider Museum will notice two new pieces of artwork hanging in the Beck Gallery. Revolt on the Amistad and Horse Sense were placed on the gallery walls last Thursday. Both pieces were recently acquired for the Museum’s permanent collection using designated memorial funds.

Revolt on the Amistad is a colorful screen print that uses semi-abstract forms to communicate the chaos of the slave revolt on the Amistad, a ship carrying prisoners to the Caribbean in 1839. Its creator, Jacob Lawrence, often used his work to address the social and philosophical themes of the twentieth century. Horse Sense by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith features different images and texts that explore American culture. Descended from French, Cree and Shoshone ancestors, she worked in many media and today is an internationally known painter and printmaker.

Hanging artwork is a multi-step process. First, it must be determined where the piece will hang. MacNider’s Associate Curator and Registrar Mara Linksey-Deegan explains: “To decide where a piece should go on a wall, one must look at the pieces hanging near where it will go to see if the new piece coordinates visually with the ones already there and take into account the size and look of the frame.”

The Museum uses a hanging rail system where wire is attached to the back of the piece and strung from small hooks inserted into a rail along the gallery ceiling. “A mathematical formula is used to calculate how long to make the hanging wires. The formula is pre-set for each gallery. All the staff must do is measure the height of the piece and the height of the hanging rings and plug these numbers into the formula,” says Linskey-Deegan.
At least two staff people conduct every hanging, regardless of the size of the piece. This ensures that artwork is not accidentally dropped and does not hit the gallery wall. Depending on the size and weight of the work, more people may be enlisted to help.

Pieces within the Museum’s permanent collection are changed out of the galleries periodically. The artwork’s medium and the length of time it has been displayed determine when it will be taken down and placed in storage. According to Linskey-Deegan, pieces like oil paintings and ceramics may be displayed longer as they are not as sensitive to light, temperature, and humidity changes, while watercolors and other works on paper must be changed more frequently due to their sensitivity. When not on display, artwork is kept in storage rooms that are carefully monitored for temperature and relative humidity. Temperatures that are too hot or cold and humidity that is too high or low can speed up the deterioration process.

On average, the MacNider purchases three artworks each year using donated funds. These funds come from different sources, including wills, individual memorials, and designated donations. Revolt on the Amistad was purchased using funds from the Kelly Paulson Memorial Fund, while Horse Sense was purchased using funds donated in memory of Bill Gildner.

Come to the Museum to examine Revolt on the Amistad and Horse Sense, as well as the other artworks on display. Perhaps you will discover some new personal favorites.

The Charles H. MacNider Museum is located at 303 Second Street SE in Mason City. It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with extended hours until 9:00 p.m. on Thursday. The Museum will close at 12:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and is closed on New Year’s Day. For more information, call 641-421-3666 or visit |

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