WCMA moves to Spring Street for the summer

Zoé Chevalier

76 Spring Street, formerly Lickety Split, will house WCMA for the summer as Lawrence Hall undergoes renovation.

Art will replace ice cream this summer as the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) moves to 76 Spring Street, the former address of Lickety Split. The ice cream spot is moving to the end of Spring Street, by the Tunnel City Coffee parking lot, nearwhere it had previously been.

Lawrence Hall, which currently houses WCMA, will be undergoing renovations this summer to improve maintenance and accessibility, and it will be closed from June 3–Sep. 6. Nina Pelaez, director for academic and public engagement at WCMA, said, “We didn’t want to just not exist over the summer, so we decided take the work that the museum is doing for the community and challenge ourselves to get outside of our walls.”

A year and a half ago, the museum decided to continue its curatorial work over the summer of 2019 by taking over a College-owned space and creating a presence on Spring Street. The new space will consist of a shop, some seating and an exhibition space. 

When looking at the location on 76 Spring Street, it is hard at first to imagine it becoming a gallery. With a large counter in the middle of the room and a relatively smaller exhibition space, the new gallery will create some challenges for the WCMA team. For instance, the museum could not bring its permanent collection to the new space, as the works would be exposed to risks linked to security, climate or light, Pelaez said.

The College plans to renovate the space before the gallery opens; renovation ideas include painting the walls white, removing the counter and making it generally more inviting. “Who we are is very defined by the unique architecture of our space, and this is much more straightforward and smaller, so the challenge will be to infuse the ethos of what WCMA is in this new space,” Pelaez said.

On the curatorial side, WCMA plans to exhibit works from the WALLS collection, which has special insurance and security features that make it possible to display outside the museum walls. WALLS, which stands for “Williams Art Loan for Living Spaces,” is a special collection that was built with the sole purpose of being loaned to Williams students every semester. The students then submit a journal describing their experience living with the artwork, and the journal is passed down to the next owner. 

The collection comprises 127 pieces of art, including work by artists such as Francisco de Goya, Kiki Smith, Kitagawa Utamaro and Titus Kaphar. Though enjoyed by WALLS participants, these works are rarely shown to the general public. WCMA is excited to use this opportunity to show these works of art to the community, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs Lisa Dorin said.

The selection of pieces displayed at the temporary gallery will be made by a student group working at WCMA, the Agents for Creative Action. They will work to choose a theme or make a selection of works that resonates for them. Also, student interns will lead tours of the display for members of the community. 

WCMA will continue its usual summer program, partnering with artists, student and members of the community to offer a wide range of events such as its popular summer lecture series, Ologies, which spotlights the diverse and unique fields of study at Williams. The program is scheduled to run weekly on Thursday evenings from July 11–Aug. 15.

Pamela Franks, the Class of 1956 director of WCMA, expressed excitement about WCMA’s presence in the heart of downtown Williamstown during the busy summer tourist season. “While we will miss being in beautiful Lawrence Hall for the summer, having a gallery right on Spring Street will let us continue to reach visitors and residents alike and share what WCMA has to offer,” Franks said.

The Spring Street WCMA gallery space will be open daily from June 3 to Sept. 6 from 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Staff offices will be moved to Schow Library during renovations.