Students have formed a club to increase interest in Willamette's Hallie Ford Museum of Art, which is noted for displaying the work of Northwest and Native American artists, as well as significant historical exhibitions.Students have formed a club to increase interest in Willamette's Hallie Ford Museum of Art, which is noted for displaying the work of Northwest and Native American artists, as well as significant historical exhibitions.

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Student-initiated club strives to engage more students in Willamette’s art museum

Just beyond the perimeter of the cozy boundaries of the Willamette University campus is one of the most distinctive and sophisticated features of the university: the Hallie Ford Museum of Art.

Despite its uniqueness, many students do not frequently visit. In an effort to raise awareness of this incredible treasure that is available for free to students, two art history majors have set in motion the Hallie Ford Club, an organization which they hope will rally enthusiasm for and involvement in the museum, its exhibitions and art in general.

Kathryn Pawlick ’11 and Olivia Lawther ’12 took the reins of an original Hallie Ford Club at the beginning of the fall semester in order to breathe new life into its structure. After working all semester, they held their first student meetings, and now have a regular attendance of about 15 students — and they’re always looking for more.

Jonathan Bucci, the museum’s collections curator and the club’s advisor, iterates that it is highly uncommon for a school of Willamette’s size to have a museum like Hallie Ford. According to Bucci, these types of collecting institutes are more prominent in east coast liberal arts colleges.

“We’re incredibly lucky to have a resource like this,” he says. “That the Hallie Ford exists is a testament to the Willamette spirit, and it’s fun to see students involved and excited about it. For me, it’s about seeing them build the club from the ground up and the students feeling good about it.”

Why then don’t more students frequent the museum? Pawlick and Lawther guess that it largely has to do with the busy schedules of Willamette students, and the fact that the museum is off the main campus, even considering the short walking distance of just one block — in other words, it is out of sight, out of mind.

To combat this issue, Pawlick and Lawther plan to hold a non-exclusive exhibit next semester showcasing art from students across majors, which will perhaps draw more of a diverse interest from peers and friends of the students featured.

“There is so much talent and individuality at Willamette,” Pawlick says. “We hope an event like this will promote individuality, and by featuring members of the campus community, remove some of the stereotypes often built up around art museums.”

Pawlick and Lawther, who both interned at the museum last semester, hope that events will offer an impetus to visit, and that interest will grow from there. The club functions in such a way that it is accessible to students of all disciplines and backgrounds.

In fact, the team said that the majority of their membership is not involved in the art or art history departments. According to Pawlick, there are representatives of many diverse fields, from politics to biochemistry.

“I was so excited about the diversity of students interested in joining,” Pawlick says. “Art is a fun experience — it isn’t dry at all like it is stereotypically portrayed to be. There is something for everyone.”

Involving students in museum events, field trips and lectures is the main focus of the club, and they consistently focus on adding the most beneficial and fun events to their calendar, and finding innovative ways to engage the Willamette student body.

This week, for example, they will be showing the Oscar-nominated film “Exit through the Gift Shop,” a documentary on street art and the culture thereof — incidentally the subject of Pawlick’s senior thesis. The showing will occur March 9 at 6:30 p.m. inside the museum and is free to students.

Past events have included a trip to Portland art museums, and the annual “Night at the Museum,” an open house-style affair inviting students to freely meander within.

For more information about the Hallie Ford Club, contact or