The Addison Gallery of American Art Celebrates its Legacy On its 90th Anniversary

Silver and blue balloons numbered “90” swayed in the breeze as students gathered outside the Addison Gallery of American Art on Tuesday to celebrate its 90th anniversary, with attendees embarking on scavenger hunts and other Addison-themed activities. The Addison also hosted a slew of other events in celebration of its 90th anniversary, including a “Learning to Look: the Addison at 90” exhibit and virtual programs. 

“We’ve been planning for the Addison’s 90th anniversary for a long time…[we’re thinking about] how to dig deeper into our collection to tell the story of the Addison and also help people make connections to the Addison collection current, the Addison collection past, and think about where we may go in the future,” said Jamie Gibbons, Head of Education at the Addison. 

Established by alumnus Thomas Cochran in 1931, the Addison was founded to be an educational museum. According to Gibbons, while the gallery stands on Andover’s campus, it also welcomes a wide range of visitors such as public school groups, college students, and the general public.

“We have always been a teaching museum, so we think really carefully about how the museum collection connects to conversations here on campus… My favorite [part of the Addison] is being in the gallery with classes and seeing that lightbulb moment when students make that particular connection to a particular artwork…seeing how art can become an entry point into a topic to help people understand things in a new way,” said Gibbons. 

In the spirit of its background as a teaching museum, activities at the Addison’s birthday celebration on Tuesday helped students reflect on the museum’s role in their own lives. Planned in large part by the Addison community ambassadors, students could take photos, participate in communal drawing, and fill a time capsule. 

“[The Addison community ambassadors] planned the time capsule activity for students to think about, not only what the Addison means currently, but what their hopes for it in the future are. The collaborative drawing activity [was] everyone making something together, and then there’s also the scavenger hunt to prompt people to go inside and do some exploring on their own,” said Gibbons.

Attendee Melinda Zhang ’21 expressed that in past years, she had attended Addison study hours and appreciated its serenity. She also raised an example of watching a performance with friends in the gallery as one of her favourite memories at the Addison. 

“My favorite part of the Addison is how it always constantly rotates in terms of exhibits. There are always so [many] new things to look at and new things to explore. I like the vibes and energy and also walking around and looking at the artwork. It’s so cool that we have a museum on campus that’s open to the public and open to us, and I like how we’ll have classes in the Addison and really connect to the artwork,” said Zhang. 

Looking to the Addison’s future, Gibbons stated that she was excited to see the Addison’s future in the coming years. With the Addison’s 100th anniversary in 2031, Gibbons expressed hope that the Addison would continue its legacy as a teaching museum. 

“I hope that in ten years, people are still making connections at the Addison and finding home at the Addison, and for students who are graduating this year and coming back in ten years for their ten-year reunion, I hope they are finding home in the Addison again,” said Gibbons.