Jessica Beachum and Allison Chew
Season 6 - Episode 618
Narrative as Reality: Constructing an Identity is the newest exhibit at Baylor’s Martin Museum of Art, featuring pieces from the Jessica and Kelvin Beachum Family Collection. The exhibit brings together 21 works of art from 19 artists across the globe, with a focus on human experiences, discovery and expression of oneself. Jessica Beachum, a 2011 Baylor graduate who shared her family’s collection with the University, and Allison Chew, Martin Museum of Art director, take listeners inside the collection on this Baylor Connections.
Derek Smith:Hello and welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week we go in depth with Baylor leaders, professors, and more, discussing important topics in higher education, research and student life. I'm Derek Smith, and today we are talking about art as we discuss a new exhibit coming to Baylor's Martin Museum of Art, as well as the story behind it. Narrative as Reality: Constructing Identity is the newest exhibit at Baylor's Martin Museum of Art, featuring pieces from the Jessica and Kelvin Beachum family collection. Narrative as Reality: Constructing an Identity brings together 21 works of art from 19 artists across the globe. The exhibit features human experiences, discovery, and expression of oneself with art from Alexis Peskine, Nelson Makamo, Mario Moore, Athi-Patra Ruga, and more. On the program today to share more about this are Jessica Beachum, a 2011 Baylor graduate with a degree in sociology and a master's in science healthcare delivery from Arizona State. And Allison Chew, Director of Baylor's Martin Museum of Art. Well, Jessica and Allison, it's really great to have you on the program with us today, and this is a really neat story that I'm excited to dive into. Thanks so much to both of you for joining us today.
Jessica Beachum:Yes, Derek, thank you for having us.
Allison Chew:Yeah, excited to be here.
Derek Smith:Great to visit with you. And we're going to talk a lot about this exhibit and let's just start with an overview. Jessica, I'll start with you and then Allison, I'd be curious your thoughts too, as you think about people visiting the exhibit we're about to discuss, what most excites you and if you would give just a short elevator pitch, if you will, for people to come visit. Jessica, what would you say?
Jessica Beachum:I'm most excited about sharing our collection, sharing what we've built, inviting the Baylor community, the Waco community, the surrounding areas in to see, especially for individuals who would otherwise maybe not have time to get to an art museum. They may think that they can't afford it or they may think it's not open to them. So I'm most excited about people just coming to have that experience. And as far as the elevator pitch, I'm like, come. Come see it. That's the best I have.
Allison Chew:And to springboard what Jessica's saying, the show's exciting for us at the Martin Museum because we're providing an opportunity for people to come in at no charge. The Martin Museum doesn't charge admission fees for visiting our exhibits or any of the programming that we do. So it's a great opportunity for people to come in and see art that they might not have ever seen before. And because the show is composed of so many artists, it's really exciting to get to see so many perspectives and points of views around the central themes of the exhibition. So it's going to be an amazing space to generate conversation.
Derek Smith:We're excited to talk more about that. Again, 21 works of art from 19 artists, united around those themes that we'll discuss. And Jessica, these are from your personal collection as we mentioned. You're a young Baylor alum who's built this up. Tell us a little bit about this. How have you built and developed this over the years?
Jessica Beachum:So when Kelvin and I first started this collection, we bought our first piece on a cruise ship. And I'll just say we've seen how, I mean, although we loved the piece, we loved it when we bought it, we just really see how much we have grown. We both, we took our experiences, we focused on things that we loved, different mentors in the art world that we've come to know over the years who have just basically taught us to get an eye for art, see what you love. We're big history buffs. So I think history has really helped us build this collection. That's one of the main things we go off of, buying what you love and understanding the artists, their process. And that's one of the major things we go along with when we use art.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Jessica Beachum and Allison Chew. And Jessica, you mentioned Kelvin, your husband, he's a central Texas native who went to SMU and now an NFL player and yourself, a Baylor alum. You mentioned you bought your first piece of artwork on a cruise ship. So where did your interest in art begin? What led to you wanting that, and then how has it grown?
Jessica Beachum:So the amazing thing is, as a kid growing up in Dallas, I've always had the opportunity to visit the Dallas Museum of Art, whether it was through field trips at school or with family. And then my grandmother, she loved visiting the, believe it or not, the Meadows Museum of Art there at SMU. And you know, talk about full circle moments. It's just so funny that that's where Kelvin ended up attending school. And as we were dating and even when we got married, we both discovered that we had an interest in art. So that's where it all started.
Derek Smith:That's great. So what aspects of art grab your attention, whether it was when you were younger or now, what are some of the things that keep you looking a second longer or turn your head?
Jessica Beachum:As I stated before, for me it's the history. I love when pieces depict what's going on at the time, because those are moments you can never get back, but when you see it in a book or you see it in a piece of artwork, those are things that we can remember and that we can build up on just to get better I think as the world, as communities, we look back at that history and we improve on it.
Derek Smith:That's crazy. We visit with Allison Chew and Jessica Beachum and hey Allison, we're going to talk more about the exhibit amendment. I want to ask you, when you first learned of the possibility of sharing this as you got to know Jessica and the collection that she and Kelvin share, what were some of your first thoughts when you discovered the possibility of this?
Allison Chew:Well, my first thought was be cool, act cool, don't get too excited and scare them off. I thought it was a really unique opportunity for the museum to really showcase some diverse perspectives. We've got an international grouping of work, so we're getting multiple perspectives from totally different cultures, which is really exciting for us. And the media represented in the show is also really engaging. We've got a lot of mixed media, some really unique pieces that when you see them in person, are going to be really thrilling for a lot of people to dive into and take a look at. So once I got the show list, I geeked out a little bit and just really was just, what can we do? How can we make this happen? How do we engage students and how do we get the public in? So it was very exciting for us to have this opportunity.
Derek Smith:Well, it's exciting because it's great art and Jessica, certainly, it's also exciting because of your ties to Baylor. It's a neat story. You, as a Baylor alum. As we dive in, as I'm just curious, let's get to know you a little bit better. If you would tell us more about your time at Baylor. What were your goals as you came here? And were there any aspects of your Baylor journey that were especially pivotal or meaningful to you?
Jessica Beachum:Yes. So believe it or not, Baylor was, as I was in high school, Baylor was one of the last schools that I looked at. But upon coming, taking a tour of Baylor, I looked at my mom and I just said, "I think this is where I belong." And I had an amazing time at Baylor getting a chance to really dive in and be a part, being connected, working on campus. I worked with Miss Pearl Beverly in Multicultural Affairs, so that really allowed me to be able to be connected to all of the different student groups, student activities, just being there in the SUB, which is central to campus. My goals included going to, well, I'm a sociology major and also I was pre-med track as well. My goals just included, I was trying to figure out a way how I could help people that's all I wanted to do when I went to Baylor. But pivoting off on this art journey was also special as well, because believe it or not, actually, when I was at Baylor, I was able to go to the Martin Museum of Art, able to explore it, able to see some theaters. So I don't know, for me, arts and science has always played a part. I always knew I'd be doing something in either of the two.
Derek Smith:That's great. You had both sides of that coin there that's followed you to now your further journey and your personal and professional journey as well. You and your husband, Kelvin, he's in the NFL, and now you all are in the Phoenix area. What's that journey, personally, professionally look like for you, Jessica?
Jessica Beachum:So I mean, personally, we're raising three young children here in Phoenix. So I mean, it's been a great time. We've been able to plug in since we've been here. Kevin actually just resigned another contract for the next two years here in Arizona. So it's nice to be able to plug in, be able to meet others in the arts also for me in the healthcare community. And that also plays into my professional goals as well. Continuously building. I just finished my master's, what about a year ago at ASU.
Derek Smith:That's great.
Jessica Beachum:Yeah, it's been a great journey.
Derek Smith:That's fantastic. Visiting with Jessica Beachum and Allison Chew. And Jessica, take us from that first piece of art you bought a little bit. What's been the scope of your collection growing? This kind of obsession and collection that's grown. And when did you decide somewhere along the way that you wanted to share it?
Jessica Beachum:Oh my goodness. So we talk about the art growing. Now we moved into more of blue chip art. A lot of our focus, when we first started, we wanted to do Black artists. So we traveled to South Africa. We were able to see some art there, which a few of the pieces did come from artists that are from South Africa, that are based there. Then now I think we're at the process because a lot of the pieces are figurative. We have a good mixture of figurative and abstraction. We focused on women and women in that abstraction. So that's kind of where we are now. I look at pieces that we've acquired maybe in the last few months, and I'm like, "Ooh, I wish I could add this to the show last minute," but I don't want to do Allison [inaudible], I don't want to put that on you guys. I wouldn't do that. But we have artists from Pakistan. We've acquired a couple, actually just yesterday, looking at another Asian artist. White. So it's nice to be able to expand our collection now, and I think we're going in a great direction with everything we're acquiring. We may have to do another show at Baylor.
Derek Smith:That sounds good. But when was it something that you decided, you and Kelvin thought, what we want to share this beyond just us enjoying it. We want this to be something that other people can share. And how did that decision come about?
Jessica Beachum:Yes, so we felt at one point we didn't have enough wall space, for one. So we were like, "We can't keep them in storage. We have to get these out." And I think that's the thing with art, what the interest that sparked in us, what we got excited about when we saw these pieces, I felt we had to share it. We couldn't hold onto it. And like I said, we don't want them to just sit in storage either. So I'm happy to get this art out so that everyone can see it, so that these artists can get the recognition they deserve, that their stories can get out as well. So that's special.
Allison Chew:And it's a really important conversation that we're having about art collectors because we're all familiar with museums and we collect and things like that. But when you start to work with private collectors, you really get to see certain perspectives because of the way they collect. And I think that's a really great way to introduce others into art because they get to see that perspective of the collector. And again, we're showcasing artists that I may not have ever come across as a museum professional because the art market is so large. So that's another really great reason to work with collectors like we do in this community. Because it's another avenue of access. And it's really significant, too, that collectors like Jessica and Kelvin are sharing their collection. Because so often when you have private collections, you do get this situation where you have a wonderful collection of art that never gets seen by anybody. So it's really great that Jessica and Kelvin have decided to share their collection with us. And as a museum professional, that is really significant and means a lot to me, not just professionally, but personally because I love museums and I love going to visit them. So it's really great that they share.
Derek Smith:Allison, you mentioned that as you talked to Jessica initially, you geeked out at some of the names and some of the pieces. And I'm just curious, take us inside briefly if you would. You all have a lot of great possibilities that you can share. So how does an exhibit... The right exhibit at the right time? How does that rise to the top and how did you know that this was that?
Allison Chew:Well, that's a really complex question. So we normally plan our exhibitions several years in advance. So Jessica and I have been in conversation for two plus years, and so their collection has grown. We've worked with a curator that they are familiar with to build these works up that might make for the best exhibition here at Baylor University. So it's really a team effort. And at a small museum, we're fortunate enough that we can really tailor make our exhibition schedule, especially because we're a university museum, we're always thinking about our students and how we can help them. And so it was a no-brainer when I saw the works that Jessica and Kelvin shared with us via the list. So I could immediately draw parallels and stuff with our curriculum that we teach in the Department of Art and Art History. And so I thought there's that. That's easy. Check mark. And then for the community, I thought it was really unique because a lot of the works that we're showing in this show, we've never kind of had that type of work before. So it's a really unique new experience for our patrons to see. So it's just I couldn't resist. It was so cool.
Derek Smith:It's wonderful. This is Baylor Connections. We are talking about the newest exhibit at Baylor's Martin Museum of Art, Narrative as Reality: Constructing an Identity, featuring pieces from the Jessica and Kelvin Beachum Family Collection. And we are visiting with Jessica Beachum and with Allison Chew, Director of Baylor's Martin Museum of Art. And let's talk about some of the artists and the themes. Now you've referenced those. It'll be fun to dive in a little bit. Start with you, Jessica, a few of the artists in the exhibit who are a few that stand out to you and maybe give us a brief indication of why.
Jessica Beachum:Yeah, definitely. Well, I mean, I love them all. They're pretty awesome people. We've had the privilege to meet and spend some time with most of them on the list. But we do have Alexis Peskine, which you mentioned earlier. Brittney Leeanne Williams, spent some time with her in Chicago just a couple years ago. Was actually with Dominic Chambers last weekend at Yale. Yale had their open studio, and we were fortunate to go up and spend some time with him, which was really nice. Nelson Makamo, last year when he came for the SMU exhibit, we had dinner with him. So I'm excited about a lot of these pieces. And I can't fail to mention Mario Moore or Marcellina Akpojotor, whose art is actually featured on the front of the catalog. So we're fortunate to have all these artists.
Allison Chew:I have to say that asking somebody in the art community to pick their favorite artwork is asking them to pick their favorite child.
Derek Smith:For sure.
Allison Chew:It's tough. And it was an interesting revelation for us when the artwork, when we first started working with Jessica, we shared a show list and we've worked and we're working off these tiny thumbnails of imagery, just prepping. And then the artwork came and it was like Christmas morning. When we opened all these boxes, I was like, "Oh my gosh, I was not ready for this one to be this scale." And, "Oh my gosh, I didn't notice that detail." So we had quite the exciting couple of days when we were unboxing and doing condition reports on the work. And I have to say, the Makamo piece really stood out to me in person. The color on it is amazing. And the Ruga piece, the Yellow Bone, I was not prepared for how gorgeous it would be. We pulled it out to photograph it for the catalog and we were able to get really good lighting on it. And just the detail and the rich color that came through for the catalog was amazing. And also the Vaughn Spann piece. I was not ready for the level of detail and texture in that piece when it came in. And so, oh, it's so exciting.
Derek Smith:What's neat, what listeners can't see, is how much each of you were smiling every time the other one would mention an artist. So there's plenty of great pieces and we can't mention them all, but I know those smiles would be there for all of them. And we talk about the individual artists now, I want to ask you the thematically, Jessica, start with you, the themes that tie these pieces together. What are some of the things that people will see the further, deeper they go into looking at these? Things that'll kind of emerge, themes that will emerge?
Jessica Beachum:I think, because most of the pieces, well, all, actually. All of the pieces in this show are from, as I mentioned earlier, Black, African American artists. So I think some of the themes that you'll see are identity and also lived experiences.
Allison Chew:Yes, most definitely. Just to jump on that conversation of identity, what's really striking to me is we've got some really great portraiture in the show. So there's some really wonderful depictions of Black creators, Black artists, Black people as subject matter, and they're all done in really thoughtful and kind of thought-provoking ways. And just to further talk, there's some works that lean towards the abstraction, which is really wonderful. We've got some realistic works in the show, figuration. So there's a lot of meat in this show to come in and experience when you are visiting us at the Martin.
Derek Smith:Allison, I'll ask you and then Jessica, I'd love your follow-up here. What people take away. They visit, they think about it and they leave. What do you hope people take away from the experience of seeing these pieces?
Allison Chew:Oh, I think for the museum, just in broad strokes and in general experience, I hope that people come away with just coming out of their comfort zone, considering different perspectives. One of the things I tell a lot of folks that I give tours to is, "You don't have to like the artwork, but you should consider it." So I hope that everyone who visits considers the work, steps outside their own perspective and looks at other perspectives. That's why we make art so that we can share and be a community and kind of work together and share those common experiences. So I hope that people just consider it and think and ponder about it.
Jessica Beachum:I agree. I look forward to, while actually there at the museum, people having a conversation and not only just there at the museum, but once they leave, continue to have these conversations, continue to think, because that's what art makes you do. It makes you think. It thinks about, like Allison said, perspectives that you may have never considered and you see this and it ignites something inside of you and you're like, "Huh, I never thought about that that way." Or, "Wow, that's what he or she means when they say that." So just having a conversation and just for it to be thought-provoking and to continue to ignite conversations in the future.
Derek Smith:Absolutely. Hey, Jessica, I want to ask you, obviously you mentioned you also held this exhibit at SMU, your husband's alma mater, now it's coming here to Baylor.
Derek Smith:So obviously that's a pretty cool tie each of your alma maters. But what does it mean to you to have it on a college campus for it to be accessible on a college campus. In addition to, I think it's even a slightly different thing than if you're in a museum in the city itself.
Jessica Beachum:So one of the amazing things about having this on a college campus, love having it at Baylor, of course, because it's my alma mater, but I think any college campus is because you have that next generation of artists sitting right there. These students are able to come in and see these works. They're able to get inspired and able to become that next generation of big artists that we hear about. So it's nice that they're able to have this access. A lot of them may not be able to get to New York to see these huge galleries or to Paris or somewhere overseas. But being able to bring that work there to Waco, a smaller town, which has grown a lot, but being able to bring it to Waco and these students, these parents, graduation is coming up. Everyone's able to come in and see it, I think is a really valuable experience and I'm happy that we're able to do it.
Allison Chew:Yeah, I totally agree with Jessica. My entire career has been working at university museums because I love the environment so much because, like Jessica's saying, we're providing an opportunity for these students to come see work that they may not have had access to, that they couldn't get to otherwise. We're also a primary resource for research. Our art history students come in all the time and they look at our collections or our exhibitions and write papers. Our studio artists are coming in and examining the work so that they will be inspired for their work that they're doing for their coursework. So it really bolsters the sense of community within the visual arts that we have access to these works from Jessica and Kelvin for our students to grow themselves. So I think that's really interesting.
Derek Smith:That's great. As we head in the final couple minutes, I want to ask you, Allison, so while we're talking about the exhibit, people want to come see it. How and when can they do that?
Allison Chew:Okay, so the exhibition's going to be opening on May 6th. We will have a grand opening event that day from 10 to 2, so that you can bring your family. We'll have crafts and activity books for kids. We'll have some curatorial tours from the exhibition curator, Valerie Gillespie, and we'll just be hanging out and having fun that day. The show will be up the 6th through November 5th. We're open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 to 5, Sunday 1 to 5, and our last entry's at 4. So as long as you get in the doors by 4, you can stay until 5.
Derek Smith:That's great. So really the whole summer and not into the fall semester of the 2023-24 school year there's opportunities. But don't wait, get in out there soon and check it out. Well, as we wind down, Jessica, I want to close with you, what does it mean to, for people to have the chance to see this? You've been building towards this for a while. What's the feeling like for you as this prepares to open up?
Jessica Beachum:There's some sort of nervous excitement I have going on right now, as I was saying earlier. So like I said, I encourage everyone to come see it. Looking forward to seeing everyone there. Looking forward to shaking your hand, even talking to you about pieces. I'm not a curator like Valerie, or even I'm not as important as Allison, but.
Allison Chew:Oh, come on.
Jessica Beachum:But I look forward to just, like I said, having that conversation and talking to everyone about the art and can't wait to see you there.
Derek Smith:This should be a lot of fun. Well, the exhibit is called Narrative as Reality: Constructing an Identity. Hey, thanks so much for joining us today. And Jessica, thanks for sharing this with the Baylor family. Thanks for making this accessible to us.
Jessica Beachum:Yes. Thank you.
Derek Smith:So Jess, thank you. And Allison, thanks for joining us on the program as well. Look forward to seeing you and others out there at this exhibit. Appreciate you joining us today. Thanks.
Allison Chew:Always happy to talk about art.
Derek Smith:Great to visit with Jessica Beachum and with Allison Chew Baylor's Martin Museum of Art, here on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. Reminder, you can hear this in other programs online at baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe to the program on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.