Adjusting to post-pandemic times at Krannert Art Museum


Candice Zhou

The Trees Gallery is a collection of paintings, sculptures and other works from the Middle Ages featured in the Krannert Art Museum. The museum has been adapting to a post-pandemic environment since reopening in the 2021 fall semester.

By Faith Allendorf, Interim Summer Editor-in-Chief

Nestled on the corner of Fourth Street and Peabody Drive is the Krannert Art Museum. When it was constructed in 1961, the museum was just four galleries with a smoking lounge. 

Today, the museum houses over 11,000 pieces of art, ranging from detailed paintings to a sculpture made of rubber pants with a water bowl inside it. 

However, the number of visitors to the museum has declined sharply since the start of the pandemic. However, according to KAM employees, they have been slowly recovering. 

The employees reflected on the last couple of years and emphasized that the museum is one of the campus’ hidden gems that more students should take advantage of. 

According to Julia Nucci Kelly, the museum’s assistant director for marketing and communications, the number of visitors to KAM fell since March 2020.

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“Before March of 2020, our average attendance was closer to 11,000 visitors per month during the academic year,” Nucci Kelly said. “During the fall and spring semesters (of the past year), we averaged around 2100 visitors per month to the galleries.” 

Like other museums, Krannert shut down when the pandemic began, and it was difficult to show their art to in-person visitors. 

The museum also used to contain an Espresso Royale where students would gather to hang out or host social events. Since 2020, the café has remained closed. Nucci Kelly said she is not sure when it would reopen. 

“That was one of our casualties of 2020,” Nucci Kelly said. “Now, we’re just waiting … but when we get another café, we will be shouting from the mountaintops.”

Another casualty of the pandemic was KAM Fest — an event held during welcome week where there was free food, screen printing, live music and more all in one night. Nucci Kelly estimated that there would be around 3,500 people in the museum at the same time. 

Luckily for the museum, coordinators found ways to adjust to the pandemic. The museum was able to show its art and host events through an idea it hade implemented three years prior.

“We built a way to have the art collections online as early as 2017, and boy did that come in handy,” Nucci Kelly said. “We’re really lucky because we already had all of the art online.”

Nucci Kelly also said the approach is still used today. A couple of galleries can be found on their website

“We’ve been keeping our approach to events hybrid so that people that are more comfortable engaging with the museum from far away can do the same thing,” Nucci Kelly said.  

In the fall, KAM Fest was once again in person. Instead of it all being in one night, however, the event took place over the course of a week. 

“We had four days where we did all kinds of things,” Nucci Kelly said. “We had tons of swag, giveaways, scavenger hunts and things like that.”

Nucci Kelly also said there were around 450 total attendees. The museum has been trying to figure out how to get back to the pre-pandemic numbers. 

Madison Hall, a recent graduate from the University and a front desk worker for the museum, said more marketing efforts would help.

“I feel like no one really knows it exists,” Hall said. “Like, I’ve brought a lot of friends here that are like ‘Wow, this is cool, but I never even heard about it.’ Advertising and marketing would help.” 

Rachel Gu, a doctoral student studying art education and a security guard at the museum, has her own way of increasing traffic. As an educator, Gu has her students come to the museum to finish their assignments. 

Gu discussed a time when one of her in-person classes was canceled. To keep her students engaged in work, she instructed them to go to the museum. 

“You can spend two hours in the museum instead of attending that class,” Gu said. “I’d ask them to draw sketches based on the works they saw.” 

However, Gu also said that if she didn’t ask her students to come, she does not think they would come on their own terms.

Nucci Kelly said providing more opportunities for students would increase visitor traffic. She emphasized the importance of events that are organized by students, and called them “awesome.” 

“I remember, there was a group of students who had said, ‘We want to do something like an art night on Reading Day’ and they called it the ‘Sugar High,’” Nucci Kelly said. “You could do art activities and go into the café and have candy bars.”

Nucci Kelly said she wants more student engagement and feedback so the museum can create more events like Sugar High.

“I think the students have great ideas,” Nucci Kelly said. “So that’s one of the reasons why we’re always asking student members what their ideas are and how they would want to do them. We’re building student staff to help with events.”

According to Nucci Kelly, KAM has a lot to offer and is very unique to the community. She likes how the museum is run as well as the things that are offered to students.

“There are four or five temporary exhibits that we do a year, and the types of work we feature changes all the time,” Nucci Kelly said. “The types of works featured can vary from collector donations, purchased selections and student art.”

There are also events free to students and the community. 

“We have film screenings or concerts, and sometimes an artist will come and talk about their work,” Nucci Kelly said. “Sometimes we’ll have a gallery conversation or we have student events.”

Nucci Kelly also emphasized how the museum is a place for students to relax.

“We also provide one of the few spaces where you can come and actually be with your thoughts,” she said. “Sometimes, I feel like it’s worth it to have a space where you can destress and be in the quiet.” 

She also recalled how there used to be a “rest lab” that had games and “all kinds of things” for students to unwind.

Nucci Kelly emphasized that the museum is free. She hopes that this knowledge could attract more visitors.

“The museum is free, and I think there’s a shortage of free activity in the world right now,” Nucci Kelly said. “So it’s something that I really hope that students know of.” 


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