Exploring Community and Culture: Inside the Frances M. Maguire Museum at Saint Joseph’s University

Madi Costigan
frances m maguire art museum

Set within the Barnes Arboretum on the historic campus of Saint Joseph’s University (SJU), the brand new Frances M. Maguire Museum showcases unique and worldly exhibits devoted to the education of students and the general public. The building itself was the previous home to the Barnes Foundation, an art institution and GPA member that relocated to Benjamin Franklin Parkway over a decade ago. This move opened up the possibility for SJU to establish a new museum and highlight new ideas and exhibits.

art museum exhibit photoNamed after a beloved arts advocate and one of SJU’s largest benefactors, the new museum is committed to offering “transformational art experiences” that will allow you to “deepen your understanding of the human condition.” Admission is free, ensuring that anyone can visit and experience it. The most exciting part is that the museum is integrated into student life at SJU, so that students can expand their world views and interact with art in more ways.

GPA journalist Madi Costigan visited in February to see the permanent and temporary exhibits the museum had to offer, including the new “Life-Lines Throughout the U.S.” photography series created by Pennsylvania native, Eric Kunsman. This exhibit features black and white photographs of the few payphones left that Kunsman found as he traveled the country, portraying how “many individuals are being left behind by technology, whether that is for communication or Internet access.” Kunsman further described the inspiration behind his work by explaining how “our society has become one in which you must have access to these tools to be provided support services and a job, or you are left behind, widening the gap between the lower and middle classes.” Payphones were once a symbol of accessibility and connection, a lifeline to the world, but they are now becoming obsolete.

museum photo

At first, this idea seemed too on-the-nose. But as one meanders through the gallery, it is easy to see the larger story; the photographs are not directly about the payphones but more about the surrounding communities. Sometimes the pay phones are not even front and center in the images, forcing the viewer to delve deeper and investigate the contents of the photograph. This exhibit truly offers insight into class division around the country and even features photographs from Philadelphia, so it is worth a visit before the exhibit is removed in early April.

Another exhibit opening soon is called Virgin, Goddesses, and Barbie, a topic relevant to pop culture following the release of Greta Gerwig’s movie. The university community developed the exhibit to analyze “the intersection of female beauty with art, culture, and industry” in a semester-long project. The opening reception will take place on April 25th, with the exhibit culminating in a Pink Party open to members and students. The exhibit itself will be open to all.

In addition to these temporary exhibitions, the museum is home to amazing cultural works of art that will be available to view at any time, including African artifacts, European stained glass, and Latin American paintings from up to 3,000 years ago. Additionally, the majority of artworks include descriptions in English and Spanish, contributing to the accessibility and prevalence of cultural diversity within the museum.

frances m maguire museum exhibit

With unique displays and ever-evolving exhibits, the Frances M. Maguire Museum is sure to become a staple in Philadelphia’s renowned arts landscape. SJU and its community are passionate about contributing to the arts community and visitors are encouraged to revel in all of the amazing pieces the museum has to offer. GPA is proud to partner with an institution devoted to intertwining the arts with diversity and community and looks forward to seeing what the museum comes up with next.

Arts and Culture
Emerging International Journalists Program