(3D print of Funerary Relief Bust from Syria)

By Jeff Maisey

Jennifer Lucy makes her artistic debut as exhibit curator September 15 with the hip, very “now” show titled 3D Printing the Smithsonian. The exhibit will remain on view until December 16.

The craft/art of 3-dimensional printing is a relatively new technology. Locally, the folks at 757 Makerspace and its Dream Factory recently introduced many in Hampton Roads to 3D printing and its applicable possibilities. The Slover Library has also just made 3D printing available to residents. 

A great introduction to this new world of 3D printing is to go and experience this exhibition at Hermitage Museum.

To learn more about it, I reached out to Jennifer Lucy, also the museum’s marketing director. Here’s what she had to share. 


Most marketing directors do not perform double-duty as art exhibit curator. Can you share with us how the Hermitage Museum supported you in this effort?


Part of my role as Marketing Manager includes designing labels, signage, and guides for the exhibitions we host. About three years ago I spoke with our Executive Director Jen about expanding this role further and my goal to learn more about exhibition design and curation. She has been incredibly supportive of this goal and has encouraged me to work on this exhibition and to attend graduate school part-time at VCU over the past two years. I will complete my MA in Art History this spring and consider myself very lucky to have so much flexibility and support in my position.



What was the eye-opening moment of your two week residency at the Freer|Sackler?


There are two experiences that stand out, the first was my encounter with Curator Keith Wilson’s Cosmic Buddha installation and beginning to understand what was possible with 3D printing, and the second was repeated visits to an interactive exhibition at the Freer called Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan. My exhibition draws inspiration from both of these spaces in the way that it embraces new technology and invites visitors to enjoy a more personal, hands-on experience with the art on display.



What are the 10 objects exhibited and why did you chose these to showcase?


The objects include a 5’ tall Cosmic Buddha sculpture, a funerary relief bust from Syria, figures of Hotei, Shoki, Kannon, an ornamental kirin, or unicorn, an incense box and burner, and two ritual vessels. These objects were selected for their connections to the Hermitage collection, whether they are part of a set, represent a category of objects in our collection, are created using similar processes, or depict similar subjects. They were also selected for their tactile qualities since visitors will be able to touch them. One question I considered is “if I could touch the objects at the Freer, which objects would I select?”



What do you hope visitors will be most impressed with in viewing these 3D printed objects?


My main hope is that visitors will begin to see what is possible with 3D printing and that they’ll feel empowered to try the technology for themselves. I also hope they’ll view 3D printing as a way to experience art from around the world that we typically don’t have access to. We are just scratching the surface of what is possible with the technology.


Will patrons find inspiration to create their own 3D prints at the Slover Library’s new 3D studio space?


We definitely hope so. The exhibit includes a MakerLab where visitors can enjoy live 3D printing demos every Saturday led by both the Hermitage and the Slover Maker Studio staff. These demos will include a variety of topics such as how to print art objects, how to use software like Tinkercad to create your own designs, and how to print practical objects such as cell phone cases, parts for appliances, etc.  


Will you continue to curate exhibits at the Hermitage? What did you enjoy about the process?


I hope that I am given the opportunity again in the future. The collaborations and partnerships that have come out of this project have been my favorite part. Artist Mensah Bey designed and painted three indoor murals for the exhibit inspired by 3D meshes, we’ve connected with local educators and hosted a Teacher Workshop on 3D printing in August, we’ve met with local museum staff to discuss scanning and printing their collections, and throughout the process our partnership with the Slover team has been invaluable. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed learning how to 3D print and can’t wait to share what I’ve learned at the demos this fall.



3D Printing the Smithsonian

Through December 16

Hermitage Museum