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The Shrem Museum: World-Class Art in Davis

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Davis is known for many things. It’s home to U.C. Davis, a renowned agriculture and medicine university. It has one of the largest farmers’ markets in the state. It’s the bicycling capital of the nation. But one lesser-known attribute of the city is its thriving arts scene.


One of the most notable fine art museums in the greater Sacramento region is located in Davis: The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, more commonly known as the Shrem Museum. Located on the U.C. Davis campus, the museum contains the work of regional artists in a range of mediums.

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The Shrem Museum, which opened in 2016, is unique in that it reflects a passion for experimentation and transformational, all-encompassing art experiences. It challenges visitors to rethink the way they view art and welcomes an open exchange of ideas.


The museum’s Fine Arts Collection includes works by faculty and alumni throughout the decades, including prominent artists such as Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Arneson, Mike Henderson, Bruce Nauman and Deborah Butterfield. It also contains works by recently exhibited artists and serves as a teaching resource for the community.


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The museum hosts several rotating exhibitions each season that focus on the U.C. Davis legacy and its sphere of influence. It welcomes contemporary artists, many of them from diverse backgrounds. Current exhibitions include alumni Deborah Butterfield’s P.S. These are not horses, a collection of sculptures made from found materials (through June 24) and Hatched: The Making of Robert Arneson’s Eggheads, a collection of the artist’s clay heads (through June 16). This June, visitors can also come see an exhibition of works by U.C. Davis graduate students.


Not only does the museum welcome guests to view art, they also welcome guests to make art! Art Spark is a public art studio that puts on workshops based on current exhibits. It is open Saturdays and Sundays, 1–4 p.m. through June 23.

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It’s not just what’s inside the museum that is worthwhile. The museum building itself is a work of art. In fact, it was named one of the 25 Best Museum Buildings of the Past 100 Years by ARTNews — one of just four in the United States and the only one on a public university campus! It joins renowned institutions such as the Louvre in Paris and the Guggenheim in Bilbao for its ability to integrate the outdoors and indoors and blur the line between exhibition and teaching. The building comprises a 50,000 square foot grand canopy of perforated aluminum triangular beams supported by 40 steel columns that allow for the play of light and shadow throughout the day.


The museum was a long time in the making. U.C. Davis was originally just a school of agriculture, but in 1959, a group of artists came together to launch the art department. The aim was not just to promote fine art; it was also to promote experimentation and new ideas. That legacy lives on today.


The Shrem Museum is one facet in the thriving arts scene in Davis. The city prides itself on its support of the arts, whether in the form of community-based arts projects or educational initiatives. Visitors to Davis will find public art seemingly on every street corner and there’s even a Public Art Pocket Map available for download. In addition, Downtown Davis hosts a monthly art walk, the 2nd Friday ArtAbout.


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The Shrem Museum is open Thursday, Friday and Monday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through June 30. The museum is open and free to all and no reservations are required.


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