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Volunteer Recognition Day at the MMFA

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On October 20th, the Lowder Gallery looked like a launch pad for miniature hot air balloons! The theme for the 2013-14 Volunteer Recognition was “Our Volunteers Help Us Soar Higher.” Seventy volunteers and their guests enjoyed a delicious luncheon catered by Jenny Weller. Director Mark Johnson welcomed all and thanked them for their commitment to the Museum.

Volunteers watched as images of what the various areas of the Museum would look like without them were projected on screen. This was  followed by pictures of the volunteers in action. The last segment showed all members of the staff holding “Thank You” signs. Tim Brown, Curator of Education, did a fantastic job pulling the images together complete with music!

Every year, volunteers contribute their time and talents to the Museum. As volunteer coordinator, and an active volunteer myself, I know the difference that this service can make in the Museum’s programs. I was pleased to work with other Museum staff  to organize the luncheon that recognized each of the following individuals for their outstanding service to the Museum.

Art Auction Award: Ginny Cumbus & Mary Dunn
Technology on the Road Award: Ben Cumbus
Development Leadership Award: Barrie Harmon
Junior Executive Board: Beth Hataway
Special Events Award: Winston Wilson-Reese
Assistance Needed Today Award: Agnes Han
First Impressions Award: Henrietta Macguire, Helen Till
Flimp: FAME group from BTW (Caroline Barmeitler, Stephen Brickley, Mark Bullock, Betty Jackson, Lil Martin, Claudia Mitchell, Edward Patillo, Mamie Sellers)

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Embracing Technology: Mattie Dejarnette
Rookie of the Year: Sheryl Rosen
Outstanding Contribution to The Art of Baking and Cakewalk Tour: Katherine Danley
Outstanding Contribution to Outreach: Corrine Cau
Outstanding Contribution to Studio: Paula Murphy
Outstanding Contribution to Gallery: Liz Land
Wayne Barto Memorial Award: Cathy Hegji
Pat Wanglie Award: George Jacobsen
100-Hour Club: Paula Murphy, Lou Scott

DSCN0832-blogEach recipient received a certificate of appreciation plus a package of notecards with images by artist James McNeill Whistler. One lucky volunteer at each table got to take home the beautiful floral centerpiece created by Melissa Kendall while every volunteer and guest received cookies in the shape of hot air balloons.

Gloria Simons
Volunteer Coordinator

 

 

 

 

Toasting The Wampold Collection at Collectors Society

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Thursday afternoon, October 2, collector and Museum donor Babette Wampold gave a charming talk about the twenty-seven American paintings now on view that she and her late husband Charles acquired together.  While Babette joked about his purchasing a few paintings once while she was out of town, she remarked on how singular the collecting vision was that they shared – auspiciously so since the Wampolds lived with each work that is featured in An American Collection: Gifts to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts from Babette and Charles Wampold.

Babette_0056_blogBefore the gallery talk, the Collectors Society toasted Babette and Charles’ generosity at a champagne tea. Babette is pictured celebrating with Director Mark Johnson. Once in the exhibition, Curator Margaret Lynne Ausfeld invited Babette to reflect on her adventures in collecting. From the pastoral scene pictured beside them to the vivid Sacrifice of Isaac just behind, the Wampolds’ collection is comprised of a rich array of moving landscapes and figurative works. You won’t want to miss seeing the paintings hung together for the first time in almost a decade.  Mrs. Wampold seemed to thoroughly enjoy being reunited with all of her old friends.

In addition to the Wampolds, the Museum is also grateful to Winifred and Charles A. Stakely for their individual support of An American Collection and to Renasant Bank for their co-sponsorship of the exhibition.

Alice Novak
Assistant Curator of Education

MMFA Family Member says “Goodbye”

Kay_741blogIf you ever walked into The Museum Store in the last five years, chances are Kay Jacoby’s voice and smile greeted you. Customers say Kay truly knows how to combine superior customer service with a touch of wit-so much so, they feel compelled to come back. She has seen the Museum Store evolve from a typical museum gift shop environment to an amazing experience for artists and customers alike. Jacoby says, “I know just about every artist in here.”

She walked into the store that displays handcrafted artwork of regional and local artists in August 2009. As she embarked on this new career, she was also trying to get through grieving the death of her mom. Jacoby says, “I truly appreciate the support and friendships made.” As you can imagine the relationships created came through countless conversations, not only with shoppers, but the artists too. Jacoby says, “I know just about every artist in here. My favorite part about working in the store is displaying the art.”

All those moments of working with artists and displaying their art turned into a colorful display of emotion as she said her final goodbyes to members of her MMFA family, Tuesday, September 30th. The staff gathered to bid farewell to Kay over cake and coffee in the Museum’s Café M. Yes, the person who operated The Museum Store countless hours and days is moving to make some long-sought changes in her life as she goes home to create more artwork of her own.

On this occasion, Kay received quotes from her colleagues who have grown accustomed to seeing her painted plaques with funny and encouraging quotes in the Museum store. Kay_Tisha_38blogHere are words some of the staff left her with. “We don’t remember days, we remember moments,” “Love is a flower, you have to let it grow,” “Think differently,” and “If you’re going through hell, keep going,”

Kay_0041blogAll read aloud by staff members that Tuesday afternoon, these quotes seemed to echo their heartfelt sentiments: she will be greatly missed. As she leaves, she passes the torch to the newly hired, Ward Chesser, but don’t think you have seen the last of Kay Jacoby. Jacoby says, “I will be back for Artist Market and other events.”

Cynthia Milledge
Director of Marketing and Public Relations

 

A History Worth Saving

Scrapbk_blog220About three years ago, the Museum staff began identifying and digitizing photographs and other documents that record the history of the institution, which was founded in 1930. The project was planned and initiated through the efforts of Tara Sartorius in conjunction with our Collections Information Specialist, Sarah Puckitt, and the project is now managed by Sarah who continues to add data when her schedule permits. This “digital archive” is in its earliest stages, but already we can see the long-term value and usefulness of preserving our institutional memory in digital form.

Paper has always been a perilous material for storing information over time. All paper (the kind we write on, the kind we print copies on, and even photographic paper) is largely acidic; the non-acidic kind is now too expensive to be used for much other than making and preserving artwork. So when the process of scanning existing images and documents became more widely available and cost effective, the Museum started using computer hard drives to store our archival data. While it has its challenges, digital records are the future of archive management, and we are already somewhat ahead of the curve.

Archives_blogThe 2014 year-long celebration of our 25th anniversary in the Blount Cultural Park provided significant impetus for our efforts to locate and scan images of the Museum during its first twenty-five years, when we were located in an old school building downtown. A desire to focus on the early art collection also prompted us to look at the roots of the institution in its early years and to revisit our now distant past. It was fascinating to find images of the previous Museum buildings and the programs that gave rise to the ones we offer now.

McDonough_constr_blogA tangible result of our efforts to digitize the institutional history in a well-organized database was the timeline of early Museum history titled Origins • A Timeline of the MMFA. Produced in conjunction with the Origins exhibition which was on view this past summer and online at the link above, the timeline encapsulates through photographs and brief text the development of the Museum and its collection on Lawrence Street.

Through our website, via email, and through social media, the Museum will increasingly use digital means to communicate with our audiences. By preserving a digital heritage of the MMFA, subsequent generations of Museum visitors will have the resources to explore our development as the primary visual arts institution in the River Region for the last eighty-four years.

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

Call me Trim Tab—Twelve Degrees of Freedom Restored

B_Fuller_Karsh_blogRichard Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983), who preferred to be called Bucky, wrote more than 30 books, earned 28 U.S. patents, circumnavigated the globe 57 times, and coined the term “Spaceship Earth.” Along the way, he invented the Dymaxion (short for dynamic maximum tension) house and car, and he popularized the geodesic dome, an efficient but often leaky structure designed and built through application of the principle of tensegrity.

Tensegrity is the balance of forces of tension (cables) and compression (rods) that the artist patented. His 1962 patent defines tensegrity as “the physical phenomenon that produces a stable geometric structure with solid members that are arranged in tandem with tense metal cables. The solid members of this system do not touch or support each other directly.B_Fuller_damage_blog

The spare beauty of the principle of tensegrity is aptly demonstrated in Twelve Degrees of Freedom (and by Fuller himself in a photograph by Yousuf Karsh, 2009.9.2), but not long ago that sculpture was limp and unable to stand on its small tripodal foot as originally designed because an accident in the galleries stretched its plastic-coated, braided steel wires.

B_Fuller_art_blogFortunately, a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) enabled the museum to employ McKay-Lodge Fine Arts Conservation of Oberlin, Ohio to restore the sculpture. After careful research into the design and fabrication of the sculpture, which was produced in Fuller’s architectural studios in Cleveland, conservator Tom Podnar painstakingly measured, knotted, and inserted each of the eighteen replacement wires and fitted their knotted ends into holes in the rods and the central sphere so that the entire geometric structure attained a rigid state. Only in that condition will the sculpture stand on one of its tiny tripodal feet as designed. Podnar’s persistence has paid off. Once again viewers can appreciate Twelve Degrees of Freedom as the artist intended.

This sculpture is part of Triad, a group of three similar tensegrity sculptures of rods and cables that Fuller designed and fabricated in an authorized edition of ten around 1982. Some of those are now in the collection of the Buckminster Fuller Institute in Philadelphia. Fuller made a few other sculptures like these, but most of his formidable creativity was focused on functional structures in a lifelong quest, as he said, “to find what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefitting all humanity.”

Fuller said, “call me Trim Tab.” That is the tiny adjustable flap on the trailing edge of an ocean liner’s rudder that creates a low pressure area, easing the movement of the relatively small rudder that steers the massive ship. Bucky made a career of applying minimal amounts of energy to effect maximal results, designing efficient sculptures, houses, cars, and other components of Spaceship Earth to achieve sustainable systems that maintain nature’s delicate balance.

Michael W. Panhorst, Ph.D
Curator of Art

Susan Vreeland makes a virtual appearance

On Wednesday, September 10, Susan Vreeland joined us for a Skype video discussion about her latest book, Lisette’s List: A Novel.

As we began our discussion, Vreeland positioned herself in front of the webcam to give us an intimate view of her appearance (although she jokingly admitted that the real reason was to hide her messy office). Vreeland captivated us with her wit and infectious humor as she shared with us background information about the novel, as well as personal anecdotes. For example, during her student years, Vreeland chose to study music appreciation rather than art. She attributed this outcome to her old roommate who complained about an art history course and the burden of having to remember so many dates and the monotony of slides that all seemed to blur together. Fortunately, this did not discourage her from learning about art, collecting art books, and traveling around the world to places like France to quench her thirst for the world’s finest art treasures. As Vreeland once remarked:

“Coming out of the Louvre for the first time in 1971, dizzy with new love, I stood on Pont Neuf and made a pledge to myself that the art of this newly discovered world in the Old World would be my life companion. Never had history been more vibrant, its voices more resonating, its images more gripping.”

A video tour of Roussillon, the setting for Vreeland’s novel

Most of Vreeland’s novels (with the exception of her first book What Love Sees) were inspired by art (thank goodness!) and Lisette’s List was another literary treat. Beginning in 1937, Lisette and her husband André Honoré Roux moved from Paris to the village of Roussillon to stay with Andre’s grandfather, Pascal, who owned paintings by Cezanne and Pissarro. Pascal, who worked in the ochre mines of Roussillon, provided frames for the artists in exchange for paintings. Pascal eventually passed away and André died unexpectedly during World War II, leaving Lisette alone to struggle through her bereavement, while continuing to search for a rare collection of modern art that mysteriously disappeared. In the process, she discovered the value of friendship, community, and the transformational power of art.

The novel was a wonderful story about modern art, culture, and regional history, but it was Susan Vreeland’s special appearance that made the story enduring and timeless.

Littleton Unveiled

Littleton2_blogOn the evening of Tuesday, August 26, the MMFA officially ‘unveiled’ one of our newest acquisitions, Harvey Littleton’s Orange Triple Movement, 1983 (see blog post of July 7, 2014).

Joan Loeb, Chairperson of the Decorative Arts Committee, who was instrumental in bringing this historic and significant sculpture to the MMFA kicked off the event, and following the unveiling, Maurine Littleton shared her insights about the work. As a renowned gallery dealer and as the daughter of the artist, Maurine revealed how Harvey Littleton created the work, while describing her father’s relationship to many of the other artists featured in the MMFA’s collection of American studio glass including Dale Chihuly, Flora Mace and Joey Kirkpatrick, and Dante Marioni.

Littleton1_blogMaurine conveyed how to tell the difference between the different glass types utilized by artists—commercially available or hand-made—and why artists use various colors together, primarily because of similar melting temperatures. She also talked about the beginnings of the American Studio Glass movement, emphasizing the congenial nature of that artistic community. She believes that the sharing of ideas and techniques among artists helped the movement to blossom and grow. This is especially apparent in the early creation of glass programs at universities around the country—many started by students of her father. While these artists influenced each other, there was also a spirit of innovation that spurred so much creative experimentation, allowing artists to develop individual styles. Certainly, everyone could see Harvey Littleton’s extraordinary style and technique in Orange Triple Movement.

Jennifer Jankauskas
Curator of Art

 

Chinese Consul gets “lesson” in Arts Education at the MMFA

DSC-489_blogArt is looked at from a different perspective, at least when Yang Song compares what’s on display in China’s museums to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Song says, “This is wonderful. The visit is quite special, unlike other experiences in museums in Europe and China.”

Song is employed with the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China based in Houston, Texas. The Consul for Cultural Affairs came to Montgomery, August 21 through 23, for this year’s Dragon Boat races on the Alabama River. Upon his arrival into the Museum’s Rotunda, he seemed impressed with the plans for the MMFA’s new sculpture garden. A few steps further into the Permanent Collection he marveled over Mary Cassat’s Francoise in Green, Sewing, a little girl decked out in her Sunday best. Song says, “At first sight, you see such beauty here at the museum, it’s a good environment for visitors.”

We even caught him photographing Charles Lucas’ creations on the back grounds of the MMFA. As he discussed the sight with Curator Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, his face lit up when she told him the creatures on display were created from car parts. In fact, Song had to turn to his assistant to have it all translated into his native language to make sure he fully understood. Song says, “In China our museums are open to the public, but the buildings are huge. There is very limited interaction. Here it’s totally different. China could learn something from Montgomery, Alabama.”DSC-483_blog

DSC-495_blogThe China native also liked touring and photographing the large window in the Lowder Gallery, but he seemed most impressed with the educational experience our Artworks Gallery provides for children. He noted that museums in his native land are hard pressed to provide the kinds of experiences that the MMFA can give young visitors. The size of China’s population makes delivering art classes, services, and cultural experiences a challenge even in modern day China.

DSC-505_blogCynthia Milledge
Director of Marketing and Public Relations

 

Museum Director Celebrates Twenty Years

ADM.Mark_blogTwenty years — that is a long time by any measure, but it is a particularly long tenure for a museum director and Tuesday, August 12, we had the pleasure of celebrating Mark Johnson’s 20th anniversary at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

Staff threw a surprise breakfast party for Mark that included his 1994 hiring president, Winnie Stakely and past president Laurie Weil and featured a waffle bar given by Jennie Weller to honor this significant achievement. Winnie and Laurie shared stories about Mark from the Board and community point of view, while Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, who is one of a handful of staffers whose tenure exceeds Mark’s, rounded out the remarks from the staff perspective. While Mark has publicly stated he does not like surprises, he was touched that all current staff signed a plaque created by artist and Museum Shop staffer Kay Jacoby that featured Rose Kennedy’s quote “Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments.”

While Mark has reached a momentous milestone with this anniversary, I just ran a quick tally and Mark has hosted over 3,150,000 visitors to the Museum during his tenure, creating a myriad of moments for so many people.

We thank Mark for his service to the Museum and the River Region in so ably leading the institution and we look forward to creating many more moments in the future.

Congratulations Mark!

Jill Barry
Deputy Director

Photo: Donna Pickens, Amy Johnson, Mark Johnson, Winnie Stakely and Gloria Simons at the celebration breakfast held August 12, 2014.

Military Open House 2014

MOH76_blogMajor Brian Chatman family’s first visit to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts turned out to be impressive.
Chatman said, “We really appreciate you guys providing the food, the band is amazing and the kid’s zone, my daughter had a blast.”

Chatman, his wife Georgene, and their 16-month-old daughter Raelyn, were among the 423 people taking part in this year’s Military Open House. This is their first full month in Montgomery. They moved here in July from Los Angeles. Georgene Chatman said, “It’s introducing us to activities we can do throughout the day as a family and explore with other military families. It’s also introduced us to culture and art. This has been great.”

Like the Chatmans, many other military men and women took advantage of what this family centered event had to offer. During this two hour period, they got to take a personal tour of the Museum’s exhibits, dress up in costumes and take pictures at a photo booth, and get their hands dirty during clay pottery and paper quilt-making activities.MOH65_blog  Chatman said, “It’s a great introduction to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.”  His wife Georgene added, “It helps us get connected with other military families.”

Not all members of the armed forces are active duty, some are reservists or retired like James Simpson. MOH85_blogWe found Simpson, his wife Cynthia, and son Desmond sharing family time doing an art project together. James Simpson said, “Not only do I get to take my family to a quality event, I also get to be around comrades, and sometimes I get to run into people from Maxwell Air Force Base that I was stationed with and haven’t seen in a long time.” Cynthia Simpson said, “It keeps our family connected. It helps us appreciate each other and enjoy this special time together. Their son, Desmond Simpson said, “It’s just fun to me.”

We found other guests like Brigadier General Robert Thomas bonding with colleagues while dining on a meal catered by Wintzell’s Oyster House. This is his third year bringing his family. Brigadier General Thomas said, “I think it allows the men and women at the base to feel like a part of the community.”

The fun doesn’t stop with the activities and food. Music filled the air in the Lowder Gallery with tunes being belted out by the voices of members of the LoFiLoungers band. Many said this helped end their evening on a good note.

MOH72_blogBrigadier General Thomas said, “My favorite part is looking at the paintings with my kids and discussing what is their favorite painting. I ask them ‘what do you like about this one’ and I think it’s a fun memory for them.”

This was the 19th year for the MMFA’s Military Open House. We look forward to saluting the Chatman, Simpson, and Thomas families for their dedication and service to our country again next summer.

Cynthia Milledge
Director of Marketing and Public Relations

View highlights of this year’s Military Open House at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXXGVH_41T4&feature=youtu.be.

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