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MMFA Director Retires After 23 Years

The Board of Trustees of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and Mark M. Johnson, Director of the Museum, announce his retirement effective August 15, 2017. Johnson served for 23 years, by far the longest tenure of any director in the Museum’s history.

Johnson is a native of Chicago, Illinois, and received a BA in art history/studio art from the University of Wisconsin, and an MA in art history/museum studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. He then joined the staff of the education department at the Art Institute of Chicago, and later worked as a curator of art history at the Cleveland Museum of Art, before accepting the position of Assistant Director at the Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Subsequently, he was named Director of the Muscarelle Museum at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.  He joined the staff of the MMFA as Director in August of 1994.

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is Alabama’s first art museum, founded in 1930. It is nationally recognized for its collections of American art, Old Master Prints, and regional works from the American South.

During Johnson’s tenure, the museum welcomed over 3 million visitors and acquired 1,700 works of art. Among the notable acquisitions were paintings by American masters including George Inness (1825–1894), Mary Cassatt (1844­–1926), Max Weber (1881­­–­1961), and Thomas Hart Benton (1889­–1975). He inaugurated the collection of American Studio Art Glass that now numbers more than 50 works. He also oversaw the growth of the Museum’s Old Master Print Collection and an expansion of the collection into traditional African art. The Museum undertook three major renovation or expansion projects during his tenure: the creation of the Weil Graphic Arts Study Center in honor of Adolph “Bucks” Weil Jr. in 1998, and the expansion of the education wing/ARTWORKS gallery and creation of the Margaret Berry Lowder Gallery in 2006. In 2014, the Museum broke ground for a sculpture garden presently under construction on the eastern side of the Museum.

At a meeting of the Board of Trustees held June 27, 2017, the Board acknowledged Johnson’s long tenure and accomplishments, and accorded him the honorary title, Director Emeritus.

At a subsequent meeting on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, the Board announced the appointment of Edwin C. Bridges, Ph.D., as the Interim Director of the Museum. Dr. Bridges is the former Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, serving in that position from 1982 until his retirement in 2012. He has agreed to serve as Interim Director while the Museum’s Board of Trustees conducts a national search for a permanent director of the Museum.

Since his retirement, Dr. Bridges has continued to be involved in historical research and has completed a new general history of Alabama entitled Alabama: The Making of an American State, published in 2016 by the University of Alabama Press.  He has also been actively involved as a volunteer working for Alabama’s upcoming Bicentennial. Dr. Bridges comes to the Museum after a tremendous career as the well-respected director of one of Alabama’s most important historical organizations, and will be acting to insure a continuation of the Museum’s mission as well as a smooth transition for new leadership in the future.

 

 

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

Photograph of Ed Bridges courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History in Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Creativity and Imagination: 2017 MMFA Summer Art Camp

During the almost ten years I have worked in museum education, I have seen my share of summer art camps. Every year summer arrives with a little trepidation about the preparation, registration, and arrival of young artists excited about getting their hands—and inevitably their clothes—messy. At the MMFA, summer camps have been a well-oiled machine for years, and I was so glad for that coming in as a newcomer in January.

This summer, we had two art camps: a youth camp and our first ever art camp for teens ages 13-18. Although the teen group was small, they were dedicated and engaged throughout the week learning about alternative photography techniques and creating both individual artworks and group installation pieces. Following our successful teen camp were three youth camps that each week focused on a different theme: portraits, still-life, and landscapes. Having such a quality camp roster is due no doubt to the high caliber instructors that teach each session, all current and active in the art education field in Montgomery. The teachers were Amanda Ingram, Sarah Gill, Sara Woodard (featured above), Donna Pickens, and Sarah Struby,  and we were lucky to have them share their expertise and creative spirit with us.

 

The campers ranged in age from 6-13 and had a wide variety of interests and levels of exposure to art at the beginning of the camp. Campers experienced painting, printmaking, ceramics, mixed media and sculpture to just to name a few media as well as spending time in the galleries looking and discussing the art in the Museum’s collection. Within each medium campers learned about tone and shading, perspective, color, form and other basic elements of art. Each week ended with a student art show where the campers hosted a reception and exhibition of their work for their families. Families were delighted to see a variety of projects  ranging from Wayne Thiebaud inspired ceramic cupcakes to still-life works painted from real live cacti and sculptures made from paper clay exemplifying their children’s grown-up aspirations. The artworks that were created during all of our summer camps not only exemplified our campers’ creativity and imagination but also the level of learning and enrichment that happened throughout the week.

 

 

So as the last week of camp begins, the slight apprehension I felt before my first MMFA camp has been replaced with both a renewed enthusiasm for museum education and pride for art education at the MMFA.  As elementary schools lose art programs throughout the region it is imperative that organizations like the MMFA continue to offer these invaluable classes, camps, tours, and programs for visitors of all ages.  Art camp is only one of the many opportunities for children in the area to experience the visual arts both in the gallery and in the studio setting. Learning to look and discuss art is as important as getting to create art, and for those who participated in this year’s summer art camp they definitely got their fill of both.

 

Kaci Norman
Assistant Curator of Education, Youth, Family, and Studio Programs

“Volunteer Voices” Part II

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts has lots of wonderful volunteers and docents who donate countless hours to a variety of programs year in and year out.  In the first “Volunteer Voices” blog post, volunteers and docents answered the question  “What drew you to the museum to share your time and energy?” We received so many wonderful answers, we decided to continue the blog posts and create a series. This second installment of “Volunteer Voices” is dedicated to the question  “Do you have a favorite or most rewarding moment with visitors of the museum?”

Take a look at some of the responses from Docents and Volunteers below on their favorite or most rewarding moments at the MMFA, and leave some of your own in the comments!

 

“When the Uribe exhibit was here recently, I captured several people and took them to see the exhibit.  They thanked me profusely.  The same is true for other exhibits.”  Frances Durr, Docent

 

“Several years ago I was giving a gallery tour to a 1st grade class and right before they were to leave the entire class gave me hugs!!!” George Jacobsen, Docent (featured right)

 

“I have had lots of great conversations with visitors about lots of different exhibits.”  Meili Wang, First Impressions Desk

 

“I enjoy seeing children learn.” Penny Thompson, Docent

 

“The kindergarteners’ insightful observations, seeing the excitement as they explore a piece of art for the first time.” Frank Gitschier, Docent, After a Cakewalk gallery tour (featured right)

 

“I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping visitors that come into the museum.  If I can provide information that enhances their visit I have done my job.”  George Childress, First Impressions Desk

 

“Any time a kid walks into the museum.” Liz Land, Docent (featured below)

 

“I like it all. The best part of volunteering for the museum is working with staff and other volunteers to help the patrons have a good experience when they visit.”  Luigi Edwards, Special Events Volunteer

 

 

 

We look forward to your stories and the next installment of “Volunteer Voices” very soon!

Meg Hall
Volunteer Coordinator

Beat the Summer Heat With Cool Activities at the MMFA

During the month of July, we offer new exhibitions and programs that provide you with numerous opportunities to celebrate and learn about art here at the MMFA. Take a look at the guide below of summer events being offered around the Museum, and we hope to see you soon!

First Sundays and Third Saturdays

Sunday, July 2, 1 P.M. and Saturday, July 15, 1 P.M.

Come and take an afternoon stroll through the MMFA galleries. During these one-hour docent-led tours, you can learn about the works of art on view at the Museum.  For more information, please call 334.240.4333.

Summer Art Camp

July 10 through 14 and July 24 through 28

The MMFA is offering its final two youth summer camps for the year. Both will focus on the elements of art and promise to be fun and engaging, and participants will leave with an armful of their own artworks created in the studio.

 

Ekphrasis: A Monthly Book Club About Art (Open Meeting)

Wednesday, July 19, at 12 noon

The featured book of the month of July is War and Turpentine: A Novel. Curator of Education Alice Novak will lead the presentation and provide visual context for the chosen book. Lunch will be provided at a cost of $10. To reserve lunch from Café M, call 334.240.4365, or email edsecy@mmfa.org.

 

Tales for Tots

Wednesday, July 19, at 10 A.M. (for childcare groups) or 10:30 or 11 A.M. (for children with an adult caregiver)

This FREE monthly program (designed for children ages 2 to 5 with adult companions) helps develop early learning about elements of art through storytelling and a simple craft activity related to art that is on display in the galleries. Each session is limited to 25 children on a first come, first serve basis.

Also during this month, daycare groups and other childcare organizations are invited to the Museum for a story and craft in our galleries. Reservations for the group session must be made by Wednesday, June 21. Adult chaperones must be present and encouraged to participate with their group.

 

DiVine Lunch

Thursday, July 20, 11 A.M. to 2 P.M.

Please join us for DiVine Lunch Thursday, July 20, 11 A.M. to 2 P.M. in Café M. United- Johnson Brothers, LLC. will be pairing wines specifically for the menu created by the chefs at Café M. This special menu will highlight the seasonal fare. Lunch is offered for $20 per person (plus tax and gratuity), and additional glasses of wine may be purchased for $8.

Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 334.240.4399. Also, stop by the Museum Store between 12 noon and 2 P.M. to see Artist in Action Queen Opulence at work. Along with meeting the featured artist, you will have the opportunity to purchase some of her work.

 

Four “True” Rodin sculptures on view in Rodin: Realism, Fragments, and Abstraction at MMFA through January 7, 2018

When the art dealer Ambroise Vollard (1866–1939) asked Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) how to distinguish a false from a true Rodin, the sculptor replied: “Only I can do so. It’s quite simple. A true Rodin is one that has been cast with my consent; the false is done without my knowledge.”

Rodin’s statement is true, but it is not as simple as it seems—at least relative to the determination of the authenticity of his casts today. First, he has been dead for a century, so he certainly is not able to speak now about the authenticity of any particular cast. Moreover, he knew that there were illegitimate casts made during his lifetime and illegitimate casts have been made since his death. Moreover, Rodin complicated matters in 1916 when he willed to the French state his studio full of sculptures and models along with the authorization to make posthumous casts in return for France assuming stewardship of his studio and collection in perpetuity as a public museum. In short, he knew that the Musée Rodin would make posthumous casts of his sculptures; therefore, those too would be “true” Rodin sculptures.

Four of these “true” Rodins are on display in the small exhibition, Rodin: Realism, Fragments, and Abstraction. Jean de Finnes, The Three Shades, and The Gates of Hell, Third Maquette are on loan from Iris Cantor, who with her husband B. Gerald Cantor built the third largest collection of Rodin sculpture in the world (only surpassed by the Musée Rodin in Paris and the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia) and gave most of it to Stanford University. The Head of Jean d’Aire is from the MMFA collection.

The monumental figure of Jean de Finnes and the full-scale Head of Jean d’Aire are both from Rodin’s renowned Burghers of Calais (1884–1889), an innovative memorial to heroes who volunteered their lives to lift the siege of their town during the Hundred Years War (1337–1453). They illustrate Rodin’s distinctive approach to realism, which included a tendency to abstract features like hands and feet for expressive effect.

The Three Shades and the maquette, or study, for The Gates of Hell (1880­–­1917) are two out of scores of individual sculptures associated with the artist’s commission for the entrance portal of a decorative arts museum that was never built. Although Rodin knew that the commission was canceled, he continued to work on the enormous sculptural composition based on the Divine Comedy (ca. 1308–1321) by Dante (ca. 1265–1321) throughout his life.

The Three Shades illustrates the master sculptor’s avant-garde style of fragmenting and reassembling sculptures in new compositions, often evolving their titles and meaning in the process. The Three Shades are three identical casts of a figure he originally titled Adam. Rodin decided to replicate the figure and group them as the finial element on the Gates. Close inspection reveals that each of the figures is missing its right hand, a conscious decision Rodin made for compositional reasons.

In addition to the four original Rodin sculptures, the exhibition includes several reproductions of photographs from the Musée Rodin that show the artist and his work in progress. Rodin used photography to record assemblages of sculptural components in compositions that he wanted to study, often drawing or making notes on the photographs.

Together, these photographic reproductions and these “true” Rodin posthumous bronzes give us a glimpse at the genius of the “Father of Modern Sculpture” who used realism, abstraction, and fragmentation in unprecedented ways to create art that continues to resonate with viewers around the world.

Michael W. Panhorst, Ph.D.
Curator

 

 

Image 1: Unknown photographer, Portrait of Rodin wearing a beret and a coat covered with plaster, 1880, Reproduction of albumin print, From the Collection of the Musée Rodin, Paris, Ph.00311

Image 2: Installation photograph of Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917), Jean de Fiennes (Clothed), modeled 1885-1886, Musée Rodin cast 2/8 in 1981, bronze, 82 x 48 x 38 inches. Lent by Iris Cantor.

Image 3: Auguste Rodin (French, 1840­–1917), The Three Shades, modeled 1880–1904, Musée Rodin cast 10 in 1981, bronze, 40 ¾ x 37 ½ x 20 ½ inches. Lent by Iris Cantor

 

Discover Summer Adventure at the MMFA

School is out and summer is just around the corner. With the temperatures approaching the 90-degree mark or higher many people are looking for ways to get out and enjoy themselves while keeping comfortably cool. The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts has just what you looking for in our air-conditioned galleries, studios, Café M, and Museum Store.

Check out the list of activities for June here at the MMFA. Click through to discover some fun events to make your summer memorable.

First Sundays
Sunday, June 4, 1 P.M.

Learn about works of art on view in the Museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions. This FREE one-hour docent-led tour introduces some of the most important works in our collection.

 

Short Course: The Work of Auguste Rodin
Tuesdays, June 6, 13, and 20, at 12 noon

The Museum now enjoys  the loan of several bronze sculptures by the French master Auguste Rodin from the collection of Iris Cantor. As is evident in his work, Rodin was a transitional figure in the art world of nineteenth-century France, both a traditional sculptor and radical innovator .

Free Film at the Museum
Thursday, June 15, 5:30 P.M.

Join us for a FREE showing of the movie Lust for Life. Enjoy the 1956 classic in which Kirk Douglas plays Vincent Van Gogh and Anthony Quinn plays Paul Gauguin. There will be wine, soft drinks, and bottled water available for purchase, and as always, the delicious popcorn is free!

Third Saturdays
Saturday, June 17, at 1 P.M.

Take a FREE one-hour docent-led tour of the Museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions. For more information call 334.240.4365.

Art Camp
June 19 through 22, 8:30 A.M.

This is the first of three youth summer camps the MMFA education department will offer this year. It will focus on the elements of art, and promises to be both fun and instructive. Participants will leave with an armful of their own artworks created in the studio.

Tales for Tots (ages 2 to 5 with an adult caregiver)
Wednesday, June 28, 10:30 A.M., and 11 A.M.

This FREE monthly program for the pre-school set helps foster learning about elements of art through storytelling and a simple craft activity related to art that is on display in the galleries.


Saturday Brunch 

Saturday, from 10 A.M. to 1 P.M.

Café M’s Saturday Brunch offers a variety of delicious options made from fresh local ingredients. Check out our summer menu now featuring French Toast Casserole with Peach Compote, delicious summer salad combos with grilled fish and chicken, and our always popular crustless quiches. We invite you to enjoy a delicious meal accompanied by a stunning view overlooking the lake and park. Call ahead and make your reservations at 334.240.4339.

 

 

Happy Art Museum Day!

Held in conjunction with International Museum Day, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is celebrating Art Museum Day on this Sunday, May 21, from 2–4 P.M.

Every year since 1977, the International Council of Museums’ International Museum Day is organized worldwide on or around May 18. This day is an occasion to raise awareness on how important museums are in the development of society. From America to Oceania, including Africa, Europe, and Asia, this international event includes almost 30,000 museums that organized activities in more than 120 countries, offering free admission, special programs and events in an international celebration of the importance of museums in our world.

This year’s theme for Art Museum Day is Museums and contested histories: Saying the unspeakable in museums. History is a vital tool for defining a given people’s identity, and each of us defines ourselves through important and fundamental historic events. Contested histories are unfortunately not isolated traumatic events. These histories, which are often little known or misunderstood, resonate universally, as they concern and affect us all.

Museum collections offer reflections of memories and representations of history. This day will therefore provide an opportunity to show how museums display and depict traumatic memories to encourage visitors to think beyond their own individual experiences. By focusing on the role of museums as hubs for promoting peaceful relationships between people, this theme highlights how the acceptance of a contested history is the first step in envisioning a shared future under the banner of reconciliation.

In honor of our shared belief that the arts are a crucial element of civil society, essential to the well-being of our communities and our democracies, the MMFA is celebrating Art Museum Day this Sunday, May 21, with a unique Family Art Affair and Jazz Jams from 2:00–4:00 P.M. We hope to see you at the Museum!

It’s a New Month to Create Many Fun Memories at the MMFA

The month of May promises to be an unforgettable one here at the MMFA. We kicked off the first week with the annual Flimp Festival and First Sundays, and that’s just a sample of we have planned with you in mind. Here is a list of other upcoming events.

Ekphrasis: Tom and Jack: the Intertwined Lives of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock

Wednesday, May 10, 12 noon

Ekphrasis is a monthly book club devoted to the history of art. Works of fiction and non-fiction are featured, covering periods ranging from the ancient world to the present. For this unique program, staff members lead presentations to provide visual context for the chosen books. To reserve lunch from Café M, call 334.240.4365 or email edsecy@mmfa.org. This is a free program for Museum members.

 

Third Saturdays

Saturday, May 20, 1 P.M.

Learn about works of art on view in the Museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions. This FREE one-hour docent-led tour introduces some of the most important works in our collection. For more information call 334.240.4365.

International Museum Day!

 Sunday, May 21, 2 P.M.

Celebrate International Museum Day with us at Family Art Affair and Jazz Jams! Museums across the country will be celebrating this week and encouraging people to visit their local museums. Come and listen to inspiring music while you construct your own mini-gallery in our studio.

Tales for Tots (ages 2 to 5 with an adult caregiver)

Wednesday, May 24, 10:30 or 11 A.M.

This FREE monthly program helps develop early learning about elements of art through storytelling and a simple craft activity related to art that is on display in the galleries.

It’s Time for Flimp 2017!

For the past twenty-eight years, the first weekend in May has been a time to celebrate the arts at the MMFA and in the Blount Cultural Park.  This year’s Flimp Festival will be held on Saturday, May 6, from 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. You won’t want to miss this event, which will feature all the traditional favorites, plus some happy surprises! 

The Flimp Festival at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts was inspired by the bronze fountain created by Alabama artist Geneva Mercer in the MMFA’s collection, which is on view in our Foyer for the day of the festival paying homage to the origin of the word Flimp, or Flower Imp. The Museum is partnering with BTW Magnet High School for the fourth year in a row and will showcase the talents of these local students from the Montgomery Public School System.

 

Traditionally, the festivities start off at 10:30 pm with the Do-Dah Parade of costumed pets, featuring dogs from the Montgomery Humane Society. Students from BTW act as guides for these worthy animals who are seeking their forever homes, dressing them up in costumes, walking with them in the parade, and then presenting them to the public to be adopted.  We encourage everyone to bring their pet in their most colorful attire to walk in the parade and compete for prizes awarded for costume creativity. Sign up in advance online, or the morning of the Festival from 10:00 to 10:20. To learn more, visit our Flimp Festival event page.

 

After this rousing start, the day is filled with activity around the grounds and in the building for families and visitors of all ages. Colorful chalk art fills the parking area, BTW students provide theatre, music, and dance performances on two stages, our permanent collection provides inspiration for our “Treasure Hunt,” and there are hands-on art activities in our studios, plus much more.   The theme for Flimp 2017 is Alabama Quilts and Quilting with our honored guest Yvonne Wells, whose quilts are featured in our MMFA collection.  Staff members and volunteers from the Alabama Department of Archives and History will be demonstrating the process of ginning cotton with a replica cotton gin while providing insight into the history of quilting in Alabama.

 

This year, our grounds are undergoing a transition as we build the Museum’s sculpture garden on the eastern side of the building.  For that reason, parking will be relocated, and we encourage you to consult this year’s Flimp Festival page for a map that will assist you in finding your way to parking as well as locating Flimp’s many events. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook @montgomerymfa to learn more about the schedule, upcoming events and any updates or changes!

We look forward to seeing you on Saturday, May 6 from 10:00 to 2:00 to experience all the fun of Flimp!

“Volunteer Voices” Part 1

At the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts there are many opportunities and activities for volunteers to be involved in. Volunteers can assist at the First Impressions Desk, where they greet visitors and provide information about current activities and exhibits, or work on special projects or museum-wide events. Docents are special volunteers who are trained to lead gallery tours, teach studio lessons and lead art projects for the general public. These are but a few of the roles docents play at the museum.

Volunteers and Docents spend hundreds of hours each year here at the museum. I thought it might interest you to know what several of them said in response to the following question:

“What drew you to the museum as a place to share your time and energy?”

  • “My docent friend, Grace, was a new docent and she kept telling me about the new adventures she was having, and I finally decided that I wanted to be part of the fun.” – Penny Thompson, Docent
  • “I was newly retired and relocated and wanted to find something to do while giving back to the community. I had always been interested in art and fell in love with the museum.” – George Jacobsen, Docent
  • “I love the atmosphere of the museum – free, artistic and it seems like people who visit want to immerse themselves into the artistic world.” – Meili Wang, First Impressions Volunteer, Special Events Volunteer and Muse (teen council member)
  • “When my husband and I first moved to Montgomery (over 20 years ago) we lived in a rental home. I would visit the museum several times a week to lift my spirits and soul. I found out from a retired professor at AUM that I might be able to teach workshops at the museum and my volunteering branched out into being a docent once I retired from teaching art.” – Maria Freedman, Docent

  • “After retiring I was looking for something to do. I thought about being an Uber driver, but somehow that didn’t feel right. My friend suggested that I give the museum a try (at the First Impressions Desk) and I have enjoyed seeing the public on a weekly basis. I get to come into a wonderful setting and imagine traveling to fabulous places with the American artists that have their artwork displayed in MMFA.” – Jack Banker, First Impressions Volunteer
  • “I have done volunteer work at several other places in the community. After coming to the museum I found it to be “My Happy Place.” I can feel like I am doing something good while I am there. I like being busy. I can assist the educational staff with projects: cutting out fish for the 5th-grade tours or helping visitors find more ways to enjoy their visit.” – Jeanne Polis, First Impressions Volunteer

 

Next time’s question answered through Volunteer Voices will be:

“Do you have a favorite or rewarding moment with visitors of the museum?”

Stay tuned!

-Meg Hall
Volunteer Coordinator

 

Image 1: Mattie DeJarnette, volunteer, at First Impressions Desk

Image 2: Frank Gitschier, docent, in Permanent Collection Galleries

Image 3: Lisa Newcomb, docent, in Permanent Collection Galleries

Image 4: Liz Land, docent, in ARTWORKS

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