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Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

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Category: Community

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

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

 

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.

MMFA’s Summer Program Encourages Young Men

This is the Montgomery Museum of Fine Art’s 13th year sending trained teachers to community centers in the Montgomery area  to offer weekly art classes for underserved youth. In March of 2013, the MMFA began its first year teaching weekly art classes at the Mt. Meigs Youth Detention Facility, working with the young men incarcerated there. Miriam Jones, the MMFA Outreach Coordinator, describes her experiences.

“Teaching the students at Mt. Meigs is a joyful challenge. The boys are usually hesitant to dive into a project, claiming, ‘they don’t know how’ or ‘they don’t know what to make.’ It has been a good reminder to all the adults involved that if you haven’t tried to draw anything since you were a child it actually requires a good bit of bravery to try to express yourself in a brand new way. Teenagers particularly are plagued with worries about ‘messing up’ or being embarrassed, so, during a recent session, Ed.mt.meigs_blog1I, along with others, tried to include projects that each student could enter at their own level, ending in a group result that no one person would feel the burden of having to make a perfect piece of artwork.

With the assistance of Sarah Struby, our Outreach Teacher, we made clay masks that we then mounted onto ‘Totem Poles’ to be placed in their common space.  Clay encourages playing and masks can be all varieties of abstract, simple, mimicking, or complex. We were all inspired by the carved wooden totem pole by William Dawson in the Museum’s collection .

We also recruited Brian Cooley, sculptor/outdoor educator from the Montgomery Public Schools, to work with the boys on making flower planters out of old tires. The boys got really excited to see how they could reclaim a trashed object and with a bit of paint and cutting make something pretty. We also thought it was important to stress that you could make a place look more pleasing or improve the world around you without having to perfect fine painting skills or technical drawing techniques. Numerous boys talked about making planters for their grandmothers or moms when they went home.ED.mt.meigs_blog2

The tire planters and the ceramic totem poles are now installed in public areas of the Mt. Meigs campus so the students can share their work with everyone and to help with the larger goal of beautifying the facility. These projects were balanced with lessons on one and two point perspective to give the boys more confidence with drawing.”

The following quote from Carmen Archie, of the Mt. Meigs staff,  sums up the importance of the MMFA’s outreach program.   “The success of this has far exceeded my expectations.  The students’ response to the art class is overwhelming.  When the students hear another class is starting I get bombarded with requests to be in the class.  The number of students per class started with 10 to 12 students and we are now having to turn down students and place them on waiting list…. I see students who felt they didn’t have any artistic abilities open up and realize the potential they have.”

Miriam Jones
MMFA Outreach Coordinator

 

Groundbreaking for a Garden of Endless Possibilities

 

DSC_0805blogWhat started out as a $3 million vision by Museum director Mark Johnson and the MMFA’s board of trustees is being transformed into a three-acre reality.

Johnson says, “First we were just considering building it out to the road and having a one acre sculpture gallery, but then we started saying we have another 50 yards of property out there. We decided if we extended it out and changed a road here and there it would add a lot more space to it. ”

With temperatures rapidly approaching the 90-degree mark on Wednesday morning Johnson, Montgomery’s Mayor Todd Strange, MMFA Board of Trustees President Barrie Harmon, and other dignitaries took the Sculpture Garden to the next level. They all shoveled sand during a ceremonial groundbreaking to make way for it’s creation. The Mayor Strange says, “This is the next step forward.”

DSC_0769blogForward to 2016, which is when Museum leaders plan to have this new gallery completed. The additional outdoor exhibition and studio space will be an extension of the Lowder Gallery that is located on the east side of the building. The Board’s president believes the Garden was the highlight of the Museum’s 25th anniversary.  Harmon says, “It enhances the image of the city. It gives us a cultural dimension to what we’re trying to achieve in Montgomery.” The new addition will not only feature temporary and permanent exhibitions of outdoor sculpture, it will also be used for special events and innovative education programs. The space will provide an outstanding new venue for entertaining and appreciating the beauty of the natural setting in the Blount Cultural Park.DSC_0827blog

Director Mark Johnson says the planning committee did their homework touring other sculpture gardens across the United States to get ideas and taking this research to an architect and landscape architecture specialist in order to prepare the current plan.

The efforts to fund the construction of the new sculpture garden are already underway and Johnson says a third of the money needed has been raised so far.

In the meantime, to hear and see more sights and sounds from the June 25th groundbreaking go online to the Youtube video link seen here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlH9G0YduH0&feature=youtu.be.

Cynthia Milledge
Director of Public Relations and Marketing

 

 

Let the Sunshine In

One of the elements that creates “community” is the willingness to join with others volunteering time to make the world a better place, one person, one day, and one location at a time. That’s been the mission of all the amazing people who conceived and have delivered the program called Camp Sunshine for the past 25 years. Led by co-directors Laurie Weil and Kathy Sawyer, the volunteers come from all walks of life, professions, and age groups. Since 1989 they have created a loving, supportive, and magical environment for a group of 75 to 100 girls between the ages of 6 and 12. For a full week these girls, who otherwise have limited opportunities for summertime enrichment and fun, come together for recreation, friendship, and mentoring, as well as some cleverly designed learning opportunities, disguised as pure enjoyment.

SunshineCamp_blogFor many years the MMFA has provided a mid-week experience for the campers (in conjunction with our neighbors at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival). Delivering a quality program for these girls is both a mission and a privilege that our own long-time volunteer docents have embraced. The girls receive tours of the galleries, time in ARTworks, as well as a special studio experience under the guidance of our docents.  Some of these docents, including Pat Wanglie who is pictured here, have been helping with Camp Sunshine for more than 15 years. As with all our work with young people, we see the difference that exposure to art and an attentive guide can make. The excitement of these girls says it all.

The Museum is another example in which volunteers are the life-blood of the institution within the community. The hours of time that are donated to Camp Sunshine and the Museum make possible experiences that both enrich and can literally change the world-view of a child, giving them the self-confidence and insight to dream big. For each and every one who volunteers, this volunteerism is a way to honor the community and, as the motto of Camp Sunshine says, “Make the World a Better Place.”

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

Third Graders Bring Art to Life

WaresFerryStudent_wAt the tender age of nine, Akira Sims knows first hand what it takes to get her name on a wall of fame at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Sims says, ”I really like to create things.”

For 17 weeks, Sims and 54 other Wares Ferry Road Elementary school students painted, drew, or sculpted their way through the Museum’s Artist in Residence program also known as Learning Through Art. Thursday, May 22, the third graders got to see their creativity pay off. The Museum held a reception in their honor.  Sims and her family were the first to arrive that evening. Sims says, “I was surprised because I have never seen art work in a museum before.” Sims creation “The Life of a Tree” and nearly five-dozen other third graders’ works are currently displayed in the ARTWORKS Corridor exhibition. She says, “I drew this in a day.”  

Ed Drozdowski is the principal at Wares Ferry Road elementary school. Drozdowski says, “I watched the kids doing this stuff. It’s a lot different seeing it now here at the Museum.”  This is the first year for the program funded in part by a grant from the Hearst Foundations.

Art educators Jean Kocher and Laura Boquin helped enrich the children’s artistic abilities during each of the weekly sessions.  Professional artists also visited the classes, sharing their artwork and special techniques. The program encourages the students’ critical thinking and literacy skills through the regular use of visual thinking strategies (VTS). Drozdowski says he wished Wares Ferry’s entire student body could participate.  “This is fabulous. We are taking baby steps.” His wish might just come true in the future. His students will continue exploring art for another year thanks to help from a Montgomery Kiwanis Club grant.

The student exhibition will be on view until June 29. Perhaps seeing these works will encourage more youngsters like Akira Sims to take an interest in the arts.                                

Cynthia Milledge
Director of Marketing and Public Relations                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Hear Ed Drozdowski discuss the Learning Through Art program at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIj3fl563ek&feature=youtu.be.

 

Ending on a High Note

The monthly book club, Ekphrasis, ended the season on a high note! Margaret Lynne Ausfeld curator of art gave a stimulating presentation about the life of Zelda Fitzgerald (Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler), beginning with music – Witchy Woman by the Eagles (“woo hoo witchy woman see how high she flies”) to set the mood – and proceeding with an exploration of Zelda’s life through photography and art in the Museum’s permanent collection.

zelda_bookclub_blogWith fifty people in attendance, the program’s success was the culmination of a tremendous year, which included Skype discussions with prominent authors Susan Vreeland (Life Studies: A Novel), Ross King (The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism), and special visiting author Nancy G. Heller (Why a Painting is Like a Pizza).

Stay tuned for another exciting year!

Timothy P. Brown
Curator of Education

FLIMP Festival 2014 is a hit in Montgomery

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Four hours of creative, innovative, and family-friendly entertainment attracted a crowd of more than 2300 spectators to this year’s 25th-annual FLIMP festival.  A cool breeze accompanied by plenty of sunshine made for a spectacular day, and the first partnership between the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and Booker T. Washington Magnet High School made it one to remember.

The question everyone asked during Saturday’s event was, “Exactly what is a FLIMP?”  Even though they weren’t sure of the answer, that didn’t stop participants from getting their faces IMG_1383wpainted, making and breaking piñatas, or enjoying other arts and crafts.  Just when you thought you had seen it all, nearly two-dozen dogs, decked out from head to paw, strolled through the parking lot for the return of the Do-Dah parade. That procession actually helped four canines get adoptedIMG_1235w from the Montgomery Humane Society.

The echoes of voices from BTW’s choir and the melodies from the school’s band filled the air as everyone walked the grounds of the MMFA.  For those who didn’t want to be outside, no worries, there was plenty of entertainment on the inside of the Museum.  Who knew you could take an animal’s bones and other objects and turn them into a jam session?  Drummer Dave Holland showed a packed gallery, how to do just that.  Holland even let them volunteer to be part of his percussion section.

As this year’s festival came to a close, the reminder of two fun-filled days shared among local students and adults remained on display from 2014’s Chalk Art competition. If you drive out right now, you might still be able to get a glimpse of the chalk artists’ transformation of the front parking lot into an art gallery.

However, don’t worry if you missed out on all the fun this year. The FLIMP Festival will take place at the same place and time next year. We will plan on welcoming you then.

Cynthia Milledge
Director of Marketing and Public Relations

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