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Category: General

The Road to Crystal Bridges

Blog.CrysBridg.CathedralGroupIf you have an interest in American art and history, you have likely heard of the greatest art museum and collection built in the U.S. in recent memory.  Located in the small Arkansas town of Bentonville, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (as well as the surrounding grounds and nearby town) give new meaning to the term “art environment.”  On the weekend of April 15 to 17, a group of MMFA patrons, docents, and staff set off to explore this amazing destination.  And, while it’s not an easy spot to access (either by air or land), it is well worth the journey. Pictured is the group at the Cooper Memorial Chapel (front to back, left to right): Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, Connie Morrow, Emilie Reid, Connor Carraway, Jim Barganier, Pete Land, Bill Little, Joan Loeb, Jane Barganier, Liz Land, Mary Lil Owens, and Alice Novak.

Blog.CrysBridg.SculptureJust a bit of background.  The concept of constructing a museum of American art in Bentonville was the brainchild and mission of Alice Walton, who is the daughter of Walmart, Inc. founder Sam Walton.  Bentonville was the small-town home of the original store, and it remains the site of the corporate headquarters.  Alice and her siblings were raised in Bentonville, and they spent their childhoods playing on the nearby property that has been converted into Crystal Bridges (named for Crystal Spring that traverses the landscape.)  Many in the art world power centers were bemused by this Southerner’s determination to purchase a collection of great American art (from scratch) and donate it to a public institution in rural Arkansas. However, art tourists from all over the country are now making the pilgrimage to experience the remarkable result. At the outset, Alice Walton proceeded to allocate her own funds, and raise other funds necessary, to create what is today a magnificent collection, with great works of art from the 18th to the 21st centuries.  The MMFA group enjoyed discussions of only a fraction of the masterpieces in the collection including Asher B. Durand’s Kindred Spirits and Norman Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter. Blog.CrysBridg.Museum

The art in Crystal Bridges is chronologically installed in a structure designed around water by the Boston-based architect Moshe Safdie.  Sited in the midst of acres of what can best be described as “landscaped woodlands,” a visit to Crystal Bridges is an experience of both artistic and natural beauty.  There are 3 miles of trails that allow the visitor to experience an assortment of flowering trees, plants, and outdoor sculpture.  The museum grounds are also home to a Sky Space installation titled The Way of Color (2009) by the artist James Turrell, and a re-located Usonian home, The Bachman-Wilson House (1954) by Frank Lloyd Wright, both of which the group enjoyed during the weekend.

The group stayed at the 21c Museum Hotel located off the square in downtown Bentonville​.  The hotel hosts changing exhibitions of contemporary art, and the creative environment extends to the excellent food in the hotel restaurant, the Hive.  From 21c it’s​ a pleasant 20-minute walk through the woodlands to​ the museum.  An additional excursion to E. Fay Jones’ Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel continued the theme of stunning art and architecture in the natural setting of Northwest Arkansas.    Blog.CrysBridg.ArtTalk 

Like a fine jewel nestled in an equally precious setting, it is the collection of American art that draws the visitor to Crystal Bridges, and the centerpiece of any visit will be the works of art on view in the Museum’s chronological installation.  Alice Walton’s vision was to create a collection of great works (which of course these days requires expenditures in the millions of dollars) with a far reaching educational mission, and she and the museum staff have made that vision a reality.  Featuring an assemblage ranging from Colonial and Federal portraits by painters such as John Singleton Copley and Gilbert Stuart, to twenty-first century installation works by sculptors such as Louise Bourgeois and Felix Gonzales-Torres, the collection rivals those of the major art museums in America—and it’s still growing.

We thank those that joined us for this adventure:​ Jane and Jim Barganier, Liz and Pete Land, Joan Loeb, Connie Morrow and her son Connor Carraway, Mary Lil Owens and Bill Little, and Emilie Reid.  We also thank Alice Walton, whose passion for American art and her hometown have​ created the ultimate synthesis of art and nature in America’s heartland.

 

Alice Novak
Curator of Education

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Paintings and Sculpture

Director’s Circle Dinner 2016

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The Director’s Circle Dinner is my favorite night at the Museum. Once a year we gather our most dedicated supporters for a “thank you” dinner. This group collectively provides over $400,000 that directly supports the Museum’s exhibition, education, and acquisition programs.  We quite literally could not do what we do with out them.

Blog.DCDinner.Group1This year, showing true dedication, 150 Circle members fought the terrific rainstorms to join director Mark Johnson and his wife Amy, along with our hosts,  Gene and Ray Ingram of Jack Ingram Motors & Mercedes-Benz USA, Inc. and Margaret and Jimmy Lowder of The Colonial Company (pictured above) for a delicious dinner in the Museum’s Lowder Gallery.

During brief remarks, Mark, along with MMFA President Roger Spain, Sculpture Garden Committee Chair Barrie Harmon, and Mayor Todd Strange shared with the crowd some of the Museum’s most recent accomplishments. These include planning for the new Sculpture Garden, as well as the acquisition of a major painting by Thomas Hart Benton, Ozark Autumn, 1949, for the permanent collection.

Blog.DCDinner.Mark&Group1As guests left the warm and spring-like atmosphere of the dinner to venture back into the Montgomery weather, they took a small pot containing seeds as a “thank you” for helping us grow. Because of Directors Circle consistent support, the Museum continues to thrive.

 

Jill Barry
, Deputy Director

 

The Art of Baking Puppet Show

Cast of PuppeteersMontgomery Public Schools’ kindergarteners enjoyed the magic of seeing puppets bring a wonderful story emphasizing play and creativity to life during MMFA’s annual puppet show, The Art of Baking. The memorable characters guided children into a world of colors and shapes, texture and music, mixed with a dose of laughter.

The Art of Baking was followed by a mini-tour of the galleries called Cake Walk. Both incorporate learning techniques that introduce the children to all the Museum has to offer, and establishes it as a place for fun and for a lifetime of learning.   Free admission was offered to 2500 MPS Kindergarteners during March.

Artofbakingposter.red2It’s not too late for you and your young children to enjoy The Art of Baking. Public performances will be offered in April for children 3 to 6 years of age. This is a reservation only program and is FREE. Two shows will be held each day at 9:30 and 10:45 A.M. on April 5, 6, and 7, 2016. Please contact tour coordinator Jill Byrd at 334.240.4359 to register.Puppet-Show 2016

 

Jill Byrd
Tour Coordinator

A Shared Legacy—Folk Art in America

SL.CatCoverBLOGSome of the most distinctive and widely collected American art today is admired for the simple fact that it is simple.  Compared with the rarified, highly refined arts and architecture of Western Europe, and the ancient productions of many other continents, centuries, and civilizations, American 19th-century folk art generally looks, well, plain.  And that’s exactly what has made everyday people and art collectors since the early 20th century love it—its basic simplicity expresses the earnest striving of 19th-century American artists and artisans to meet the “art needs” of American citizens. American folk art descends from, and depends on, European stylistic resources, but the paintings, sculpture, furniture, and other objects that are included in the exhibition A Shared Legacy represent the art that “sprang up” of necessity in our country in its earliest years.SL.Blog.4

These objects were created in New England, the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic States, and the South between 1800 and 1925.  The collection contains representative examples in specific categories like portraiture (which before the development of photography was the surest way to preserve one’s likeness for posterity), home furnishings, and objects for commerce and entertainment (the carousel animals are wonderful and beguiling; the cigar store Indian is suitably mysterious.) There is an assemblage of beautifully painted chests, sculpture, and “fraktur” (illustrated documents) that embody the talents of the German-American immigrant community that produced art mirroring what that ethnic group had learned and known in Northern Europe. A common thread for all of these objects is that they were made for practical reasons—while they also served to decorate and embellish, they usually had a purpose to fulfill in the lives of those that acquired or used them. (At right: attr. to Ammi Phillips, James Mairs Salisbury, c. 1835, Collection of Barbara L. Gordon)

Blog.1.SLA Shared Legacy: Folk Art in America was organized by Art Services International in Alexandria, Virginia, from the collection of Barbara L. Gordon. A long-time collector of American folk art, Ms. Gordon, like many of her fellow collectors, came to her interest through (A) a visit as a seventh-grader to Colonial Williamsburg, and (B) antiquing. (At left: attr. to “Schtockshnitzler” Simmons, Bird, 1885-1910, Collection of Barbara L. Gordon)  And as with most collectors of any sort, once she got started she couldn’t stop. She became a regular at the antique shops and auction galleries in Washington, D. C., and as her interest deepened she met the knowledgeable dealers and the scholars who further fueled the zest for her quarry. One object led to another, and twenty years later she owns a sizable and much-admired collection of American folk art that is now traveling to museums around the United States to educate about the importance of this homegrown art phenomenon.

A Shared Legacy opens on Thursday evening, March 31, with a reception at 5:30, followed by a lecture at 7:00 P.M.  Dr. Libby O’Connell will deliver our annual Fleischman Lecture and will be speaking about the lives of American folk artists and their works.  Our Collectors Society will be hearing from both Dr. O’Connell and the collector, Barbara L. Gordon, at special events on Friday.  Don’t miss these great Spring programs, and this fine collection, which is on view through June 19. As always, the Museum is extremely grateful to the generous sponsors who make our exhibitions possible. The sponsors for A Shared Legacy are Sandra and Joe McInnes, ARONOV, Doug Lowe, and the 2015 Junior Executive Board. Co-sponsors of the exhibition are Harmon Dennis Bradshaw; River Bank; Aldridge, Borden and Company; Carolyn and Dr. Alfred Newman, Jr. (At right: attr. to the Dentzel Company, Rabbit Carousel Figure, c. 1910, Collection of Barbara L. Gordon)

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Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Paintings and Sculpture

With Art Auction 2016 Comes Change

Silent AuctionArt Auction 2016, a biennial fundraising event, proved to be one of the most memorable in both a SMART and historical sense for the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. For the first time ever, we introduced patrons to mobile bidding during a Silent Auction held on Thursday, March 3. Patrons were able to bid on multiple works simultaneously and ensure fair bid closings. The Auction offered nearly 400 works of art from galleries in art centers nationwide including sculptures, furniture, watercolors, paintings, and jewelry. Additionally, bidders could vie for trips and entertainment packages. The prices ranged from an opening bid of $60 to $6,000.

SilentAuction#4The two-day event culminated Saturday, March 5, with a Live Auction and dinner in Lowder Gallery, which was attended by 98 guests including the Art Selection Committee Chair Mary Dunn, Co-chair Lucy Jackson, Jane Barganier, Ginny Cumbus, Camille Elebash-Hill, Bonner Engelhardt, Susan Geddie, Gage LeQuire, Phillip Rawlings, Winston Wilson Reese, Bruce Reid, and Laurie Weil.SilentAuction#3

For the third year in a row, the MMFA had the honor of having auctioneer Don Groesser, who once again proved that auctioneering can be an art too, calling works belonging to notable artists such as Thomas Hart Benton, Henri Matisse, Milt Kobayashi, and William Dunlap. Guests enjoyed dinner catered by Jennie Weller Catering and Events, with a menu that included grilled baby Caesar salad, petite filets with a red wine demi-glaze, potato latkes and broccolini, and lemon curd trifle with meringue.

A highlight of both the Silent Auction and Live Auction was the presence of artists Perry Austin of Alabama, Deb Groesser of Nebraska, Eliette Markhbein of New York, and Rhett Thurman of South Carolina, all having works for sale.

Art Auction 2016 was made possible by the dedication and hard work of the Art Auction Committee, chaired by Lisa Capell, Co-chair Allison Ingram, Past Chair, Emilie Reid, Glenda Allred, Jean Belt, Ward Chesser, Elizabeth DuBard, Ashley Gallion, Jason Goodson, Katharine Harris, Debbie Hobbs, Charlene Holtsford, Lisa Newcomb, Stephanie Peavy, Sheryl Rosen, Gloria Simons, Debby Spain, Melissa Tubbs, Burton Ward, Bonnie Waters, Ashley White, and Kelli Wise.

Silent Auction#2Proceeds from this biennial event are used to support the Museum’s acquisition, exhibition, and educational programs. The MMFA gratefully acknowledges Merrill Lynch as the sponsor of Art Auction 2016.

Cynthia Milledge
Director of Marketing and Public Relations

 

 

Native American Family Day Coming Soon

EV.NativeAM6BlogWe are excited about the third annual Native American Family Day that the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts will be co-hosting from 1 to 4 P.M., Saturday, March 12 in partnership with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. We will once again have hands-on crafts for children of all ages. Basket weaving and pinch-pot making are just some of the activities you and your family can enjoy while you are here!EV.NativeAM2blog

There will be live Stomp Dance performances, the Pow Wow Club will perform, and Robert Thrower will once again captivate all with his amazing storytelling. Unlike last year, all crafting activities and demonstrations will take place on the back lawn of the Museum. We will be showing the movie A Place Called Poarch in the Rotunda along with images from the Faces campaign.

This event is FREE and open to the public. There will be multiple performances throughout the day and craft making activities will run throughout the afternoon. Native American Family Day will happen rain or shine, so make sure to mark your calendars now for what promises to be a great event celebrating our State’s Native American culture!

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Blake Rosen
Special Events Coordinator

Adventures in Collecting American Art— “Albano, Italy” (ca. 1874-1876)

Almost exactly thirty years ago, we contracted what turned out to be a benign but formidable condition that proved only slightly hazardous to our financial health: we began to collect American art.
Charles and Babette Wampold, 2006

Inness.Blog This ironic observation was written by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wampold for an essay titled “A Passion for Collecting American Art”  in 2006.  The MMFA’s accompanying exhibition, Adventures in Collecting Art, was an assemblage of twenty-seven works, including twelve the Wampolds had previously gifted the Museum’s collection over a period of twenty-four years.  It was a joyous celebration of this remarkable couple who devoted their time, talents, and resources to educating themselves, and then locating the historically important works of American art that eventually graced their Montgomery home. (They first exhibited their collection at the MMFA in 1984–the photograph below was taken at that opening.)

(above: George Inness (American, 1825-1894), Albano, Italy, ca. 1874-1876), oil on canvas, Gift of Babette L. Wampold in memory of Charles H. Wampold, 2015.16.)

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 After Charles’ death in 2010, Babette elected in 2013 to make a long-term loan of the remainder of their collection, with the intention of eventually donating their holdings to the Museum and the Montgomery community. Late this past year she identified the magnificent George Inness landscape Albano, Italy (ca. 1874-1876) as her gift to the MMFA for the year 2015.  This canvas was one of their favorites; it had graced the Wampold’s dining room for many years and it now has pride of place in our permanent collection gallery devoted to nineteenth- century painting. (right: Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wampold, 1984)

Nature was George Inness’s major muse, but his art training was heavily reliant on the European academic tradition— both his techniques and compositions were influenced by his exposure to European landscape. Lake Albano is a small crater lake in the Alban Hills, about 15 miles southeast of Rome, near the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.  During this period in his career, Inness’s practice was to make drawings, watercolors, and oil sketches on site that sometimes served as sources for other paintings.  However, he also exhibited and sold loosely sketched canvases such as Albano, Italy as finished paintings.  As a component of his larger body of work, Inness’s gestural style seen here more fully suggests atmosphere and mood.

The MMFA board and staff continue to appreciate the connoisseurship and generosity of Charles and Babette Wampold. Works such as this George Inness that were once comfortably situated in the Wampolds’ home have now found their permanent residence at the MMFA, increasing the breadth and depth of the Museum’s collection of American paintings and sculpture.

An Expressive Evening

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An Expressive Evening, organized by the MUSES (MMFA’s teen council), was a chance for local teens to hang out at the Museum and enjoy the myriad talents of their peers.  The inspiring event included the following

ExpressiveEvening blog7- Slideshows of student artwork and Sensational Still Life, the exhibition of student art currently on view
– Vishwadha Gunda from LAMP who performed traditional Indian dance
– Mary Elise Thornton, an operatic singer from BTW, who sang “Caro Mio Ben”
– A commercial break by the BTW Musical Theater Group
– Performances by Festival Ballet Arts, including a dance based on a Degas painting
– Speed painting set to an acoustic duet by students at LAMP
– An original poem based on Ford Crull’s In the Realm of the Fantastic by Sarah Phillips of Home School
– Jennifer and Bailey Vinson of Home School performing in the Rotunda, including an original song

A portion of Sarah Phillips’ poem “Imagination” about In the Realm of the Fantastic encapsulates the spirit of the evening:

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“Filling us with visions in the dark of the night,
Pulling us away from our daily plights,
It is the spark that makes our hearts ignite,
The ever-changing, never-ending,
Wonderfully transcending, imagination.”

Alice Novak
Curator of Education

 

Gifts of the Ida Belle Young Acquisition Fund

ShortCourseIdaBelleYoungEleanorWho was Ida Belle Young and how did her generous contributions impact the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts? These questions will be answered through a docent-led short course, which began on January 26, 2016, and will continue each Tuesday (at noon) through February 23, 2016.

I began the first session by highlighting Young’s life, work, and legacy. Regarded as an astute businesswoman, active civic person, and a philanthropist, Young provided the endowment for the Ida Belle Young Art Acquisition Fund, which has enabled the Museum to expand and enrich its American art holdings. ShortCourseIdaBelleYoungA.FreemanFollowing this presentation, attendees proceeded to the galleries, where Dr. Alma Freeman led an in-depth and captivating discussion on the first painting purchased through Young’s art fund, Francoise in Green, Sewing, 1908-1909, created in France by Mary Cassatt. Participants enthusiastically offered their interpretations of the painting.

ShortCourseIdaBelleYoung#4On Tuesday, February 2, Session II of the course featured presentations by Mary Lil Owens (William Sydney Mount’s Any Fish Today?, 1857) and Lou Scott (Severin Roesen’s Still Life with Mixed Flowers and Bird’s Nest, ca. 1851-1859).ShortCourseIdaBelleYoung

We look forward to more interesting and innovative discussions and your insightful interpretations of these fascinating works of art made possible through Young’s bequest. Additional sessions are scheduled as follows:

2/9    George Henry Durrie’s Holidays in the Country, The Cider Party, 1853  (Beverly Bennett)
Edmonia Lewis’ Hiawatha’s Marriage, 1868  (Pam Moulton)

2/16  George Inness’ Medfield, 1877   (Jiyeon Suh)
Eastman Johnson’s Girl in Landscape with Two Lambs, 1875  (George Jacobsen)

2/23   Thomas Hart Benton’s Ozark Autumn, 1949  (Pat Wanglie)
Max Weber’s View of Roslyn, New York, ca 1922-1925 – (Gloria Simons)

ShortCourseIdaBelleYoungMary Lil

Eleanor Lee
Museum Docent and Docent Council Secretary

 

 

Reflections on the 60th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

AnExpressiveEveningRosaParksIn partnership with the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, the MMFA welcomed students from Alabama State University, Auburn University at Montgomery, Huntingdon College, and Tuskegee University who presented Honoring the Montgomery Bus Boycott: An Evening of Artistic Celebration in the MMFA Wilson Auditorium.

After a historical introduction by Donna Beisel of the Rosa Parks Library and MuseumMontgomery’s university and college community lauded the efforts of Rosa Parks and others towards freedom through art, song, dance, literature, and reflection – representing the power of art and the vital role of art as a reflection of society.An Expressive Evening

The Museum is grateful to our partners and performers:
Dr. Felicia Bell and Donna Beisel, Rosa Parks Library and Museum, Troy University (top)

Dr. Courtney Griffin and the Dancers of Tuskegee University  (on the right)

Tyrone Hayes and Trebled Soul, Alabama State University (below)

Kristi McDaniel and the Voices of Huntingdon  Huntingdon College (bottom right)

Dr. Jan Hogan and College of Education Teacher Candidates, Auburn University at Montgomery (bottom)

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“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” ~ Rosa Parks

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Alice Novak
and Madeline Burkhardt
Assistant Curator of Education and Volunteer Coordinator

 

 

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