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Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

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Category: General

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.

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

 

“An Observer Without an Agenda” Almost

RaySmith_blog

On July 10, 2014, Ray Smith presented a gallery talk at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) to celebrate In Time We Shall Know Ourselves, the exhibition of 52 photographs he made in the summer of 1974, and the beautiful book that Smith published in conjunction with the exhibition.

In his brief prepared remarks, which he titled “I Am a Camera,” Smith explained that his intent during his travel around the country forty summers ago was to be “an observer without an agenda,” who enabled his subjects—people he met along the road—“freedom to present themselves with the least amount of intrusion or direction from the photographer.”

In a couple of short video interviews the artist recorded earlier that day, Smith explained why he used a twin-lens camera for his project, the larger context of his artistic journey, and his love of literature, which led him to make photographs that were like poems or fiction, “a short story exploding beyond its frame.”

As the introductory text panel in the exhibition indicates, “these vivid short stories explode into an epic travel narrative, a great American novel set in the 1970s but with its culmination in its publication and exhibition today.”

The exhibition will remain on view at the MMFA through September 21, after which it will travel to the Hickory (NC) Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville (FL), and the Georgia Museum of Art.

Perceptive viewers of the exhibition organized by the MMFA and readers of the book (which illustrates all of the images in the same sequence as the exhibition) may realize what the artist acknowledged in his gallery talk: “though my object was invisibility, I am IN every one of the photographs.”

Raymond W. Smith (American, born 1942), Self Portrait, Motel Room, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1974, printed 2012, gelatin silver print, Lent by the artist.

Michael W. Panhorst, Ph.D.
Curator of Art, MMFA

The Museum Store is Turning Five

ADM.store.blogThe Museum Store is preparing for our FIFTH YEAR as a HANDCRAFTED GALLERY STYLE SPACE. October is our birthday month and we are going to stretch out the celebration with treats, special deals, featured artists, and other fun things the entire month, so stay tuned for the details. If you haven’t been in the Store in some time, you are missing out on one of most distinctive shopping experiences in Montgomery. The Store features works by more than 70 local and regional artists with everything from pottery, glass, paintings, textiles, jewelry, photography, and more. We feel fortunate to have works by so many talented artists.

Behind each work of art there is a story, an investment of time and talent. The Museum Store should be first on your list when thinking about the perfect wedding or graduation gift and if you need just the right painting for your newly designed space, the Museum Store may have just what you are looking for.

Randy_Shoults_blogNan Cunningham-blog2

We will be closed for three days, August 5 through 7 for a little cosmetic work and will reopen Friday, August 8 with a new look and a bevy of new works by our beloved artists. Come and see what’s NEW starting August 8 and plan to celebrate with us the month of October!

Tisha Rhodes and Kay Jacoby
Director of Services and the Museum Store

First of Its Kind Museum Store Sale

If you haven’t been in the Museum Store in the past five years (yes, FIVE) you may not realize the caliber of handcrafted work we now feature. Behind each work of art is a story—a real live artist investing their time and talent—and we are happy to showcase these works in a gallery-like environment.

ADM.store.Greemn-blogFolks, you have until Sunday, ​July 13, to take advantage of a 30% off sale featuring 25 of our artists. This includes pottery by Chris Greenman, Randy Shoults, Jo Taylor, and Suzanne Jensen,  paintings by Marguerite Edwards, Nan Cunningham, Kellie Newsome, Barbara Royal, Rachael Sherer, and Pam Truitt, jewelry by Joanne Staley, Bernice Fischman, and Leah Dodd, various multi-media works by Darrell Ezekiel, Sherri Schumacher, Marybeth Farris, Kay Sasser Jacoby, and MORE.

There’s a “Half Off” table of MMFA logo items. This includes mugs, ornaments, and tee-shirts.  In addition, EVERYTHING in the store is 10% Off–which means it’s impossible NOT to save money when you shop this week!ADM.store.Jensen-blog

Tonight, July 10, we’ll be open until 7 p.m. for the MMFA Opening Reception AND book-signing for Raymond Smith’s photography exhibition, In Time We Shall Know Ourselves, as well as, an exhibition featuring the works from the Museum’s  original collection.  

ADM.store.Truitt-blogIf you visit us and say you read this blog, there COULD be a surprise in it for you!  See you sooner rather than later.  Meanwhile, come see us Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 12 to 4 p.m. 

Kay Jacoby
The Museum Store

Drawing With Color and Light

Glass_Littleton_blogFor almost 20 years, the MMFA has collected and interpreted art from the American Studio Glass movement from artists who use glass to draw with color and light. Recently we had the chance to acquire two works that greatly expand and enhance not only our collection, but also the understanding of the history of contemporary glass. First is Orange Triple Movement, 1983, by Harvey Littleton (American, 1922–2014), the man internationally recognized as the “Father of the Studio Glass movement”. This inventive work comes from one of his best-known series: Topological Geometry. In this piece Littleton utilized gravity to pull, bend, and shape the glass into elegant layers of flowing orange tones—a hue that is difficult to control.  In fact, the success Littleton found with the challenges of this piece made it one of his favorites.

The second acquisition is an innovative work by the influential collaborative team of Joey Kirkpatrick and Flora Mace (American, born 1952 and 1949).  Doll Drawing with Rebecca, 1983 features a unique process pioneered by the two artists. Liking the quality of a drawn line, they decided to use thin metal wires to replicate pencil marks in the glass.  The “drawings” are filled in with colored glass before they embed it all in clear glass and form the vessel. This piece is an early example of their work and complements sculptures from a later series of glass fruit, also part of the MMFA Permanent Collection.Glass_Kirk-Mace_blog

Both pieces, along with many other works, are now on view in our freshly reinstalled Weil Atrium gallery.  Come out to see both of them as well as the many other pieces that will dazzle and delight your eyes.

If you’d like to learn more, you can hear Harvey Littleton describe his inspiration and process by going online to an interview hosted by the Archives of American Art. The interview is found at http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/interviews/oral-history-interview-harvey-k-littleton-11795

Jennifer Jankauskas
Curator of Art

 

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

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