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Montgomery Museum of Fine Art

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Category: General

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.

 

Tour could put MMFA in National Spotlight

P405_blogIt’s a conference that could gain the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts worldwide attention. 40 writers and bloggers from as far away as Canada and Australia took a four-day tour of the Capital city. They are known as the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association.

Writers David and Mary Gayle Sartwell of Bradenton, Florida walked into the Museum around 11:30 Thursday morning.  David Gayle says he wants his readers to have an understanding of what to do and where to go when they visit Montgomery.  “What we look for are personal interests, things in particular like Hank Williams and black history.” He says after growing up in the North he wants to look at the past and see how the city of Montgomery has progressed over the years.  His wife Mary says, “There’s more culture here than I presumed. I came here with an open mind not knowing what to expect.”

P410_blogP408_blogMMFA’s Curator of Art, Jennifer Jankauskas, gave the Sartwells and others a tour of 11 of the Museum’s galleries.  Author, Judith Glynn, is from New York City.  Glynn shared her goals as a writer. “We want to give a first hand introduction to the city.  It’s our responsibility to tell readers what we saw.” Lamont Mackay travels from Blenheim Ontario, Canada. “This museum is spectacular, so open.  It has a wonderful look and feel.”

Each member of the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association provide press coverage through articles, blog posts, and social media. They made the Museum’s ARTWORKS interactive gallery and learning center the final stop on their 30-minute tour. It appeared to be a favorite with the guests. P413_blogMary Gayle says, “The child in me is coming alive again. I have been to a lot of science museums. This is one of the best I have seen.” Mackay says, “It makes you want to be a kid again. This will be a hook in my story. I am excited to write about this.”

The group wrapped up their visit with lunch at the MMFA’s Café M. Our staff was delighted the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce chose the Museum as one of the destinations for these writers to visit.  We hope their publications will spread word about the quality Montgomery’s art museum has to offer.

Cynthia Milledge
Director of Marketing and Public Relations

 

 

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

Early Modern

MaxWeber_LibCongress_blogThe painter Max Weber was one of the first American artists to personally experience the art world in Paris in the first decade of the twentieth century, a time of amazing transition in the history of art. In Weber’s case, this experience included meeting and learning from artists like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Henri Rousseau, and taking tea at the salon hosted by art collectors Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo… in other words he was in the heart of it.

After his return to the U.S. in 1909, Weber created a range of work that was influenced by the Cubists initially, but his style regularly evolved over his forty-year career. The MMFA’s most recent acquisition, using funds bequeathed by Ida Belle Young in 2007, is a painting by Weber created during the 1920s when he had moved to Long Island. (below: View of Roslyn, New York, ca. 1922-1925, oil on canvas) It is a landscape depicting the village of Roslyn on the north shore of Long Island, painted from a vantage point just across a body of water known as the Roslyn Pond. While representational (we can readily see trees, town, and pond), it is also clearly in keeping with the reductive tendencies of Modernism—buildings composed of simple geometric shapes and the rest a symphony of varied brushstrokes in green, blue, rust, and tan. Though he largely left Picasso’s Cubism behind, he maintained a love of the style of the French Post-Impressionist Paul Cézanne, who created monumental landscapes in this same palette and with the same intent: to capture the soul of this peaceful place in paint.

MaxWeber_blogWhen Weber moved to Long Island in 1921 he and his wife left the urban bustle of upper Manhattan for a quieter natural environment where they could raise a family. They purchased a small house about five miles south of Roslyn, and the artist purchased a car (he named it Dinky) so that he could drive the rural roads looking for likely subjects. The Museum’s painting View of Roslyn, New York, is one of a number of works he painted while he lived in this house near Garden City.

Our Museum collection has grown significantly with the additions made using the funds provided by Ida Belle Young’s gift. Most of these works were made in the nineteenth century and have helped to enhance and further shape the core collection of works given by Winton Blount in 1989, and expand the resources our educators use to teach about the development of American art. When the Weber became available, it was immediately clear that this painting was going to play a significant role in our collection—it opens a chapter that takes viewers into twentieth-century art and introduces the modernist approach to art and design that dominated in Europe and America for years to come. It is a much-needed addition to our collection, and we look forward to sharing it with our audiences when it is installed next month.

Arthur D. Chapman, Max Weber, 1914, platinum print, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-90145]

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

There’s a Story in Here Somewhere…. 

We will be hearing a lot in the next year about Selma, most of it related to the historic events that surrounded “Bloody Sunday” and the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965. Those events put Selma on the map, both nationally and internationally, but the town has been on Alabama’s map for a very, very long time, and what you don’t know about Selma may surprise you. One thing you might not know? There have probably been more creative and literary people in Selma per capita than in any other place in Alabama—maybe the whole South.

The curious coincidence that brought this to mind is the presence of two wonderful works of art that are currently in our galleries. They just happen to depict two members of a Selma family—two members who lived almost one hundred years apart.

Siegel_Fax_blogThe first is found in Romantic Spirits: Nineteenth-Century Paintings of the South from the Johnson Collection. The painting is by an artist named George Cooke who came to Alabama in the summer of 1848. He was traveling and took commissions to paint members of Alabama’s Black Belt planter families. He was given the task of painting a young boy named Joseph Fairfax Lapsley, known to his family as “Little Fax.” Like many children in the nineteenth century, Little Fax had a brief life, dying when he was only two. Little Fax’s father, Colonel John Whitfield Lapsley commissioned the painting as a memorial of his young son. Little Fax stands on a porch overlooking what was certainly the Alabama River as it winds past Selma. Up the river we see a steamboat, carrying away people and goods to a world little Fax would never know. It is a melancholy painting, intended to remind his parents of a life cut woefully short.

Flash forward to 2004 and a photograph by  Selma artist, Jerry Siegel in the exhibition Creator/Created: Jerry Siegel Portraits and Artists from the Permanent CollectionSiegel_lapsley_blogIt depicts the painter John Lapsley, the great-grandson of Colonel John Whitfield Lapsley, and an artist who is well represented in the MMFA permanent collection. Unlike Little Fax, John Lapsley had a long, very productive life as an artist, dying at the age of 90, but they are both depicted at the end of their natural lives. John Lapsley died a year after the photograph was made; Little Fax’s portrait was made the year after his passing. Those who knew John Lapsley knew a genuine Alabama character; like another Alabama native, author Truman Capote, he had a sharp wit and a sense of irony that was always present. John’s works in the Museum’s collection  date from the 1930s to the late twentieth century, fulfilling his destiny in a way that Little Fax unfortunately could not.

And there’s one more Selma art family to consider—that is the Siegels. Photographer Jerry Siegel was preceded one generation by his uncle, Jerome E. (Jerry) Siegel, Jr., who was for many years one of the best and most respected dealers in Southern art. As a true, old-fashioned gallerist Jerry nurtured the careers of artists such as John Lapsley, Crawford Gillis, Charles Shannon and others now in our MMFA collection. siegel_self_blogHis nephew continues that tradition through his photographs of artists in their studios, and although he makes his home elsewhere now he clearly knows his roots, artistic and otherwise. His own self-portrait in Creator/Created was made at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of “Bloody Sunday,” and a reminder that Selma is at the heart of Alabama’s history, both artistic and social.

Alabama’s greatest storyteller, Katherine Tucker Windham (and, yes, she was also from Selma) would have made a fine tale out of the Lapsleys, the Siegels and their lives across the centuries. Like all us Southerners, she did love a good story.

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

Docent Field Trip to Chattanooga

On the first day of spring seventeen MMFA docents and four members of the educational staff headed north to Chattanooga, TN.

DocentTrip_blog1Our destination was the Hunter Museum of American Art. Several months in planning, this was the MMFA’s first overnight docent field trip. Set upon an eighty foot bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, the Museum features beautiful views of the riverfront and the surrounding area.

Upon arriving at the Museum we had a curator led tour of a current exhibition, African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond.  After having free time to explore the Hunter’s permanent collection, we attended a stimulating discussion, “Art + Issues: Diversity Is! Now Deal with It?” led by Bart Washington and Brian O’Leary of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

DocentTrip_blog2That evening and the following morning we were able to explore the city’s downtown area which, along with the Hunter, features the Tennessee Aquarium, the Creative Discovery Museum, a pedestrian bridge across the river, several art galleries and a wide range of restaurants. All of these attractions are within walking distance of each other. Art is everywhere in the downtown area, often in places you would least expect to find it. Those of us who toured the Aquarium were delighted to find an exhibit of Stephen Rolfe Powell’s  “Whacko” series complementing the jellyfish exhibit.

Just as Cappy Thompson was “enraptured by the celestial fireworks of the muses,” our group was enchanted by the hospitality we received at the Hunter, the range and beauty of it’s collection and the stimulating atmosphere of Chattanooga’s downtown area. Being able to enjoy these attractions as a group made the trip all the more memorable.

George Jacobsen
Docent Council Chair

‘Tis the Season…

…for spring fever, weddings, Easter, confirmation, graduation, Mother’s Day… well ’tis ALWAYS the season for SOMETHING, right?  And, although we DO have gifts for all of the above, DON’T wait for a special occasion to come peruse our one-of-a-kind collection here at The Museum Store.  I think we have the best selection of pottery in the city (Christopher Greenman, Randy Shoults, Tena Payne, Margaret Barber, Suzanne Jensen, Anna Bastida, Jo Taylor– to drop a few names), plus paintings, jewelry, glass, and more (so many artists/so little space)… surely something for everyone (including kiddies) and at all price points.

Teena Payne, Earthborn PotteryWe are constantly adding new artists and merchandise to keep things interesting and fresh.  So if you were here two weeks ago or it’s been two years, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you’ll find.  More than once, I’ve heard the comment:  “This is one of the best museum stores I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot…” So, what are you waiting for?  I didn’t even mention that we provide free gift wrap and that our sales staff is always happy to offer suggestions, tell you about the artists we represent or just smile and nod– whatever you prefer.

Oh, and quarterly, we feature an Artist in Action where you can meet an artist and watch them at work here in the Museum Store, which is quite entertaining.  The next one is Thursday, April 17th from Noon-2:00– in conjunction with Cafe M’s Divine Lunch.  The artist will be Montgomery’s own, Barbara Binford Davis, painter extraordinaire and you’re all invited.  (Reservations are needed that day at Cafe M but you never need a reservation for the store.)

Do yourself a favor and see for yourself…
Tuesday-Saturday 11:00-4:00 and Sundays Noon-4:00. 334.240.4337

Kay Jacoby, Museum Store

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