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Category: Programs

Class of 2016 Docents Graduate Thursday Evening

For teachers and students, it’s nearing the end of another school year, and graduation is in the air!  It’s no different for our MMFA docent corps, who will this Thursday evening, May 12, see their newest members graduate from the New Docent Program into the ranks of our talented active, senior docents.  The docents of the 2015-16 class have already participated in Outreach, Studio, Artworks, and gallery tours, and have made their year-end presentations to the Museum staff and active docents. Those presentations were innovative, enlightening, and entertaining, and we are looking forward to incorporating this diverse and talented group into the active docent corps.

My conversations with the members of the 2015-16 docent class are summarized below:

Maria Freedman docentMaria Freedman

Maria came to Montgomery in 1995, by way of Germany and Illinois. She was an art teacher for 40 years, and, during that time, taught a weekend workshop for children at the MMFA and participated annually in the Flimp Festival. She retired in May 2015, and is looking forward to having more time to work on her own art, but, she says, she still needs structure in her day, so in addition to being a new docent, she assists with the Respite Program at First United Methodist Church and is a member of the Selma Art Guild.

Frank Gitschier2 docent-smallFrank Gitschier

A graduate of the University of Louisville, where he was a second string All-American football player, Frank spent 34 years working for the Alabama Legislative Fiscal Office before retiring in 2012. Alice Novak and Jill Barry, whom he met at a dinner party, recruited him into the docent program. A firm believer in the maxim that “a picture is worth a 1,000 words,” he loves leading gallery talks, but is scared (he claims) of leading a studio lesson.

Meg Hall DocentMeg Hall

Before moving to Montgomery in 1996, Meg, who has a master’s degree in social work, lived in Wisconsin and in Auburn, working with children, disabled persons, and the elderly. She also earned a second-degree black belt in karate. In Montgomery, she worked in the Golf Shop at Wynlakes Country Club. Just as she was leaving her employment there, she heard about the docent program from Alice Novak’s friend Foad, a massage therapist at Mind and Body Holistic Spa in Cloverdale. Meg’s favorite part of the docent program is the people. She loves working with children, and helping with Artworks and studio activities.

Evelyn Jackson docent
Evelyn Jackson

Evelyn has operated several small businesses centered on flowers and plants. Now she is a Spanish language interpreter and translator. She says that she needed – and found – a new direction in her life when a friend recommended the docent program to her. Not surprisingly for someone with a degree in English literature, she believes that art is evocative of the range of human experience, and she finds herself looking at art in verbal terms.

Nam Kim docentNam Jung Kim

With a master’s degree in business administration, Nam spent 20 years in marketing. When she and her family moved to Montgomery, she visited the Museum and found it to be a “peaceful and comfortable” place. She called Alice, offering to do marketing work for the Museum and was persuaded to become a docent, which, she said, has turned out to be a wonderful way of getting to know Americans and being part of a community.

 

 

Wanica Means docentWanica Means

After living in San Francisco during her working life (which included being a model), Wanica moved to Montgomery to be near family and to be in a place where the cost of living was reasonable.   She reinvented herself by starting an etiquette consulting firm and, along with active docent Phyllis Hall, formed a women’s social club – “Fit and Fun and Fifty Plus.” When Phyllis suggested that she become a docent, Wanica responded, “Free art history class every week? Count me in!” Like Nam, she has found a sense of community in the docent program.

Nicki Rupe 2-docent smallNicki Rupe

Before coming to Alabama, Nicki spent most of her years in California, where she served as the executive secretary to CEOs of biotech companies and to Senator Dianne Feinstein. Here in Montgomery, she has re-launched a business, begun in California, as a professional organizer and home stager. She has always considered playing a role in an art museum, perhaps because she understands that she, like an artist with a blank canvas, “has a passion to create something beautiful from what seems like mayhem.” She believes that the docent program has given her a more discerning eye to appreciate the masterpieces that grace walls of the Museum and she is grateful that the MMFA reaches out to the community to share its treasures.

Marilyn Simpson docentMarilyn Simpson

Marilyn spent 42 years in higher education in California, Virginia, and Alabama. When she left the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service in 2001, she resolved to start on her bucket list, part of which was to become a museum docent. During her travels, she had visited many museums and had found them to be lovely, well-maintained places filled with beautiful things. She decided that her retirement years were going to be surrounded by beauty and the docent program has helped her accomplish that goal. She says, “What could be better than a year filled with a free education in art and beauty?

Gretchen Sippial docentGretchen Sippial

Alice’s friend Foad at Mind and Body Holistic Spa recruited Gretchen’s husband to be a docent, and, when her husband indicated that he was not interested, Gretchen jumped at the chance. (Sounds like Foad should be an honorary docent!). Despite having an undergraduate degree in art, she was not inspired, she says, by her own work and decided to pursue other careers – in management, construction, and higher education. Now, however, she has come full circle and is inspired by the art she is learning about here at the MMFA.

 

Carroll Thompson docentCarroll Thompson 

Carroll was born and raised in Memphis and is a graduate of Rhodes College (formerly Southwestern at Memphis), where she majored in fiber arts. Her three lifelong interests have been theater, dance, and art. She has taught ballet and loves doing art projects with children. She came to the docent program through her friend, active docent Carol Tew. Carroll loves “art history Mondays” and enjoys being part of the docent community at the MMFA .

Congratulations to all the members of the MMFA’s 2015-16 docent class and we warmly welcome them to our active membership.

Mary Lil Owens
New Docent Representative

 

 

 

 

 

A Day in Historic Eufaula with the Collectors Society

EufaulaCollector'sSociety1On Thursday, October 1, the Collectors Society took a splendid excursion to Eufaula. Doug Purcell, Executive Director Emeritus of the Historic Chattahoochee Commission, led the tour of historic architecture and collections.

The day began at the neo-classical Shorter EufaulaCollector'sSociety#2Mansion (1884, renovated 1906) where Mayor Jack Tibbs warmly welcomed the group. Ann Hubbert, who has been a part of Collectors Society since its inception, remarked that going to Shorter Mansion was a highlight both for its beauty and remarkable history. She was also glad she ascended to the cupola at Fendall Hall in order to enjoy the view.

EufaulaCollector'sSociety#3The group enjoyed lunch on the porch of the Italianate-style Fendall Hall (1860). Afterwards the Collectors Society toured the notable murals in the house, which was built by the ancestors of Lucy Jackson, who was on the tour. The last residence, the Petry-Honan House (1868), is still in the hands of the family that bought it in the 1870’s and retains its original detached kitchen. The final stop was the Eufaula Athenaeum, which houses special collections related to Barbour County in a historic drug-store building (1850’s) located downtown.

EufaulaCollector'sSociety#4Jane Barganier articulated the impact of the day, “We went to a small town that is proud of their EufaulaCollector'sSociety#6history, and they are keeping it alive. I was reminded that the culture of small towns is just as important as that of major cities. We should all be proud of the communities in our state, such as Eufaula and Selma, that have worked so hard to preserve their heritage in their homes, buildings, and art and have so much to contribute in terms of interesting people, history, artists, and writers. The day was fun, it was interesting, and studying history is so terribly important. ”

The Collectors Society will hear from glass sculptor Beth Lipman next month, in conjunction with Once and Again: Still Lifes by Beth Lipman. The group is also looking forward to a visit to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta to see the exhibition Hapsburg Splendor, a luncheon lecture with the Chief Historian of the History Channel, and more. It is not too late to join for this year. If you would like to be part of the Collectors Society, please contact Alice Novak at 334-240-4362, or at anovak@mmfa.org.

Alice Novak
Assistant Curator of Education

 

 

 

MAG Featured Artist Clark Walker Discusses His Art and Demonstrates Its Creation

walker1blogrevisedArtists rarely have the opportunity to see their work in museum galleries, and the public rarely has the chance to hear artists discuss their work that is on display in museum galleries. On Sunday, June 28, Clark Walker and River Region art aficionados were able to enjoy these rare treats.

Walker conducted an informal gallery talk in the Museum galleries that are temporarily devoted exclusively to his retrospective show that is part of the 41st Montgomery Art Guild Museum Exhibition. Two-dozen paintings and drawings on loan from a dozen local collectors comprise the show. The artist also demonstrated his drawing techniques.

walker3blogrevisedStanding at an easel in the Museum library, felt-tipped pen in hand, surrounded by admiring fans and collectors of his work, the artist showed how he typically begins drawings of faces with the eyes, then nose, mouth, and finally the silhouette of the head—all with an economical use of line. He explained in his typical deadpan manner that he paints the same way, “in my underwear.” It was not the first laugh he elicited from the crowd of forty people, nor the last. Nor was it the only insight he provided on how he draws and paints the “circus people,” “curb market people,” and countless cats and still-life compositions that have earned him well deserved respect among Montgomery art connoisseurs and collectors.

An illustrated brochure that documents the exhibition is available for free in the galleries, and may be downloaded free as a PDF from the Museum’s website. The 41st Montgomery Art Guild Museum Exhibition with Featured Artist Clark Walker is on display through Sunday, August 9.

Michael Panhorst
Curator of Art

 

Camp Sunshine Shines On

CampSun2015.blog.3The MMFA staff are always pleased to see “Camp Sunshine Wednesday” roll around on our calendars because it means the presence in our galleries and studios of some lovely, and very special, people.  Camp Sunshine is a long-standing tradition now in our community, serving many elementary school-age girls who would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience summer camp activities. (At left: Wanda Horsley provides an introduction to paintings in the gallery for Camp Sunshine campers.)

Camp Sunshine visited the Museum this year on Wednesday, June 6. This marks the first year for Camp Sunshine at the Museum under the direct leadership of the Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama here in Montgomery. The anticipation of the girls who participate in the program is always high when they reach the Museum, and this year was no different.  Welcomed and led by our talented Museum docents Gloria Simons, Wanda Horsley, Paula Murphy, Grace Cook, Pam Moulton, and Penny Thompson, the campers toured the galleries for a look at the permanent collection, followed by time in both the ArtWorks galleries and the studio. They each created a “tissue vase” collage while they were here to take away from their visit. CampSun2015.blog.2

We offer our congratulations to the Girl Scouts in Montgomery, to the Camp Sunshine staff, and to our own great volunteer docents who do such a wonderful job of introducing Camp Sunshine to one of Montgomery’s greatest resources in the arts—their hometown Museum.

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

Native American Family Day 2015

EV.NativeAM.day.pano

We held Poarch: History in Motion, our second Native American Family Day on Saturday and we certainly were in motion!  Over 1,000 visitors joined us for a full afternoon of activity. Several artisans were on hand helping the kids make decorated medallion necklaces, clay pinch pots and woven baskets in the Poarch tradition.

EV.NativeAM4blogTribal historian, Robert Thrower shared stories and showed Poarch artifacts to guests all afternoon. Through the objects he shared, he explained what life was like in the early days of the Tribe and some of their traditions.

In the field next to the Museum, the drumming group Medicine Tail played while members performed demonstrations of both Stomp Dancing and the elaborate Pow Wow Dances while the younger and more energetic attendees tried their hand at traditional Stick Ball, the predecessor of modern day lacrosse.

EV.NativeAM2blogIn the Rotunda, the premiere of a new photography exhibition Poarch: History in Motion was installed. Beautiful portraits by Karen Odyniec of tribal members were hung next to short stories about them with artifacts from Kerretv Cuko, the Poarch Band of Creek Indian Museum in Atmore.

 

EV.nativeAMERICAN-blogWe were delighted to partner with the Tribe again this year to present such a fun and informative day for the River Region, all of which was free.

Jill Barry
Deputy Director

 

History Marches On in Montgomery

EX.HRD-pano.blog

On Thursday, March 19, the Museum hosted an opening reception and lecture for our current exhibition History Refused to Die: Alabama’s African-American Self-Taught Artists in Context.  The exhibition was organized by the MMFA in collaboration with the Alabama Center for Contemporary Art in Mobile, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, and Tinwood, LLC, in Atlanta, Georgia.   

HRD-3artsts.blogThe artists featured in this exhibition all worked in Alabama in the mid to late- twentieth century, and, with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March, it seemed there would never be a more appropriate time to present these works for Alabama audiences. A book published by Tinwood, LLC, also entitled History Refused to Die, documents the works and the theme of the project as a whole: an examination of the history of African-Americans in the state as seen through the eyes of these extraordinary artists.  (Pictured at left: Louisiana Bendolph, collector Bill Arnett, Thornton Dial, Sr. and Richard Dial) HRD-Minter.blog

Guests at the opening on Thursday evening had the rare pleasure of greeting six of the fifteen artists whose works are on view. They included Thornton Dial, Sr., his son Richard Dial, Charlie Lucas, Lonnie Holly, Joe Minter (at right), and quilt maker Louisiana Bendolph. It was a poignant moment in the history of Alabama art, since many of these artists are advanced in years, and, while their artwork has previously been exhibited in museums around the United States and overseas, they had never seen their art installed in an Alabama museum. This powerful and moving art reflects the larger context of the history of African-American culture in Alabama and the South, from slavery in the nineteenth century, to the migration from rural to urban centers in the twentieth century.  Using non-traditional materials such as metals, plastics, organic or plant-based material, these works bridge the gap between daily life and the world of art—demonstrating a profound respect for the process we today call “recycling,” but that the  artists see as a means to   link the present with a vibrant past.

HRD_Charlie2-blogHRD-Lonnie.blogThe Museum will be hosting a number of programs in conjunction with this exhibition including talks by Loyd Howard on Thursday, April 2, and a special audio-visual presentation by Randall Williams on Thursday, April 23.  We invite you to review all the programs listed in the calendar on the website, or call 244-4333 for more information.  Don’t miss this outstanding exhibition, and all the thought-provoking programs associated with it. (Shown above: Curator Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, Charlie Lucas, and Museum Director Mark Johnson; Lonnie Holley talking with Joe Minter.)

Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

Reflecting on…Myrna Colley-Lee’s Visit to the MMFA

EX.myrna2.blogLast week we were excited to welcome Myrna Colley-Lee to the MMFA. Myrna is, of course, the collector of the superb works on view in the exhibition Reflections: African American Life from the Myrna Colley-Lee Collection, which was organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC in collaboration with the office of Myrna Colley-Lee.

On Thursday, February 19 we began with a reception to celebrate the exhibition. Moving into the auditorium, with about 75 people who braved the unusual cold, Myrna and I embarked on a discussion touching on many topics including her collecting process and insights into her own artistic practice as a costume designer.

EX.myrna1.blogA pioneer in the Black Theater Movement, Myrna has worked on over 70 productions since the late 1960s. In her intense research for her designs she often references works that are in her collection. In our discussion, Myrna revealed that she is attracted to works that are a celebration of African-American life. She finds that so important in this day and age when the media often focus on violence or troubling aspects of African-American experiences. Works that resonate with her love of the South, particularly with the landscape of her home in the Mississippi Delta, also appeal. Sometimes, they remind her of certain people, for example, Myrna sees Oprah Winfrey in a scene from The Women of Brewster Place in Ernest EX.reflections-blogCrichlow’s Window, 1987. Mryna went on to explain how she has formed relationships with many of the artists she collects, and that she often acquires works through auctions that support causes she believes in.

At a luncheon the following day, Myrna met with our Collectors Society to talk more directly about her costume designs for several productions. Through a PowerPoint presentation she drew parallels to works in her collection such as Eudora Welty’s Window Shopping, c.1930 that proved inspirational in her own designs. At the end, she reflected on how her collection has become such an important part of her life—and is a true reflection of her.

The MMFA was thrilled to have Myna here and thanks her for sharing her wonderful collection. In addition we would like to thank the sponsor of the exhibition here in Montgomery, Hyundai, and our co-sponsor, Max Credit Union.

Jennifer Jankauskas
Curator of Art

Conversations with New Docents

At the MMFA, docents are volunteer guides who attend in-depth training sessions in order to provide tour services for visitors the Museum.  They also participate in guest lectures, supplemental programs, and support the Museum by maintaining current Museum membership. They come from diverse backgrounds and careers, have different levels of experience with art, and exhibit a variety of fine talents. The positive and professional group of incoming docents for 2014–2015 has already started leading tours and integrating themselves into the fabric of the Museum. Conversations with these volunteers reveal their passion for learning about art, their enthusiasm for engaging with young people, and their enjoyment of interaction with other docents and Museum staff. They are people who are willing to go above and beyond to serve their community.  My conversations with the new docent class are summarized below.

 

 

Julie GoolsbyJulie_Goolsby-blog

Julie was motivated to become a docent when she noticed her third grade students’ responses to the paintings at the MMFA. She was impressed by their excitement at visiting the museum as well as their insightful interpretations of the artwork. Julie enjoys learning about different artists, talking about paintings, and meeting new friends. She loves children and is obviously very excited about participating in the docent program.

 

Phyllis_Hall-blogPhyllis Hall

Although Phyllis has no formal background in art, she has always loved and appreciated the beauty of art, whether traditional or unorthodox. Jeannette Siegers, a volunteer at MMFA, recognized Phyllis’ love of literature and encouraged her to come on board at the Museum. After taking an online look at the program, Phyllis contacted Alice Novak, who encouraged her to visit the Museum and to sit in on a discussion session. Phyllis enjoys the docent training, in particular hearing the stories behind the compositions, learning how different time periods of art history are reflected in the artists’ works, and mostly just learning in depth about art from a more technical standpoint.

 

 Andy HuffmanAndy_Huffman-blog

It was at MMFA’s annual FLIMP Festival in May 2014 that Andy and her mother found out about the docent program from Pam Moulton, a long-serving docent. Interested, they decided to come and sit in on a training session. They liked what they heard and saw. Andy has been drawing most of her life and started painting in the 8th grade, or for about ten years now. As a painter, she enjoys learning about art and gaining inspiration for new styles and new subject matter with which to experiment. Moreover, she enjoys interacting with her fellow trainees as well as with children and adults. Andy considers her style of painting realistic; however, she is becoming drawn to the impressionist style.

 

Dorothy_Johnson-blogDorothy Johnson

Dorothy worked as an auditor with the Federal Government while traveling with her husband Dennis, who spent 22 years as a Commander in the U.S. Navy. When they returned to Montgomery in 1992, she began working at the Alabama State Bar, retiring from that position in August of 2014. Her friend Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, MMFA’s Curator of Art, suggested that Dorothy consider becoming a docent. She enjoys the training, especially the historical lessons behind the art, and now finds herself reading a lot more about history.

 

Rosemary McKenzieRosemary_McKenzie-blog

As a child, Rosemary traveled with her parents a lot, and they always visited museums. In college, she took art history courses and went to Europe where she was exposed to the art there. Previously, she was a docent in Laurel, Mississippi and loved the experience. When she moved here, her next door neighbor suggested that, because Rosemary loved art, she should consider becoming a docent at MMFA. She loves learning and talking about art, taking it apart piece by piece and examining the details. Rosemary was impressed by how many people came to the Museum for the recent Holiday Open House.

 

Nancy_Moss-blogNancy Moss

Nancy had never thought about being a docent before she came to the Museum’s book club, Ekphrasis, and listened as docents were talking about their experiences. There definitely was an air of excitement and sincerity, so she decided to give it a try. Nancy enjoys learning about art, for she knew very little before. Having retired, she has more time to think about art. She believes the MMFA is truly a public place, reaching out to all people of different age groups.

 

Mary Lil OwensMaryLil_Owens-blog

Mary Lil took two art history courses during her senior year of college—as an afterthought. She has always loved art and that is one reason she was interested in becoming a docent. She enjoys the art history lectures and discussions, and seeing the artwork “up close and personal” is wonderful. The MMFA, she notes, offers many opportunities for people to get involved. Clearly, the Museum is here for the community. Formerly, Mary Lil was a high school English teacher, track coach, (she was on the track team in high school), and lawyer.

 

Laura_Roth-blogLaura Roth

At the MMFA’s Ekphrasis book club meetings and a couple of short courses, Laura met some docents who encouraged her to become involved in the program. Her two sisters love art, and she has visited several well-known museums. Participating in the docent program, Laura loves learning the history of the paintings and finds the stories interesting. For twenty-five years, she was a teacher of third and fourth graders.

 

Penny ThompsonPenny_Thompson-blog

A former school librarian, Penny has much experience working with students. Thus far in her training, she has presented some Outreach sessions and is amazed at what students have to say about the art. Penny considers it a pleasure to visit the public school classrooms because the children are excited about coming to the MMFA. She loves listening to Alice Novak’s lectures, and enjoys learning in such a beautiful environment.

 

Eleanor Lee
New Docent Liaison

Susan Vreeland makes a virtual appearance

On Wednesday, September 10, Susan Vreeland joined us for a Skype video discussion about her latest book, Lisette’s List: A Novel.

As we began our discussion, Vreeland positioned herself in front of the webcam to give us an intimate view of her appearance (although she jokingly admitted that the real reason was to hide her messy office). Vreeland captivated us with her wit and infectious humor as she shared with us background information about the novel, as well as personal anecdotes. For example, during her student years, Vreeland chose to study music appreciation rather than art. She attributed this outcome to her old roommate who complained about an art history course and the burden of having to remember so many dates and the monotony of slides that all seemed to blur together. Fortunately, this did not discourage her from learning about art, collecting art books, and traveling around the world to places like France to quench her thirst for the world’s finest art treasures. As Vreeland once remarked:

“Coming out of the Louvre for the first time in 1971, dizzy with new love, I stood on Pont Neuf and made a pledge to myself that the art of this newly discovered world in the Old World would be my life companion. Never had history been more vibrant, its voices more resonating, its images more gripping.”

A video tour of Roussillon, the setting for Vreeland’s novel

Most of Vreeland’s novels (with the exception of her first book What Love Sees) were inspired by art (thank goodness!) and Lisette’s List was another literary treat. Beginning in 1937, Lisette and her husband André Honoré Roux moved from Paris to the village of Roussillon to stay with Andre’s grandfather, Pascal, who owned paintings by Cezanne and Pissarro. Pascal, who worked in the ochre mines of Roussillon, provided frames for the artists in exchange for paintings. Pascal eventually passed away and André died unexpectedly during World War II, leaving Lisette alone to struggle through her bereavement, while continuing to search for a rare collection of modern art that mysteriously disappeared. In the process, she discovered the value of friendship, community, and the transformational power of art.

The novel was a wonderful story about modern art, culture, and regional history, but it was Susan Vreeland’s special appearance that made the story enduring and timeless.

“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

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