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First Person: Sharisma Bell

Sharisma BellCongratulations to our former intern Sharisma Bell! Earlier this month, she was hired as the Marketing Producer for Raycom Media in Montgomery. Before getting her new job, she interned here at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Marketing and Public Relations for six months. In the end, she had dedicated 324 hours of her time towards learning every detail of the department from writing a news release, establishing contacts, to managing social media. Her final task was to write an informative blog about her experience here at the Museum.

Having graduated three years ago, being an intern was in the rear-view mirror for me. I had already completed two internships during my undergraduate studies, so at the age of 25, I couldn’t imagine being one for the third time. I like to think that we always have something to gain from every moment in life and sometimes you have to start as the student. Initially, I wondered could I be an intern again? Was it even worth it to dedicate time to something that I wasn’t receiving credit for? I pushed those thoughts aside when I approached Cynthia Milledge, the director of Public Relations and Marketing at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, about a possible internship. I could not pass up the opportunity to learn a couple of things from one of my favorite childhood places.

When I thought about a possible internship, I felt a sense of pride to be amongst prestige and art. I have always loved art because I think there is beauty in people creating what they feel, what they see, or what affects them. I find that viewing artwork allows you a quick glance at the artist’s mindset. Growing up in Montgomery, there were several occasions where I would visit the MMFA on field trips. I was either in ArtWorks with Bear Elementary or I was picking a piece of artwork and writing a poem for it with Booker T. Washington Magnet High School.

To be a part of what goes on behind the scenes of the Museum was definitely something I wanted to experience. So finally, I was able to achieve my goal and being here has allowed me to grow deeper into my creativity. While interning here, I have met some great people who have given me the foundation to expand my writing skills and my artistic ability. For example, I have researched several art pieces extensively and wrote descriptions of each piece for the Cell Phone Tours in the galleries. Secondly, I had the opportunity to write mock blogs and news releases in the Public Relations Department. Finally, I comprised two potential community projects that stemmed from my being a part of the atmosphere of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

All of these opportunities became possible through my decision to become an intern once again despite having graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014. I refused to let my age or my pride get in the way of me learning. I now realize if you remain humble, you might even see things that you might have been too proud to see. This has been an enlightening and unforgettable experience, and being a part of the MMFA family has only added more significant meaning and value to one of my favorite childhood places growing up in the capital city.


Internship Opportunities

Curious about a career at an art museum? Click here to learn more about internship opportunities at the Museum.

Frank Fleming (1940–2018)

Jerry Siegel (American, born 1958), Frank Fleming, 2010, archival pigment print, Lent by the artist © jerrysiegel.com

On Sunday, March 18, 2018, renowned Alabama artist Frank Fleming passed away. Born in Bear Creek, Alabama (roughly 155 miles northwest of Montgomery) in 1940, Fleming experienced a typical farm-boy childhood surrounded by animals and constantly outdoors. As a child, Fleming stuttered, and as a result of being teased by other children, he often turned to animals for company. He has said he felt more at home with animals than people as a child.

Because of his love for animals, Fleming originally planned to be a biology major, but when he took an elective course in art and discovered his talent, he decided instead to get a BA in art. He graduated from Florence State College in 1962 and would go on to earn his Master of Arts (1969) and Master of Fine Arts (1973) from the University of Alabama. Unable to find a teaching job, Fleming put aside his teaching ambitions and moved to Birmingham where he began making functional and decorative pottery, continuing his sculptural work on the side.

Fleming preferred to work in porcelain, particularly Tennessee porcelain, but also tried bronze casting—like his work surrounding the Till Fountain. His ceramic pieces were entirely hand-built, and he rarely created conceptual sketches of his works before he began, preferring to watch his compositions evolve as he worked. During his time at Florence State College, Fleming used paints and colored glazes but switched to clear glaze over plain white porcelain when he began to produce pottery professionally. Eventually, he came to leave the surfaces of his works unglazed to make surface textures more palpable and immediate to the viewer.

Fleming’s sculptures are notable for their extreme veracity of detail which makes them highly realistic. The disjunction between the careful detailing and colorless surfaces of his works, however, lends a bizarre, and many times surreal, atmosphere to his pieces. Most of Fleming’s works center around anthropomorphized animals, human-animal hybrids, and other organic hybrids. Humor is a common undercurrent in many of his works which is sometimes ironic, sometimes whimsical, and sometimes directed at Southern culture.

In addition to being an outstanding and creative talent in our state, Frank Fleming was a good friend to the Museum. He consistently supported the Museum’s Art Auction fundraisers, and he was generous with his time in working with our educators and docents.  In addition to the Till Fountain, the Museum holds four other works by Fleming, including two porcelain sculptures that demonstrate his amazing facility in the use of clay.

Learn more

Artist Biography
Objects by the Artist

Our Work in the Schools

2017–2018 School Year

The close of the school year marks two milestones for the Museum—a successful first year of Becoming Alabama: A Cultural Legacy, a tour for Montgomery Public School fifth graders designed to celebrate the bicentennial of Alabama, and the fifth year of the Learning Through Art: Artist in Residence Program weekly art classes at Wares Ferry Road Elementary School. Both engage students in creating and responding to art while making important cross-curricular connections.

Becoming Alabama explores the narrative of Alabama history through art in the Museum’s galleries and creative activities. Learning Through Art incorporates student-led discussion and writing about art along with creating. A teacher at Wares Ferry, whose classroom is impacted by the program, recently encouraged the Museum to “continue to integrate art in all schools for tracking critical thinking skills.”

Teachers, for more information, please contact Kaci Norman at knorman@mmfa.org.

Sponsor
Learning Through Art is funded in part by a grant from the Central Alabama Community Foundation.

Green Foreground by Adolph Gottlieb

Green Foreground

Adolph Gottlieb (American, 1903–1974), Green Foreground, 1972, screen print on paper, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Lila Franco in memory of her husband, Ralph Franco, 2009.3.3

In 1951, prominent Abstract Expressionist painter Adolph Gottlieb began working on the series Imaginary Landscapes. The series started after a period of transition for the artist, as he approached ways of merging the ideas of Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism.

In Green Foreground, Gottlieb created an image that simultaneously functions as both an abstract composition and a visionary landscape. By splitting the image in two, the artist alludes to a horizon line while still presenting a flat image. There is no illusion of space; instead, each shape hovers on the same plane. The colors and imaginary terrain are reminiscent of his surroundings in Arizona, an area where Gottlieb lived for a brief period later in life.

The Essence of Form, on view Saturday, February 17, features works on paper from the Museum’s permanent collection, such as Green Foreground, that signify the exciting advances in American and international art as artists embraced non-representational imagery to evoke emotions or to explore purely formal concerns such as shapes and colors.

12 Things To Know Before Attending Art Auction 2018

We asked Contemporary Committee members Trey Sippial and Keven Belt what you should know before attending the 14th biennial Art Auction.

1. Help, I’ve never taken part in an art auction before!

Don’t stress! This is a safe place to try an auction out, we’ll have volunteer ‘bid buddies’ to help with bidding on your smartphone the night of the Auction, March 1. Plus, it’s going to be a fun party.

2. When does bidding start?

Silent auction items bidding begins February 16 at mmfaauction.com and ends on March 1.

3. Who selects the art?

For years, the Selection Committee has worked long months to build Art Auction collection. New this year, we were added as part of the Contemporary Committee. The members are a new part of the Selection Committee that is focused on finding works at an accessible price range that might appeal to younger buyers or fans of contemporary art.

4. I don’t have a lot of money to spend on art, why should I come?

The Contemporary Committee has selected some works that will open bidding at around $100, and a fair amount will likely sell for less than $1000.

5. Should I do any research in advance?

No prior research is necessary, but you can start browsing the auction items online and in the Museum’s galleries beginning February 16. Look for art that speaks to you.

6. How do I know that I’m getting a good value?

The selection committees consider this in the selection process. Artists’ resumes and career level are considered, along with a gallery’s reputation when selections come through a gallery.

7. Any budget advice?

There will be plenty of art that is very affordable with excellent values to be had.

8. Is it important to have a good poker face?

The vast majority of the items will be up for grabs during the silent auction, which is…silent. It is all very fun and most importantly a charity fundraiser for the Museum!

9. Should I be aggressive in my bidding?

Only if you want! (It is all for a very good cause.)

10. Any auction lingo I should brush up on?

None needed. The online auction is very easy and the live auction only requires paying attention to bids and bid increments of increase (which the bidder may set). It’s all made to be fun, and we’ll have volunteer ‘bid buddies’ to help with bidding on your smartphone!

11. Is there a work that you are particularly excited about?

“There is a lot of variety, but Melpomene by Cathy Locke is a piece that I have my eye on.” – Trey

12. Final thoughts?

We have hundreds of items in Art Auction inventory, from paintings in watercolor, oil, mixed media, sculpture in marble, bronze, and clay, decorative arts pieces, and jewelry. Artists are from all over the country, and we’re working with galleries from Santa Fe, New York, Charleston, and for the first time New Orleans.


Proceeds from the biennial Art Auction will directly benefit the Museum’s future acquisition, exhibition, and education programs for the River Region. We hope to see you there. Bid early and bid often to support your Museum and build your own art collection!

Click here to learn more about the evening.

Click here to purchase tickets for the event.

Museum Statement

Some stories have appeared on social media about three missing cards from an interactive piece in Uncommon Territory: Contemporary Art in Alabama. For those who are interested here is an overview of what happened.

In the exhibition, we chose to present a work designed by the artist to be interactive. The installation included a stereoscope viewer and a number of small, digitally printed stereoscopic cards, which the public was invited to handle and swap out in the machine. Unfortunately, someone took three of the seven cards from the display. While our security team is active and alert, these objects were small and the person was quick and deliberate in their actions. When we discovered the loss, we followed protocol by notifying the artist and reviewing our security footage but were unable to clearly identify the thief due to their posture. We did not file a police report since we could not track down the perpetrator, nor did the value of the loss warrant an insurance claim. We value the artist’s art and his contribution to the exhibition and felt a responsibility to him since we agreed to show the work without tethers, as the artist intended. We have removed the stereoscope from the installation and compensated the artist for the value of the set of the cards.

We regret that this theft occurred, but these risks are part of any interactive piece with small parts. Our security team does the very best it can, 24 hours a day, to protect the Museum, the artwork, and our visitors.

Giving Tuesday 2017

Photograph of girl in a studio class

I hope your Thanksgiving was amazing and filled with family, friends, and most important, love. I hope your Black Friday was fruitful and that you managed to shop local on Small Business Saturday. Thank goodness we are given Sunday as a day of reprieve, but today is Cyber Monday, and it’s time hunt deals, followed by Giving Tuesday, a time to give back!  But you don’t have to wait until Tuesday to support your favorite non-profit (hopefully the MMFA!)

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