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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 19thcentury 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)


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!


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.)


 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


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:

Expressive Evening blog4

“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)


“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


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



Thank You

Thank You for GivingThe Museum wants to thank everyone who contributed to the MMFA’s End of Year Campaign.

Your donations helped the MMFA end 2015 on a high note. The original fundraising goal for December was to raise $10,000 in order to maximize the $10,000 match graciously pledged to the Museum by Corrina and Barry Wilson.

Corrina and Barry have been major supporters of the Museum for many years and have contributed a $10,000 match to the MMFA’s End of Year fund for the last four. Their generous contribution is a wonderful example of the giving spirit.

I am proud to announce that we were able to significantly exceed our original goal. Thanks to overwhelming community support the MMFA raised more than $50,000!

These gifts help the Museum meet its mission of collecting, preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting art of the highest quality for the enrichment and enjoyment of the public.

Donations directly support the Museum’s mission by funding

  • relevant temporary exhibitions,
  • important art acquisitions,
  • renowned artists to teach area youth and adults,
  • And free admission for more than 160,000 museum visitors each year.

Thank you again to everyone who helped make the Museum’s End of Year Campaign a success.

Find out what’s happening at the museum this spring!

Jen Eitzmann
Development Officer

Donna Pickens is Moving On

BlogonDonnaDespite pleas from her co-workers, Donna Pickens retired from her more-than-fulltime position as Assistant Curator of Education for ARTWORKS, School, Family & Children’s Programs at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in December.

For 11 years, she designed the Museum’s studio programs and supervised the staff that delivered countless hands-on art lessons for children and adults. Donna co-authored the Museum’s well-respected fifth-grade tour curriculum, and she helped to organize family days and special events like Holiday Open House and the Flimp Festival. In addition, she managed the Museum’s ARTWORKS hands-on galleries (for which she created some of the exhibits), and she coordinated dozens of ARTWORKS corridor exhibitions of student art that were always cued to the Museum’s temporary exhibitions in order to help students explore the themes, techniques, and materials on display in the Museum’s galleries. Twice the U. S. Department of Education chose student art from Donna’s programs for a national exhibition in Washington, DC that was co-sponsored by the Association of Art Museum Directors.

In recent years Donna created a new, yearlong, artist-in-residence program for third and fourth graders at Wares Ferry Road Elementary using pilot-project funding from the Hearst Foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts. She designed (and staffed and supervised) a solid program that utilizes Visual Thinking Strategies to improve students’ creativity, perceptions, and verbal abilities. She also expanded the Museum’s outreach programs, adding one for the Alabama Department of Youth Services at Mt. Meigs that officials now seek to duplicate at other facilities.BlogPost.DonnaP

Donna’s engagement with adult artists was similarly deep and broad. She taught and coordinated countless evening and weekend workshops, including ARTtalk (with the Montgomery Art Guild), and Art Ed Central (with and for local art teachers). She has also coordinated a robust range of lessons for the annual Alabama Art Education Association meetings at the MMFA, and she has been active in national arts education organizations as well.

Museum director Mark Johnson said, “We will all miss Donna and her creativity, perseverance, and passion for art and art education. We are grateful for her decade of service to this Museum and our community and we wish her the best in her retirement.”

Donna earned an MFA at Georgia State University and taught art in Atlanta for nearly three decades before moving to Montgomery. She is an accomplished sculptor with public art commissions and an artist who has mastered a wide variety of techniques and materials. She looks forward to flexing her artistic muscles in retirement, while spending more time with family and friends.

Fortunately for Museum staff and visitors, Donna has agreed to continue working a couple of days a week for several months to sustain the popular Museum programs we have all come to expect. So, please wish Donna a happy retirement when you see her. But don’t dawdle. She’s got grandchildren to see and art to make.

Michael Panhorst
Curator of Art

Give a Community Gift

2015-12-05 15.49.18 MMFA GivingIt’s December, which means that people are looking to donate to charitable causes for a couple of reasons.

1) They are in the holiday spirit and they want to give freely of their time and money this time of year.

2) The end of 2015 is quickly approaching so it’s the last chance some have to make charitable contributions to causes they care about AND take advantage of the tax deductions that come with them.

Whichever category you fall into, we hope you will consider giving a gift to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

For 85 years, the Museum has been a cultural focal point in the City of Montgomery. With free admission, the Museum has been a gathering place in the community. It’s a place for young mothers to come and entertain their children for an afternoon without breaking the bank. It’s a place where high school students can come to learn about the history of art and can even earn college credits while they’re at it through the Museum’s A.P. Art History class. On opening nights, the Museum becomes a meeting place for the curious minds of Montgomery.

For those who can’t make it to the MMFA, the staff and volunteers bring the wonder and the knowledge of the Museum to underserved Montgomery area neighborhoods. These outreach classes teach students to use artistic exercises to work through emotions in a safe and healthy environment which ultimately leads to a positive and lasting impact on behavior.

The MMFA strives to be a place for the curious to gather regardless age, race, income, or social status, so this holiday season keep the Museum close to your heART and give a gift your whole community can enjoy. Make a donation to the MMFA today.

20151106_130225 for blogI heART the MMFA because…
There is beauty everywhere.. the building, paintings, sculptures, grounds, and people. Montgomery Alabama is very lucky to have this fabulous museum.


Jennifer Eitzmann
Development Officer

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