Above: Photograph of the 2019 installation of the exhibition 43rd Montgomery Art Guild Museum Exhibition at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.
Mission + Vision Statement
Looking at our current and future purpose and practice, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts envisions a thriving organization, one that stewards its public and private assets—art, finances, facility, and people—responsibly and with an eye to sustainability, and provides compelling experiences centered on human creativity valued for their significant contributions to the individual well-being of its citizens and visitors and to the rising vibrance of the City, County, and Region.
The Museum opened its doors in 1930. Below are a selection of milestones that helped shape today’s MMFA.
The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1930 by artist John Kelly Fitzpatrick, Mrs. Harry S. Houghton, and the “Morning View Painters” in an abandoned school building provided by the City of Montgomery at an annual rent of one dollar.
The MMFA opened in Blount Cultural Park. Key features of this 43,000 square foot facility include: spacious changing exhibition and permanent collection galleries made possible by generous gifts from the Museum’s most steadfast individual and corporate arts patrons, including the Blackmon family; Blount, Inc. and The Blount Foundation; Durr Fillauer Medical, Inc.; the Alagold Corporation and Alan Goldman; the Hudson family; the Kershaw Manufacturing Company; the Newman family; Fred Richard, Jr.; Rushton, Stakely, Johnston, & Garett, P.A.; and the Weil family. Other distinguishing features include ArtWorks, the Wilson Auditorium, and the Hobbes Library.
Jim and Joan Loeb began to donate a collection of First Period Worcester Porcelain, building on a Worcester tea service given to the Museum by Jim’s parents, Lucien and Helen Loeb, in 1968. By 2007, the younger Loebs had given nearly 100 porcelain pieces to the Museum.
The Museum was awarded its first reaccreditation from the American Association of Museums (AAM). AAM accreditation was first awarded to the MMFA in 1978, just a few years after the inception of the program—the highest mark of distinction in the museum field.
A generous gift from stalwart Museum supporter Ida Belle Young allowed the Museum to add a 5,000 square foot wing for art exhibition.
MMFA Director Brooks Joyner departed after more than six years of thoughtful leadership and helping transition the Museum from downtown to Blount Cultural Park. Longtime Deputy Director Gracie Hanchrow served as Interim Director.
The Till Garden and Fountain were installed on Parker Terrace, overlooking Newell Lake.
Mark Johnson was appointed director. Over the course of his tenure, Mark would go on to shape the institution in many ways, including two expansions; the establishment of a Studio Art Glass collection, now numbering 52 pieces; and the acquisition of 100 photographs by a renowned photographer, Yousuf Karsh.
The Museum opened the Weil Graphic Arts Study Center in honor of Adolph “Bucks” Weil, Jr., a noted collector of important Old Master prints. Bucks and his wife Jean—both recognized as visionary philanthropists—established the Weil Print Fund in 1980, on the occasion of the Museum’s 50th anniversary. Today’s Weil Collection now numbers 500 works, a combination of purchases from the family’s fund and gifts from Bucks and his estate. The Weil Print Fund continues to assist the Museum in acquiring works that broaden or deepen the import of our Old Master print holdings.
Senior Curator Margaret Lynne Ausfeld contributed significantly to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American Art’s landmark exhibition, Edward Hopper: The Watercolors, as well as to its accompanying publication of the same name.
After more than two decades of caring for 38 twentieth-century American masterworks on loan from Auburn University’s art collection, the Museum returned those paintings in preparation for the opening of AU’s new Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art.
The MMFA was awarded its second reaccreditation from the American Association of Museums (AAM).
The generous and gracious MMFA patron Ida Belle Young passed away, leaving the Museum a substantial endowment for the acquisition of “traditional American art.” Since then, ten works have been purchased with funds from the endowment, each of which broadens or deepens our holdings in a significant way. Three of the most significant acquisitions, Francoise in Green, Sewing, by Mary Cassatt (acq. 2009); Edmonia Lewis’ Hiawatha’s Marriage (acq. 2012); and Ozark Autumn by Thomas Hart Benton (acq. 2015), are mentioned in this timeline.
The Museum added 23,000 square feet, which doubled the size of ArtWorks, provided two new studios for classes, and added the Margaret Berry Lowder Gallery (which includes Stars Falling on Alabama, a series of window panels commissioned from glass artist Cappy Thompson), the Jean Weil Gallery, and the Wynona Wilson Gallery.
The Museum published American Paintings from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, the most comprehensive volume yet to emerge from our robust publications program. The volume chronicles the story of the Museum’s growth and patronage and provides a catalogue of the most significant American paintings in the collection.
The Museum secured its first acquisition using funds from Ida Belle Young: Francoise in Green, Sewing, (1908–1909) by Mary Cassatt. This American master of the seminal Impressionist style in France reflected the same trailblazing spirit and dedication to excellence as Young herself.
The Museum made good use of the Ida Belle Young Fund to extend its reflection on Native American narratives with the addition of sculptor Edmonia Lewis’ Hiawatha’s Marriage, a marble figurative group the Native American and African American artist created in 1868.
African art collectors Dileep and Martha Mehta gave the Museum a group of 37 works from their collection. They continued to make gifts of African art to the Museum in 2015 and 2016.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches—watershed moments of the Civil Rights Movement—the MMFA presented the exhibition and accompanying publication History Refused to Die: Alabama’s African-American Self-Taught Artists in Context, in collaboration with the Souls Grown Deep Foundation and the Alabama Contemporary Arts Center.
The Museum once again employed the Ida Belle Young Fund to acquire the work of another American master, Thomas Hart Benton, who—before this acquisition of an oil and tempera on wood panel—was represented in the MMFA collection by works for which he is lesser-known, monochromatic lithographs. Painted in 1949, Ozark Autumn perfectly represents Benton’s gift for capturing the character of America’s regional landscapes and its inhabitants.
Mark Johnson retired after 23 years as the Museum’s director. In commemoration, the Museum honored the contributions of its longest-serving chief executive by carving Mark’s name and years of service on the stone lintel above the MMFA’s main entrance and by naming him the Museum’s first director emeritus.
Ed Bridges, director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History for 30 years, deferred the many research projects of his retirement to serve as interim director of the Museum.
The MMFA was a major lender to an exhibition by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM; formerly the National Museum of American Art), Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor. The MMFA’s works featured prominently in the accompanying, eponymous catalogue. Senior Curator Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, along with other trailblazing Traylor scholars, presented at the Between Worlds symposium hosted at SAAM.
The John and Joyce Caddell Sculpture Garden opened to great fanfare after years of planning, fundraising, land preparation, and construction. A gallery set in nature, the Caddell Sculpture Garden’s inaugural exhibition included works by artists of local and international distinction. Vince Buwalda’s whimsical The Children’s Gate also premiered in the Sculpture Garden, marking the entrance into ArtWorks’ outdoor studio space.
The first permanent addition to the Sculpture Garden, Untitled (Nymph), bears an inscription noting the significance of Virginia Weil’s place in the history of the Museum. The bronze figure that once graced Virginia’s own garden was a recent gift to the Museum by Weil’s children in memory of their parents.
Returning to where her career began more than 25 years ago, Angie Dodson was appointed to serve as the Museum’s first female director. In her earliest months on the job, Angie guided the Board and staff towards a new Strategic Plan, a critical leadership and management tool and the one outstanding document required for reaccreditation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM; formerly the American Association of Museums).
The MMFA’s third reaccreditation was awarded by AAM after a two-year process led by staff and Board, positioning the Museum to remain in good professional standing until 2028!
The MMFA made a historic acquisition of works of African American Artists from Alabama from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.
Upon Alabama’s bicentennial, the MMFA’s From Southern Shores to Northern Vales: Alabama Landscapes, 1819–1969 opened as the third and final bicentennial exhibition, following 2017’s Sewn Together: Two Centuries of Alabama Quilts and 2017–2018’s Uncommon Territory: Contemporary Art in Alabama. A three-day symposium, Bearing Witness: Art of Alabama, also commemorated the bicentennial. The exhibition and symposium were exceedingly well received, like so many of the curatorial and educational programs the Museum has offered over the years.