Q & A with Art Historian and Author Bridgette Alexander


Bridgette Alexander

Art Historian Bridgette R. Alexander recently debuted her first young adult mystery novel Southern Gothic, which tells the story of 16-year-old Celine Caldwell as she uncovers mystery, theft, intrigue, murder, and blackmail at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We chatted with Alexander in advance of her appearance next week at the Bexley Library.

You spent a large part of your career working in the art world. When did you first become interested in art? And what inspired you to start writing? 

My great-grandfather was a visual artist. My grandmother showed me one of his works and asked me to draw it. I was about eight years old and I made a good reproduction of a pencil drawing. My grandmother felt I had a gift passed down from her father to me. That inspired her and my grandfather to support my art education and submissions to juried competitions through my high school years. I did well enough to keep myself motivated during that time. I attended, Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago, which was a school for performing arts.

Later I entered college hoping to become an archeologist, but my art history courses at Columbia University convinced me that you can study history, culture, society and politics as a part of studying art. I also learned that you could make a good living and a contribution to society by writing about art in books and journals.

Talk a little about how popular culture has influenced your creative decisions.

As a scholar and art historian I pay very little attention to popular culture. With that said, as a novelist and everyday person, I am very much aware of popular culture: TV, movies, books, videos, tastes and styles that are editorialized in magazines, newspapers and blogs. However, I am also aware of what demographics, subjects and interests are not as prominently represented in popular culture. That’s where Celine Caldwell comes in. With her I get to connect art history with the culture and the lifestyle of contemporary teenager. Celine is defined by downloading, streaming, listening, interacting through all of the platforms of popular culture.

Allow me to go back to what’s left out of our popular culture. Teenagers never get to imagine themselves as agents. I mean, capable of changing the world around them, as engaged and interested in things outside of themselves. Celine never leaves popular culture, but in fact she actively uses the tropes of popular culture to work through the challenges she’s facing.

Your book discusses issues, such as racism. How do you think art contributes to the understanding of history?

“Racism” is a bit of an abstract way to say it. One part of Southern Gothic discusses injustices against a black family during the bad days in the South when racial Jim Crow laws were being passed to keep black people out of public life and control their lives as much as possible…and a lot was possible. For me, what makes it racism, is not the bigot who murders and steals, but the institutions that have been set up to allow the bigot to act out. The institutions uphold the hateful and terrorist acts of the bigot, making it impossible for justice to be given.

The Klan was terrorizing black people and some white people too. The black family in Southern Gothic became landowning farmers, which was the case for about 10 percent of formerly enslaved people in some southern states; and this factional family lost its land to Klan thieves. The subplot of Southern Gothic brings this family to life, I hope, using a diary format and these paintings of them and their land. These figures are actually in a contemporary art mystery set at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and New York City.

Why do you think it is important for teenagers to learn about art, and how do you hope the Celine Caldwell series will inspire them?

Teenagers do not need to learn about art, but when they do….. But it is important for teenagers to see that there are exciting possibilities in life…possibilities for passionate engagements, for relationships, for careers, and for hobbies. Learning about art and the art works is a great way to be exposed to new possibilities.

Alexander will discuss Southern Gothic at the Bexley Library Thursday July 14 from 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM.


Album Covers as Art: Q&A with the Owners of Spoonful Records


Spin Art, a partnership between Columbus Museum of Art and local record store Spoonful Records, is on view through August 21 in the JPMorgan Chase Center for Creativity. The exhibition exemplifies CMA’s commitment to creativity and explores the idea that album covers inspire creative innovation through the union of music and visual arts. Below is an excerpt of an interview with the owners of Spoonful Records, Brett Ruland and Amy Kesting.

Where did your love of vinyl and all things vintage come from?
BRETT: Album covers are the thing that got me interested in art when I was a kid. I could just stare at them for hours while listening to the music play. My brothers and sisters had records I could enjoy, but I started collecting vinyl when I was around 19. I would mostly find things at yard sales and secondhand shops. It was an inexpensive way to collect records and take chances on music sometimes based solely on the album covers.
AMY: I grew up with vinyl, but moved to cassettes, CDs and MP3s as they became popular. I got back into vinyl when Brett opened the record store, and it’s been 100% vinyl ever since. It never disappoints. There are so many things that ONLY came out on vinyl. Every day at the store, I can discover something new that I’ve never seen or heard before.

If you could own any album cover ever made what would you want and why?
BRETT: I would love to own the original artwork for Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” album cover. I believe it was still hanging on his wall at the time of his death. There is something very Magritte-meets-Dali about the album cover.

Your love of vintage and art extends into your wardrobe. Who are you wearing?
BRETT: a vintage Munsingwear cardigan and checkered Vans shoes.
AMY: Ramones t-shirt, bluejeans from Anthropology, Crocs (because my chiropractor says so.)

Spoonful and CMA are both part of the downtown community. What’s your favorite part of the neighborhood?
BRETT: I would have to say the Topiary Park behind the Library. You can really get inside Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte.” That is where Amy and I had our first date and where I eventually asked her to marry me.
AMY: I love the red ART arch. It’s like a beacon of hope.

Who’s your favorite visual artist and why? Who’s your favorite musician and why?
AMY: In both music and art, I prefer the women: Frida Kahlo, Alice Neel, Gillian Welch, Joni Mitchell, Letta Mbulu, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone.
BRETT: Henri Toulouse-Lautrec is one of my favorite visual artists–great use of perspective, color, text, movement, and lighting!
AMY: That’s a really hard question to ask record store owners, but Brett really gets into the power pop musicians: Dwight Twilley, Thin Lizzy, Big Star, Badfinger. He loves Harry Nilsson, Belle and Sebastian, Al Stewart, Joe Jackson, Eric Carmen, Small Faces, The Zombies, The Seeds, Them, and early garage rock. He loves bands with a good story, like when KISS visited a high school in Cadillac, Michigan, or when Nilsson and Lennon sang against each other until they coughed up blood.
BRETT: Amy loves Joni Mitchell like a mother and talks about her like they are best friends. Joni’s life has been really inspiring to Amy, especially the self-portraits that grace many a cover of Joni’s albums. Every once in a while, Amy sits down in front of her easel and paints and will dabble for a couple of hours; I think that’s when she’s happiest.

Tell your favorite celebrity sighting story.
BRETT: One time, about a decade ago, I was at North Market and saw Jonathan Richman (of the Modern Lovers.) I was so excited to see him, I walked right up to him and said, “Hi Jonathan! Are you playing at Little Brothers tonight?” And he was like, “yeah.” And I said, “Okay, see you there!”
AMY: I lived in Chicago in 1999 and worked at Pearl Art and Craft Supply. Rod Stewart and his posse came in and bought rolls of white paper to hang up on his hotel room windows. He was quite short and perfectly coiffed for an afternoon of running errands.
BRETT: One time at Spoonful, I was being interviewed by a college kid about the store, and meanwhile two guys came in and started chatting with my dad who works here, too. I overheard my dad ask them what band they were in, and Taylor Hawkins says, “Foo Fighters.” My dad replied, “Oh yeah, we have that.” And he showed them that we had the Foo Fighters vinyl in stock. That was pretty cool.

2016 CMA Docent Opportunities

Docents at CMA

Columbus Museum of Art is recruiting 2016 prospective docents for a training class this September through January.

Do you like to…..

Explore art and big ideas?

Engage the community?

Inspire creativity?

If you answered “YES,” consider becoming a CMA docent!

Docents are volunteer gallery facilitators who guide visitors in exploring big ideas, sharing points of view, and wondering about art. Docents ensure great experiences for CMA visitors of all ages, including 15,000+ K-12 students from all over Columbus.

Benefits of becoming a docent include curatorial and guest lectures, interactions with contemporary artists, social events and art-focused trips, access to unique museum resources, discounts at the Museum store and cafe, plus more.

Becoming a docent involves a comprehensive five-month training process where candidates learn touring strategies to engage visitors in interactive conversations, research and study art in the Museum’s collection, and explore 21st century educational philosophies. No previous art knowledge is necessary, but curiosity and commitment to learning is required.

Docent candidates must commit to two years of touring and continuing education after their completion in training. Graduates will join one of the most dedicated and passionate groups of volunteers in central Ohio.

Prospective Docent Info Sessions will be held in the CMA Auditorium the following days:
Thursday, July 14, 5:30 PM-6:30 PM
Tuesday, July 19, 11:00 AM-12:00 PM

Current docents and museum staff will be available to share more about the program, answer questions, and explain the docent training process.

For more information and to apply, download the 2016-2017 CMA Docent Information Sheet, then complete a Docent Program Application.

Applications are due on July 27, 2016. Interviews will begin in early August. Those accepted into the program will be notified by August 19, 2016.

Please contact Megan Moriarty, Docent Programs Coordinator, at megan.moriarty@cmaohio.org  with additional questions about the program.

CMA Walter Wing Opens to Rave Reviews

Columbus Museum of Art Walter Wing Grand Opening

It’s been an amazing year capped off by the opening of the Columbus Museum of Art new Margaret M. Walter Wing, named Best Architecture of 2015 by the Wall Street Journal. During the opening of the new Walter Wing October 22-25, CMA welcomed 15,000 visitors. Here’s a round-up of press stories and what people are saying about #newcma.

“With its abundant natural light, soaring ceilings and contemporary design, the addition is a physical statement about the museum’s place in the city (and the city’s place in the museum).”
The New Columbus Museum of Art: An Illustrated Guide, Columbus Monthly, October 2015

The new Walter Wing is “a meeting point between art, the public, and the physical city.”
With Custom Designed Galleries and Cinematic Facades, Columbus Museum of Art Opens New Wing, Hyperallergic, October 22, 2015

“The new wing is all about connections, old and new, audience and collection, art and community.”
New CMA Ready for Grand Opening, Columbus Underground, October 22, 2015

“Congratulations to those involved in the project and to all art lovers in Central Ohio on having a vibrant new showcase for art.”
Museum Wing a Work of Art, Columbus Dispatch, October 25, 2015

“With lofty ceilings, an abundance of natural light, and copper and limestone interior, the contemporary design focuses on creating a place that inspires and connects all of Columbus.”
Columbus Museum of Art’s New Addition, CMA’s Nannette Maciejunes and New Wing Architect Michael Bongiorno on WOSU Allsides with Ann Fisher, October 26, 2015

“If you care about art… this should be a no-brainer. Don’t think twice about it. Go.”
Newly Completed Expansion Gives Columbus Museum of Art a Welcoming Wow Factor, The Plain Dealer, October 28, 2015.

“The two exhibits on display highlight Columbus’ long-standing connection to the masters of modern art while hinting at the museum’s potential as a force to be reckoned with in art presentation in the Midwest.”
2 Inaugural Displays at Columbus Museum of Art Set High Mark, Columbus Dispatch, November 1, 2015

“You’re going to discover a contemporary collection you did not know we had.”
New Wing of Columbus Museum of Art, Broad and High, November 11, 2015

With a new wing and significantly augmented gallery space, the museum will have more beautifully modern space to showcase its collection of 13,500 artworks.”
Columbus Museum of Art Adds Bold New Expansion to its 1931 Building, Architectural Digest, November 20, 2015

“The Columbus Museum of Art’s beautiful expansion creates a space for contemporary art that beckons visitors.”
Modern Love, Ohio Magazine, December 2015

New Walter Wing Named Best Architecture of 2015
Their Modesty Becomes Them, Wall Street Journal, December 17, 2015

Voted Best Arts and Culture Institution 2015
“For the second year in a row, our readers selected the Columbus Museum of Art as their number one destination for culture in the city, and for very good reason. The CMA just completed a major renovation project in October and re-opened to the public with an expanded space showcasing more modern and contemporary art. If you haven’t been to see the new wing, it should be on your to-do list for 2016.”
Best Arts and Culture Institutions 2015, Columbus Underground, December 28, 2015


New Museum Sculpture Garden


We’re excited to announce our new sculpture garden will be named the Patricia M. Jurgensen Sculpture Garden, to be known as Patty’s Garden, in honor of Patricia M. “Patty” Jurgensen. Patty Jurgensen, long-time CMA Trustee and co-chair of the Museum’s Art Matters Endowment and Capital Campaign, passed away in February of this year.

Patty Jurgensen was passionate about art and about preserving the Museum for future generations.

She was elected to the Columbus Museum of Art Board of Trustees in 2001. She served as Secretary of the Board in 2006 and 2007 and as Vice President from 2008 – 2010. With their Co-Chairs Ann S. and Thomas E. Hoaglin, Patty and her husband Jerry Jurgensen, former CEO of Nationwide, led the Art Matters campaign, the largest fundraising campaign in the Museum’s history.

“I’m incredibly sad that Patty won’t be here to celebrate the opening of the new wing she helped build, but to name the garden after her is incredibly important,” said Nannette V. Maciejunes, CMA Executive Director. “Patty’s Garden is a warm, welcoming space. I imagine a great deal of life happening here, lunches with friends on the patio, quiet walks through the birches, and weddings on the lawn. I think Patty would appreciate that.”

The new garden, located on the north side of the Museum, was designed by MKSK, a Columbus-based landscape architecture firm. The garden features four sections: the patio located off the Museum’s new restaurant, Schokko Art Café, the Sycamore Grove, the Event Lawn and the Birch Walk.

Patty’s Garden will also be home to several works from the Museum’s collection including: Susan Philipsz’s Study for Strings the first sound sculpture in CMA’s collection, Aristide Maillol’s The Mountain, and George Rickey’s Two Lines Up Excentric Variation VI.

The garden’s sustainable design and water conservation features have earned it a Green Spot designation by the City of Columbus. Patty’s Garden uses native and naturalized plant material, features crushed aggregate paving that is permeable and reduces runoff, and also has water retention system.

Patty’s Garden, along with the Museum’s new Margaret M. Walter wing, will open to the public with a Community Grand Opening, presented by PNC Arts Alive on Sunday, October 25. The event marks the completion of the third and final phase of the Museum’s Art Matters campaign.

(Photo: by Brad Feinknopf of the new sculpture garden and Aristide Maillol’s The Mountain).

Columbus Museum of Art Announces Margaret M. Walter Wing


We’re thrilled to announce that the new wing will be named the Margaret M. Walter Wing in recognition of Robert D. and Margaret “Peggy” Walter’s transformational $10 million donation to the Columbus Museum of Art. The Walters’ donation remains the largest gift in the Museum’s history and became the foundation for the Museum’s Art Matters Endowment and Capital Campaign.

The Walters are long-time supporters of the Museum. Peggy Walter began leading Museum tours as a CMA docent in 1971 and later joined the Museum’s Women’s Board auxiliary. She has also helped guide the Museum as a member of the Board of Trustees since 1994.


“Bob and Peggy’s gift was a watershed moment for the Columbus Museum of Art,” said CMA Executive Director Nannette V. Maciejunes. “It was the foundational gift that allowed us to launch the Art Matters campaign and position the Museum for the 21st century. Bob and Peggy have been part of the Museum family since they were a young couple starting a family and building a business. Their gift speaks to the power and importance of developing relationships and building trust. They took a remarkable leap of faith by making the very first donation to our campaign based on their belief in the Museum and our vision for the future.”

The following organizations and individuals have given $1 million or more to the Art Matters Endowment and Capital Campaign and will also be recognized in the building: American Electric Power Foundation, Cardinal Health Foundation, City of Columbus, JP Morgan Chase, Loann Crane, The Crane Family, Jeffrey and Lisa Edwards Family, Franklin County Board of Commissioners, Ann and Tom Hoaglin, Huntington Bank, Patty and Jerry Jurgensen, Bob and Mary Kidder, Anne Harris Melvin, Nationwide Foundation, Ron and Ann Pizzuti, Elizabeth M. Ross, Ellen and David Ryan, Geraldine Schottenstein Hoffman and Martin Hoffman, William and Sarah Ross Soter, Al and Barb Siemer, Skestos Family Foundation, State of Ohio, Dr. Albert W. van Fossen, The Wexner Family and L Brands Foundation, and Robert F. and Edgar T. Wolfe Foundation.

The new wing will open to the public with a Community Grand Opening, presented by PNC Arts Alive on Sunday, October 25. The event marks the completion of the third and final phase of the Museum’s Art Matters campaign.

The project encompasses major renovations to the Ross Wing and lobby area the Museum added in 1974 and the construction of a new wing. These changes will result in a unique meeting and special event complex, as well as new gallery spaces to showcase the Museum’s permanent collection and expanded space for high-profile traveling exhibitions.