St. Patrick’s Day and why I love working at CMA

This morning, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be fun to see if there were any connections between our collection and Ireland. I emailed our curators to pose the question and their responses not only gave me the information I needed, but reminded me why I continue to love being a part of CMA after more than six years: I learned several new things this morning. Honestly, that is one of the largest reasons I being a part of the Museum continues to be rewarding for me.

So, after the initial “No, I don’t think we have anything in the collection tied to St. Patrick or to Ireland,” I got, “Well, now wait a minute, there is that painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds of Lady Gertrude Fitzpatrick, let me see…” And, as I sat on the phone and listened, “Huh, her father was John Fitzpatrick, 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory, oh, and look, his earldom was of the Irish Peerage.”

Great! I have my tie to Ireland, I’ll send out a quick message over Facebook and Twitter, oh, but hold on, there’s another email. “HENRI!!!!   His Fish Basket boy was done in Ireland, and he’s known for his portraits of Irish children.” Really, Robert Henri? But, I thought he was known for his works in New York? And here the flood gates open, “Well, I thought it was from NYC too, until Rachel Trinkley turned in her essay on the painting.  Excerpts below:

Robert Henri likely painted The Fish Basket during one of his extended stays in Ireland in the 1920s.  Henri and his wife Marjorie, an emigrant, first took an extended visit to the country in 1913.  They returned nearly ten years later, in 1924, at which point the couple purchased Corrymore House on Achill Island, County Mayo, off the northwest coast of the mainland.  Here, Henri spent a series of springs and summers depicting “…the Irish peasant, whose love, poetry, simplicity, and humor have enriched my existence, just as completely as though each of these people were of my own country and my own hearthstone.”

Fish Basket portrays a young boy with dark piercing eyes staring directly out from the picture, his rosy, vibrant complexion and protruding ears contrasting against the muddied background and dark palette of his clothes.  The boy holds a basket in his lap for collecting fish, his source of income.

Residents happily make the trek to Henri’s studio; he painted nearly 140 portraits during his time on the island.  Such shared love is felt in Henri’s portraits.  There is a vitality and energy present in the application of paint and in the matter-of-fact stares of the individuals. The portraits resonate emotionally with viewers; it is easy to like them.  Henri advocated the importance of emotions in The Art Spirit, the consummate teacher’s publication that, part-manual, part-manifesto, is still in print today.  “The man who wants to produce art must have the emotional side first,” wrote Henri.“The pictures which do not represent an intense interest cannot expect to create an intense interest.”

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
Nancy Colvin
Marketing and Communications Manager

Reynolds, Sir Joshua English Collina (Lady Gertrude Fitzpatrick) 1779

Henri, Robert American The Fish Basket 1926

We’re Moving In…

The art is back!  Masterpieces are currently being reinstalled in the renovated CMA. On a recent (unofficial, unsanctioned) tour of the Museum’s reinvigorated galleries, I got an exciting peek at the process of re-imaging our collection. In Derby Court, exquisite forms of glass in every hue in the oversize Crayola box covered the floor as staff meticulously cleaned and assembled Dale Chihuly’s magnificent End of Day sculpture. The entire process took the better part of a week but the end result is stunning.  Next to Derby Court, an impressive, new sculpture gallery has already blossomed in the West Hallway – the quirky Host by Elie Nadelman shares space with Medardo Rosso’s Head of a Young Woman and Auguste Rodin’s Torso of the Walking and more.  Down the hall in Gallery 1, preparators are making progress on bringing Bellows and the American Experience to life. It’s beginning to look a lot like a new CMA.

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
Melissa Ferguson
CMA Director of Marketing and Communications

Visiting our Sister City

A week ago I traveled via Rome to Genoa, Italy where I accompanied two of our European paintings, an 1888 Claude Monet view of The Mediterranean and a 1923 Chaim Soutine Landscape at Cagnes.  Both paintings are part of the exhibition organized by Linea d’ombra for the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa, Columbus’s Sister-City, titledThe Mediterranean: From Courbet to Monet to Matisse.

The exhibition opened on November 27 and will extend through May 1, 2011.  Incidentally, most museums now require a staff member to accompany paintings lent internationally; this applies nearly world-wide.  In my duties as courier, in Chicago I watched as both crated works were put on pallets in Alitalia’s air freight terminal and several hours later, from the passenger waiting area, I observed the freight pallets being loaded onto the Boeing 767, which flew to Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport.  Thankfully, I flew in the passenger compartment on a half-full flight.  Serving as a courier involves a great deal of waiting and Rome’s airport, especially its cargo terminal, was my first long spell waiting; waiting for Italian customs and Alitalia’s cargo crew to bring the pallet to the appointed spot to be unloaded.  On the same flight was the Registrar from the Joslyn Museum of Art in Omaha, Nebraska, which had lent a large Monet to the same exhibition.  Finally, after a few dicey moments with a new customs official, who seemed to be completely unaware of the international shipment of artwork for exhibitions as well as the duties of a courier (accompagnatorein Italian), the crated paintings were loaded into an unmarked van and we set off in a follow car on the six hour drive to Genoa.  In between dozing off and on, pit stops at the Italian equivalent of Speedway, numerous tunnels and falling darkness and rain, we arrived in Genoa around 7:30 PM.  Once our crated pictures had been safely locked away in the galleries at the Palazzo Ducale, it was off to the hotel, a hot shower, change of clothes, and a delicious meal of fettuccine with monk fish and artichokes at the hotel’s very good restaurant.

The next day was a free day since our crated paintings were required to acclimatize for at least 24 hours in their new locations.  Although It was raining, I set out with the Joslyn’s Registrar to explore the town and our first stop was the Jesuit church (the Gesù) near the Palazzo Ducale.  Someone later told me that this church is the most important Baroque (17th century) church outside Rome and I can well believe it.  Every surface of the interior is covered with multi-colored marble mosaic or gilt.  And the altarpieces, all recently restored, are magnificent masterpieces by Peter Paul Rubens, Simon Vouet, and Domenico Cresti, called Il Passignano.  Our next stop was the Palazzo Bianco and the Palazzo Rosso, two city museums on the Strada Nuova (now the Via Garibaldi) famed for their Renaissance and Baroque masterworks.  But surprises were in store even there.  The museums also contained a marble statue by the neoclassical artist Antonio Canova as well as two violins owned by Niccolò Paganini, who was born in Genoa, along with a collection of medals and awards the famous violinist garnered over his lifetime.  The one violin Paganini was called “the cannon” because of the great burst of music he could bring from it.  After the museums, we explored the small streets (called vico) that lead down towards Genoa’s old port.  Suffice it to say, it was interesting to see the narrow old streets and the microcosm of life there that appears to have changed little in the last several hundred years.  In the old port, we walked by the aquarium and shopping mall created for the 2004 Capital of Culture exposition.  After winding our way back to the centrally located hotel, I rested and later had what would be a very early 7:30 PM dinner with an old graduate school colleague, Timothy Standring, Curator of European art at the Denver Art Museum, who was in Genoa conducting on-going research on the Genoese artist Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione.  The dinner at Vico Palla, a well-known restaurant in the old port district, was fantastic—lots of fish, some raw and some cooked, pasta and pesto (a Genoese speciailty), and great house wine.

My final full day in Genoa began with the uncrating of our two paintings at the Palazzo Duccale.  All went smoothly and there were no problems to be found—a courier’s dream.  After that I had a meeting with Piero Boccardo, the Director of the Palazzo Bianco to discuss bringing a major loan to Columbus as a way of celebrating Genoa and Columbus’s Sister-City relationship and to help celebrate Columbus’s 2012 Bicentennial.  The meeting was fruitful and I am sure to write more about this in time.  After the meeting, Raffaella Besta, the museum’s Curator gave me tour of the Palazzo Rosso along with a stop on the rooftop observation deck, which afforded magnificent panoramic views of the city.  Fortunately it was a beautiful day well-suited for picture taking. Later in the day I trekked up to the principle railway station where a white marble statue of Christopher Columbus sits looking westward towards the port.  And later that evening while out walking with the Joslyn’s Registrar, we happened across two seemingly incongruous sights, the house of Christopher Columbus, now a national shrine, facing a sea of parked Vespas!  In Genoa, as in much of Europe, old and new live side-by-side.  Although I had to leave the next day for a rather grueling twenty-four hour multi-staged flight back to Ohio, I was grateful for having had the opportunity to visit Genoa, a city I look forward to visiting again.

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
Dominique H. Vasseur
CMA Curator of European Art

A sea of Vespas

Statue of Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus’s House

Palazzo Ducale by Day

Palazzo Ducale at night

The Port

View of Genoa from the roof of the Palazzo Rosso

Witnessing the Magic

Working at a museum means that the extraordinary can become the mundane. I sometimes lose sight of how special an art experience can be because it is part of my daily life. Today I had the chance to see art at CMA through a new set of eyes – my daughter’s.

Tate and her preschool class from Burbank Early Childhood School visited the Museum this morning and I joined her and her buddies on their Artful Adventure Safari. We sang songs and looked at art, and built castles and talked about art, ate snacks and invented new kinds of animals, climbed in tents and imagined all sorts of wonderful things.

I could see in her face and the faces of her friends that in their own, unique, 4-year-old way, they were connecting with art and enjoying being at the Museum. It was a magical morning. Tate’s favorite part of her Artful Adventures tour was “everything.”  When I asked her what she would tell her Dad and her friends at home about her adventure she said she would tell them “you should come to the museum.” That pretty much sums it up. What a treasure this very personal great experience with great art was.

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
Melissa Ferguson
CMA Director of Marketing

I had a great time Mom!

How do museum directors spend their weekends?

This past weekend, I traveled to Chicago for SOFA (Sculpture, Objects & Functional Art Fair). This was the 17th year of the event and it was incredible as always. While I was there, I stopped in to the Art Institute of Chicago and saw the coolest installation by Jitish Kallat titled Public Notice:3.

From the Art Institute’s website: “In the first major presentation in an American museum of Jitish Kallat’s work, the contemporary Indian artist has designed a site-specific installation that connects two key historical moments—the First World Parliament of Religions held on September 11, 1893, and the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on that very date, 108 years later. The resulting work, Public Notice 3, creates a trenchant commentary on the evolution, or devolution, of religious tolerance across the 20th and 21st centuries.”

Kallat has translated the text of a landmark speech given by Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament into an LED display on each of the 118 risers of the grand staircase. It is an incredibly powerful piece about religious tolerance that will be on display through May 1, 2011. I encourage you to see it if you’re in the Chicago area.

But now, I’d like to ask all of you a quesion. Have you seen an exhibition or work of art recently that has really moved you? I would love to “hear” your responses.

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
Nannette Maciejunes
CMA Executive Director

Jitish Kallat Public Notice:3

Jitish Kallat Public Notice:3

Jitish Kallat Public Notice:3

Jitish Kallat Public Notice:3

Worth the trip to Cincy

I recently had the good fortune to visit the Cincinnati Art Museum, where there is an important and stunning exhibition of six major full-length portraits and one seated portrait (the famous one of Mrs. Siddons) all by the 18th century English painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88).  The premise of the exhibition “Thomas Gainsborough & the Modern Woman,” which is based on Cincinnati’s own Portrait of Ann Ford, later Mrs. Thicknesse, is to bring attention to the fact that Gainsborough painted portraits of women other than aristocrats.  The subjects of these particular portraits were actresses, dancers, musicians and even courtesans.  Therefore, in an age and society bound by strict rules of decorum and an age in which women were generally expected to stay at home and raise the children, these works show Gainsborough’s willingness, delight even, in painting interesting, intelligent, “modern” women whose lives resonate with our own times.

The exhibition is the creation of Cincinnati’s curator of European art, Benedict Leca, who gave me a fascinating tour of his project.  There are loans from the Getty Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Huntington Collection, the Tate and National Gallery in London, the National Gallery of Washington, DC, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and from Cincinnati’s collection.  Almost all the portraits have recently been cleaned and I have to say they are knock-outs.  There is also a smaller component of the exhibition of a number of bust-length portraits of women by Gainsborough, which serves as a “coda” along with several 18th century dresses from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s collection.  Nice additions.

If you love beautiful, juicy painting (and this is Gainsborough at his best), portraits of intelligent, creative women in fabulous dresses, as well as seeing the 18th century in a fresh way, then you won’t want to miss this show.  It is on through January 2 when it goes to San Diego Museum of Art, where it will be shown from January 29 through May 1, 2011.  And there is a handsome catalogue with marvelous illustrations that accompanies the exhibition.

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation

Dominique Vasseur
CMA Curator of European Art

Way to go Nannette

Last night our Executive Director, Nannette Maciejunes, received a South Side Settlement House and Nationwide Easton Community Foundation Arts Freedom Award.

For any of you that have had the pleasure of meeting Nannette, you know that she is a tireless advocate for the arts in Columbus. Her enthusiasm and passion are infectious. As CCAD President Denny Griffith said, she is the greatest secular evangelist for the arts we have.

South Side Settlement House has created an event highlighting the importance of art in creating a climate of social justice and concern. It honors those who have utilized their talents to elevate the human condition through art.

Nannette was one of four recipients of the 2010 awards including Suanne Goings, a painter and mural artist, Chief Baba Shongo Obadina, a master plumber, community activist and artst, and John Sunami, a painter, sculptor, designer, and poet.

Congratulations to all the winners!

The staff of the Columbus Museum of Art

A Great Week for CMA

It has been a busy and exciting week. The Museum received  Proclamation from the City of Columbus recognizing CMA for our participation in the Museo Nacional de Belles Artes’  exhibition Centenario: Exposición Internacional: Del Pasado al Presente in Santiago, Chile. And yesterday, I attended the YWCA’s Annual Woman to Woman event which brings together 1,000 women, spanning generations and backgrounds, to learn more about the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women—and how they can be part of it.

The event was incredibly energizing. Throughout the event, we were asked to examine how one individual reaching out to another individual actually creates a ripple effect that impacts and changes the lives of many people. And it’s true, each action we take toward another individual has the capacity to affect everyone in their lives.

I was able to talk to many women at the event and brainstorm ideas about how the Museum and our new Center for Creativity might be one of those catalyst for change in the lives of the people we touch. I’m excited about the many possibilities.

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
Nannette Maciejunes
CMA Executive Director

CMA Board Member Recognized for Community Commitment

This week I had the pleasure of attending a SalvationArmy event honoring Barbara and Al Siemer and the Siemer Family Foundation with the 2010 Need Knows No Season Award for their “unselfish, ongoing commitment and dedication to improving the lives of youth in our community.”

The Siemers are longtime supporters of the Museum. Barbara serves on our Board of Trustees and generously gives of her time and talents to support the Museum and our mission.

We are very proud of all of our Trustees and the work they do not only at the Museum, but throughout our community. Congratulations to Barbara, Al and the Siemer family.

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
Nannette Maciejunes
CMA Executive Director

Salvation Army Need Knows No Season Event

Creativity Summit

Okay, how do I describe what just happened at the Museum?  Well, the words that pop in my head aren’t quite right…magical (too corny), profound (too academic), engaging (too general), serious (too, well, serious), so I will use the word my six-year-old favors when something has “rocked his world.”  What happened at the museum was AWESOME!

The Creativity Summit was three jam-packed days (October 14, 15 and 18) dedicated to focusing on, fostering and championing creativity in central Ohio. In addition, it was the débutante ball for our new Center for Creativity.  From an institutional standpoint, the summit was a great success—over 1,000 people attended nine different events. Workshops united teens and seniors, attorneys and teachers, and advocates with skeptics. The viewpoints that emerged were thoughtful, funny, respectful, and poignant. What more could an art museum that values creativity and conversation ask for?

But for me, it went much deeper than the institutional impact.  The summit had an effect on me personally.  There are so many moments that I will treasure. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. During the Creativity in Your Life panel discussion, moderator Artie Isaac asked the panelists about creativity and school.  The genius Liz Lessner (CEO of the Betty’s Family of Restaurants and a certain hero of mine) admitted that she struggled in school.  The school system didn’t know what to do with her – how true that rings with so many of us!
  2. My favorite question during the Imagination Conversation was in response to Express CEO Michael Weiss’s comment that creativity needs purpose. Someone in the audience asked, “Isn’t there value in purposelessness?!” After Michael and Cleveland Clinic Innovations Executive Director Chris Coburn made an amazing case for purposeful creativity, it was Project Runway finalist Althea Harper who said that sometimes she self-imposes insanely purposeless projects (like drawing MANGA) that ironically manifest into great moments of purposeful creativity! The panel was almost poetic in the way they wove their viewpoints together.
  3. I remember the audible gasp when Peter Cunningham, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education, said that by some estimates 50% of our current teachers will retire in the next ten years. The pressure is on the next generation of teachers to foster the creativity our children will need to succeed.
  4. During the Creative Educator keynote address, speaker George Szekely posed the question, what do you collect? How do we share with our students the things that bring us wonder and awe? I was a former student of Dr. Szekely’s and I realized that he had asked me that question nearly twenty years ago and empowered me to hold onto and grow my View-Master slide and Thermos collections (among others—though I didn’t need much encouragement!) Now, maybe the art museum has become the place where I share what is wondrous to me.
  5. I ran into a co-worker who had just left screenwriter, director, and professor Antwone Fisher’s breakout session, during which he told his life story. She point blank said, “He just changed my life! His stories made me cry but his message has me reflecting on what imprint I will leave behind.”  Her sincerity has triggered my own self reflection – talk about a ripple effect!
  6. At the Creative Docent, Delaware Art Museum Executive Director Danielle Rice had drawn the most brilliant PowerPoint slide.  The image captured all the “messages” a painting has to tell, like the artist’s biography, but juxtaposed the painting with the thoughts swimming inside the head of a thirteen-year-old boy.  The creative task of the docent is to facilitate meaning between his world and the painting’s world.

I will stop here.  Click here to watch these sessions yourself. Did you attend? Please add your memories and comments here below. Together we can not only reflect and grow, but also create a map for the ways an art museum can and should nourish our creativity.

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
Cindy Foley
CMA Director of Education