The rhythm of life

It’s amazing to me how much the smallest changes in routine can impact our lives. The last few months I’ve been feeling like something was out of kilter. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but yesterday I finally realized what had thrown me off balance.

The Museum has developed a rhythm over the years. Every three to four months, we have a new exhibition opening and celebrate with a special preview for our members. These events have become so much a part of our lives here at CMA that, with the recent renovations, their absence impacted me more than I realized.

I’m happy to say that last night, we got back into the swing of things. Although we’re still a few months away from unveiling our renovated Elizabeth M. and Richard M. Ross building, we opened our The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis last night.  It’s a fantastic show, and I hope you’ll all see it while it’s here as we are the last U.S. venue for the exhibition. It was great to share the exhibition, and the special performance of our Complaints Choir, with the 500 members who joined us.

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

100 years of history

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Santiago, Chile for the opening of the Museo Nacional de Belles Artes’s  exhibition Centenario: Exposición Internacional: Del Pasado al Presente. The exhibition celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Museo.

One hundred years ago, the United States was one of seventeen countries invited to present exhibitions at the grand opening of the Museo Nacional de Belles Artes in Santiago, Chile. When the museum announced that the same countries who participated in the inaugural exhibition would be invited to present the centennial exhibition, the U.S. Embassy in Santiago contacted Dr. Wayne P. Lawson, then executive director of the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) and now director emeritus of OAC and board member of the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA). The Embassy asked Dr. Lawson to produce an exhibition to represent the U.S. at the centennial. In addition, the Embassy gave OAC one of the largest grants it has ever awarded to support the creation and installation of the exhibition.

“In the wake of globalization, art is the great engine of mutual understanding that connects the world and empowers societies,” said Dr.Lawson. “Through art, through this exhibition, people will learn a great deal about us as a society and the changes that have taken place over the last 100 years.  To understand each other’s culture is to respect each other.”

Dr. Lawson invited myself  and James M. Keny, co-owner of Keny Galleries, to curate the show.

I cannot tell you how proud I am to have the Columbus Museum of Art represent the United States in this wonderful exhibition

Jim and I  created 100 Years of North American Art to highlight North American artists’ responses to the myriad social challenges and changes particular to their periods of the century. Over the course of the twentieth century, artists in the United States experienced major social issues and changes, encompassing, among others, labor, immigration, and human rights.

And, of course, I took pictures while we were there to share the moment with all of you.

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

Exhibition Banners at the Museo Nacional de Belles Artes

Inside the Museo Nacional de Belles Artes

Another interior picture of the Museo

Our exhibition at the Museo Nacional de Belles Artes

Arts Alive in Columbus

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the PNC Foundation’s PNC Arts Alive event. Thirteen area arts groups with innovative ideas for reaching new audiences were awarded grants of a combined total of $500,000. I am very happy to say that the Columbus Museum of Art was a recipient, which means that next summer, we will once again be able to present our Summer Fun initiative that provides free admission to the Museum throughout the months of July and August.

I would also like to congratulate the other recipients including: The Arts Castle of Delaware, CAPA, Carpe Diem String Quartet, CATCO-Phoenix, Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus, the King Arts Complex, the Lancaster Festival, Mad River Theater Works, the Midland Theatre, Shadowbox, the Westerville Symphony, and Zanesville Museum of Art.

And kudos to PNC for a wonderful event and for investing in our cultural community.

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

City Councilmember Priscilla Tyson, CMA Executive Director Nannette Maciejunes and City Councilmember Eileen Paley

Joy Gonsiorowski, City Councilmember Priscilla Tyson, Michael Gonsiorowski, PNC central Ohio regional president

Historic Broad Street Museum Building Named Ross Building

Often, just at a moment when you are forging into the future, you find yourself reflecting on your past. As the Columbus Museum of Art enters a new era, we honor our past by proudly announcing that our newly renovated historic 480 East Broad Street building will now by known as the Elizabeth M. And Richard M. Ross Building.

The Ross family has been an integral force in transforming the Columbus Museum of Art into a major cultural institution. In the 1960s, Elizabeth Ross led the Board of Managers, who ran the day-to-day affairs of the Museum, before joining the Board of Trustees in 1965, and becoming the first woman president of the Board in 1975. She is also one of our longest serving trustees as well as a founding member of our Women’s Board auxiliary. The family, inspired by Richard Ross’s love of photography, gave CMA its first significant body of photography holdings and supported the Museum’s acquisition of the Photo League Collection. Their generosity also includes gifts of works of art such as Henry Moore’s monumental bronze sculpture Three Piece Reclining Figure: Draped, which graces the lawn of the Broad Street entrance and has become an iconic image forever associated with the Museum.

Richard and Elizabeth Ross generously provided the leadership gift to the Museum’s Campaign for Enduring Excellence in 1983. That campaign led to the acquisition of the Sirak Collection, which significantly increased the Museum’s holding in Impressionism and German Expressionism and includes works by artists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, and Edgar Degas. In honor of this leadership gift, the Museum wing built in 1974 was renamed the Ross Wing. Over the decades, the Ross Wing housed acclaimed and internationally recognized exhibitions. The Ross Wing will be retired when CMA begins construction of a new addition.

“Only rarely does one have the privilege of receiving the kind of sustained support that Elizabeth and Richard Ross have given to the Museum,” said Executive Director Nannette Maciejunes.  “In recognition of their unfaltering dedication, we thought it a fitting tribute to name our historic building in their honor.”

Brooklyn Museum

Last Thursday, the New York Times ran an interesting article about the Brooklyn Museum. I was struck by several things when reading the story, but one of the things that stood out was that while on the surface CMA has nothing at all in common with Brooklyn, we have a lot in common with Brooklyn.

Museums fall into roughly two very broad categories. Those that are in destination cities and draw their audience from national and international tourism, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and those whose primary audience is their local community. The second group may also  draw from a regional audience.

This group, to which both CMA and Brooklyn belong, is challenged with finding ways to excite and motivate their audience in hopes that they will return. For them, the experience they provide their visitors is just as important as their collection.

Brooklyn is in the unenviable position, as Graham W. J. Beal of the Detroit Institute for the Art points out in his comments, of being right across the way from two of the most prestigious museums in the country, the Met and MOMA.

The question for them has become, “How do you position yourself in a way that differentiates you from these organizations and speaks to the community you serve?”

The reality is that there is no single way to accomplish this and people disagree on how to do it. I think it was wonderful that the article included several different perspectives on this topic, from artists, to museum directors and business leaders.

Brooklyn has one of the greatest collections in the country and is working to find ways to serve their community.  CMA is constantly looking for ways to better serve our community as well. We’re thinking differently about our programming and increasingly thinking about “experiences” as something for everyone.

In years past, museums thought about experiences as they related to children. There was very little thought given to how adults experience museums. Displaying the collection was enough for adults. Now, that thought process is changing.

As Peter C. Marzio said int he article, “The Brooklyn Museum is pioneering a new path that many older encyclopedic museums will have to follow if they want to survive.”

“By looking closely at Brooklyn, by exploring the ideals and values of its citizens, the museum is opening a dialogue that is creating a sense of community ownership,” continues Marzio. “Will the museum survive following this path? I will bet that not only will it survive these difficult economic times, but it will also mutate into a new type of museum that will grow beyond anyone’s imagination.”

CMA, much like Brooklyn, is looking for ways to make our collection relevant to our community. An article in the Sunday Times talked about the recession and its effects on consumers. People have become less invested in acquiring “things” to make them happy. The focus has become experiences.

Our mission is to create great experiences with great art for everyone. It’s a statement that we try to live daily and one that I believe will serve our community well into the future.

Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.

Nannette Maciejunes
CMA Executive Director

The Creativity Crisis

The July 10 Newsweek article, The Creativity Crisis outlined clearly whatt many of us in education/the arts knew was inevitable.  In essence, the Torrance Creativity Test—the gold standard in creativity assessment and taken by millions worldwide—is showing that since 1990, American creativity scores have been falling.  Intelligence (IQ) and creativity scores had kept pace with each other in America for generations, but in the last 20 years, creativity scores have fallen off track while intelligence scores continue to increase.  This decline is especially significant for K-6 grade children, for whom the results are interpreted as “most serious.”

Why is this catastrophic?  The authors of the article do a spectacular job of drawing us a picture of the impact, and I encourage you to read the full text.

When I read the article, I was struck by the statement that the arts don’t “own” creativity.  I absolutely agree with this.  No one discipline owns creativity!  But on the flip side, those of us in the arts must communicate the ways that quality art education CAN generate creative thinkers.

All of us, including those in the arts are also guilty of not INSISTING on the skills necessary for creativity within our schools, businesses and families.  We can no longer blame TV and video games that suck our children away from creative activities nor can we sit back and watch our schools systematically move further and further away from the creative development of our students.

On a good note, Ohio has the potential to change the way creativity is fostered throughout Ohio’s schools.  Last June in State House Bill 1, two provisions were passed that make way creative developments in our schools. One provision, the Harmon Commission, will recognize creative learning environments. The other provision will bring about the development of a Center for Creativity and Innovation in the State Department of Education. Ohio is the only state to include creativity in current legislation.

But the schools cannot accomplish this alone.  Informal learning environments, like the Columbus Museum of Art, must play a critical role in fostering and championing creativity. To do so…

  1. We must shift public opinion away from narrow stereotypes of creativity. Artists embody a way of thinking that needs to be nurtured in all children and adults.
  2. The CMA will celebrate and reward the unconventional teachers and schools that despite challenges continue to foster risk taking, questioning, curiosity and imagination in their schools.
  3. Museum programs will model creative learning for our families and schools. We must communicate how we think about imagination, critical thinking and innovation in everything we do.

The Columbus Museum of Art values creativity (it is one of our 5 Core Values.)  In January of 2011 the museum will open an 18,000 square foot Center for Creativity to address the bullets above.  We believe one institution can make a difference. We must.

Cindy Meyers Foley
Director of Education

A visit with Monet

This past week I was in New York on business and heard from several people that I needed to stop in and see this fantastic exhibition of late works by Claude Monet being show at the  Gagosian Gallery.

The exhibition was  “the most significant gathering of Monet’s late paintings to take place in New York in more than thirty years.”  The gallery was packed and people thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition.  Monet’s late works, though not often shown, are incredibly vibrant.  CMA is lucky enought to own Weeping Willow, a very powerful late Monet we acquired as part of the Sirak collection.

It was this work, along with contemporary artist Mark Tansey’s Water Lilies that inspired our 2007 exhibition,  In Monet’s Garden. The exhibition was organized by CMA in partnership with the Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, which houses the world’s largest single holding of works by Monet and also loaned works to the Gagosian for their exhibition.

I have to admit, I was quite proud of the fact that I could say we had done an exhibition that not only explored Monet’s late works but his profound influence on generations of artists up to the current day (and we did it before New York).

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

Puppets, yes, I said puppets

My recent trip to Prague was indeed about puppets. I traveled there with our Associate Curator of Contemporary Art Lisa Dent, our Multimedia Producer Jeff Sims, and Joe Brandesky, a Theatre Professor at OSU’s Lima campus who specializes in Russian and Czech Theatre. Several years ago, we worked with Joe on Spectacular St. Petersburg: 100 Years of Theatre Design, a wonderful exhibition that CMA had the privilege of sharing with our community.

Our latest undertaking is an exploration of the Czech Republic’s incredible puppetry tradition.  We are currently working on a collaborative exhibition for the summer of 2013 (we really do work that far out).  Many of the art works (and yes, these puppets are works of art) have never been to the U.S. before.

It is the Czech puppetry tradition that  inspires Jan Svankmajer, a Czech artist and filmmaker known for his stop-motion productions.  Svankmajer in turn influences The Brothers Quay Henry Selick and Tim Burton.

We visited The Naive Theatre in Liverec, The Museum of Puppets in Chrudim, the Divadlo Drak Theatre in Hradec, and the National Museum in Prague and met with potential partners for the project. It was a whirlwind education.

We had the unique privilege of meeting Petr Matasek, a Czech artist, set designer, director and associate professor at the Department of Alternative and Pupplet Theatre at DAMU, in Prague. (This website has more information, but is in Czech.)

We were able to watch a rehearsal of Matasek’s latest production of Roald Dahl’s James and The Giant Peach, but the real honor was watching him carve. He rarely carves puppets these days, so it was truly wonderful to be able to watch his creative process.

Below is a picture of Petr Matasek (on the left) and Joe Brandesky.

And these are photos of puppets designed by Matasek.

From a production of Pinocchio

And puppetry really is a rich and varied tradition in the Czech Republic. The photo below is of puppets from the 19th century.

Many families even had puppet theatres in their homes (entertainment prior to television).

And, demonstrating that puppets aren’t just for children,  these are photos of puppets used in a production of Shakespeare’s Tempest.

And here is a behind the scenes photo of Jeff Sims putting on his own puppet show.

And, I have to tell you, these is a wonderful Eastern European tradition that you share a toast at the beginning of new projects to celebrate working together. Even if it is 10:30 in the morning.


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

A Creative Solution

Educators, politicians, and business leaders recognize that exploring creativity increases our global success. High-end analytical and problem-solving skills are pivotal to creating thriving communities. In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink asserts that the wealth of nations and the well-being of individuals now depend on having artists in the room. Infusing creativity into learning transforms all of us into artists that envision new perspectives, new solutions, and indeed, new worlds. The wealth of the Gulf Coast and the well-being of its citizens may well depend on the creativity of artists.In May, BP turned to actor Kevin Costner to determine if the oil extractor developed by a team of scientists he has funded for more than 15 years could be used to assist in cleaning up the current spill in the Gulf of Mexico.The device, a powerful centrifuge, is reportedly capable of cleaning up to 210,000 gallons of water per day.

This week, director James Cameron took part in a brainstorming session on how to contain the oil spill. His expertise with underwater filming and robotics led to his invitation to participate in the session.