A growing volunteer program

Posted on April 18, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts gardening volunteers, many of whom are on the The Council of the VMFA, have been completing spring projects. Shown here (L to R) are Bob Allen, Carmella Allen, Dave Herbst, Skip Walton, Alice Higgins, Bill Cooper and Richard Lister.  The project shown is the mulching of newly planted trees along Shepherd Street. These oaks have been planted by the City of Richmond under the direction of City Arborist, Luke McCall. Providing follow up care, the garden volunteers will add shredded hardwood mulch to the tree beds which provides moisture retention and heat buffering during the summer. The volunteers and staff will continue the weekly care by watering them during their first full season of growth. 

Other projects for the volunteers include planting and care of floral beds and pruning shrubs and small trees.
VMFA has also just planted three magnificent flowering  Kwanzan cherry trees which grace the hillside leading up to the Belvidere.

The Garden Volunteer Program is in its second year and has already donated nearly 300 hours of horticultural care to VMFA’s  E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden and 13 acre campus.Volunteers meet each Wednesday morning during the growing season, starting in February with winter pruning and ending in November with the planting of bulbs and pansies in the floral beds. Each work session teaches techniques and includes tips on home gardening.

For more information about the Garden Volunteer Program or other volunteer opportunities at the VMFA, contact VMFA Volunteer Programs Coordinator, Kim Frola at 804-340-1461 or kim.frola@vmfa.museum

– Tom Brinda, VMFA Horticulturist

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The welcome mat is out at VMFA

Posted on April 12, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Most people do not typically see a museum as a fast-paced, dynamic and constantly evolving place.   I think the popular notion is that museums are stale and nice places to visit for a history class. Even though I have only been here for three weeks, I can honestly say VMFA is throwing a coup d’état on the traditional expectations of what museum can be. 
Having spent some time working in a broadcast TV station in Baltimore I’m used to the idea of tight deadlines, lots of moving pieces, and a constant flurry of activity.  I did not expect to see that same culture translated into the museum setting.  It was a refreshing surprise!  Not only do we acquire and exhibit new art all the time, the museum also offers hundreds of programs a month on campus and across the state.  The variety and depth of these offerings is remarkable especially when it comes to embracing a multicultural global perspective. 
There are many organizations that practice a “check-the-box” mentality. They talk about black people during black history month or Latinos during Hispanic history month or women during women’s history and so forth. Once that month is over the celebrating ends until the next obligatory time period.  VMFA is different.  We celebrate a rich variety of cultural heritages, identities, time periods and faiths every single day.  We do this not out of obligation but because that is who we are.  Our permanent collections are among the finest in the world; representing over 4,000 years of history and depicting life in almost every corner of the earth.    It is hard to imagine building such a comprehensive museum without individuals who understand the incredible value diversity brings.
Darrian P. Mack
Director of Audience Development
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Remembering Marian Anderson

Posted on April 9, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Today, April 9, 2013, marks the 20th anniversary of the death at the age of 96 of the internationally renowned singer and humanitarian, Marian Anderson. Since my childhood, I had known of Anderson’s great musicality and barrier-shattering reputation as the first African American artist to perform at the White House (in 1936) and sing a major role on the stage of New York’s Metropolitan Opera House (in 1955). For this awareness, I credit my mother, herself a talented singer, and father, a progressive humanitarian in his own right. Then came my graduate-school move to Philadelphia, where I found myself in 1993 at a memorial service for Anderson at the Union Baptist Church, the place she first sang in public and whose supportive congregation provided financial assistance for her early music lessons.
Fast forward to December 2012, when I had the great privilege and pleasure of acquiring for VMFA Beauford Delaney’s majestic homage to Anderson. The portrait was painted in 1965, the year of her last public performance, which occurred on Easter Sunday, April 18th, at Carnegie Hall—26 Easters after her momentous concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. That cultural milestone transformed the Lady from Philadelphia into the voice and symbol of America’s nascent civil-rights movement; some have gone even further in describing the significance of the event, calling Anderson the voice of the American Soul. So, when you pass through the American Midcentury gallery today, pause to admire Delaney’s hieratic depiction of this remarkable woman and artist—in all her encompassing golden warmth and dignity.
Sylvia Yount, Chief Curator

Beauford Delaney, Marian Anderson, 1965, oil on canvas, J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art, 2012.277
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Caligula loses his head

Posted on February 26, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Conservators Amy Fernandez and Greg Byrne examining the newly removed head with curator Peter Schertz

Nearly two-thousand years after his brutal assassination by members of his own bodyguard, Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (popularly known as “Caligula”) has lost his head yet again in an operation performed over the course of several months at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The operation was performed on a full-length marble statue of Caligula now in the VMFA’s ancient art collection and resulted in the successful separation of the head from the body. The museum will now be able to determine definitively whether the head and body were originally part of the same sculpture and reattach the head with a more accurate alignment than had been done in previous restorations. Following present-day best practices in conservation, all work done on the statue will be fully reversible.

The work took place in VMFA’s Sculpture and Decorative Arts Conservation Studio by Amy Fernandez and Greg Byrne under the supervision of VMFA’s conservator and department head Kathy Gillis with curator Peter Schertz consulting. Using steel wire and a solution of water and ground pumice, and later piano wire treated with diamond dust, Ms. Fernandez and Mr. Byrne carefully sawed through the epoxy used to reattach head the body the last time the statue was conserved. They also cut through a copper rod that had been used to stabilize the head.

The emperor was popularly known as “Caligula,” a nickname given him by members of his father’s army when Gaius was but a lad. He became Princeps, or first citizen, of the Roman Empire in 37 CE, following the death of his uncle Tiberius. Initially hailed as “our baby” and “our star” upon his ascension, Caligula soon found himself at odds with the Roman senate and wide swaths of the population. Despite a successful military campaign against the god Neptune, Caligula was never able to regain his early popularity. On 24th January 41 CE, members of the Praetorian Guard under the leadership of Cassius Chaerea assassinated Gaius. Although not condoned by senatorial or imperial decree, images of Caligula throughout the empire were soon defaced and destroyed; today only two of the thousands of statues made of Caligula survive intact, one in Richmond, VA at VMFA and the other at Gortyn, Crete, in the local antiquarium.

Upon Caligula’s death, the Praetorian guard hailed his uncle, the stuttering, limping scholarly historian Claudius as Princeps. Faced with the swords of the Praetorians and threats of public disorder, the Senate quickly granted Claudius the powers and honors of Princeps and Claudius was no less quick to pay the faithful Praetorians their promised bonus of 15,000 sesterces per soldier.

Peter Schertz, Jack and Mary Ann Frable Curator of Ancient Art

Photo: Travis Fullerton  
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VMFA 2013 Fellowship Awards

Posted on February 26, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Marking the highest number of applicants in the program’s history!
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts awarded 28 fellowships to Virginia art students and professional artists in 2013-14 for a total of $168,000.

Marc Maiorana (Professional, crafts, Cedar Bluff)
Iron Basket, 2010
Iron, 15x3x4”

VMFA received 771 applications for the 2013-14 cycle, the highest number since the program’s inception. During the Fellowship Program’s 73 years, the museum has awarded approximately $5 million and 1,200 awards to Virginia’s art students and professional artists.

“The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts continues its commitment to nurture artists throughout the Commonwealth,” said Director Alex Nyerges.  “We are grateful to the late John Lee Pratt of Fredericksburg for establishing a VMFA endowment that makes this support possible, as well as others who have contributed funds to further this mission-based objective throughout the years.”

Sean Sweeney (Graduate, painting, Yorktown)
Untitled, 2012
Latex and spray paint on panel over canvas, 24×17.75”

Twelve professional fellowships, each worth $8,000, were awarded. The recipients are (in alphabetical order by hometown): Marc Maiorana (crafts) of Cedar Bluff; William Connally (photography) of Charlottesville; Warren Craghead III (drawing) of Charlottesville; Blade Wynne (painting) of Chesapeake; Michelle Erickson (crafts) of Hampton; Jason Hackett (crafts) of Henrico; Stephen W. Brandt (film/video) of Henrico; Susan Iverson (crafts) of Montpelier; Megan Marlatt (painting) of Orange; Amanda Baldwin (painting) of Richmond; Polina Grinberg (film/video) of Richmond; and Matthew Warren (photography) of Richmond.The juror for the professional fellowship awards was Michael Darling, the James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

Five graduate students won awards worth $6,000. They are: John Charleton Hawley III (art history) of Charlottesville; Melanie Kobran (photography) of Leesburg; Jake Borndal (sculpture) of Richmond; Caryn Brissey (film/video) of Richmond; and Sean Sweeney (painting) of Yorktown.

Ten undergraduate students won awards worth $4,000 each. They are: Eli McMullen (painting) Alexandria; Denney Turner (photography Franklin; Skye Young (drawing) Leesburgh; Brittany Arnold (crafts) Richmond; Kimberly A. Barnes (film/video) Richmond; Noelle Choy (sculpture) Richmond; Miranda Elliott (photography )Richmond; Hunter Harold Mayton (mixed media) Virginia Beach; and Jamie Parkerson (mixed media) Virginia Beach.

Denney Turner (Undergraduate, photography, Franklin)
Blue Ridge Parkway, Jan. 2012
Digital photograph, large format 27 in.

In addition, undergraduate student Margaret Grymes (sculpture) of Richmond was awarded a fellowship worth $2,000 for her final semester. 

The jurors for the undergraduate and graduate awards were Stefanie Fedor, the executive director of the Arlington Arts Center in Arlington, Va., and Crawford Alexander Mann III, the Brock curator of American art at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Va.

The fellowship funds come from a privately-endowed fund administered by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  The Fellowship Program was established in 1940 through a generous contribution made by the late John Lee Pratt of Fredericksburg (the husband of Lillian Pratt, donor of the museum’s Fabergé collection). Offered through the VMFA Art and Education Division, fellowships are still largely funded through the Pratt endowment and supplemented by annual gifts from the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation and the J. Warwick McClintic Jr. Scholarship Fund.

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