Thursday, October 29, 2009
On Tuesday, the Woodson Art Museum presented “Memory Loss, Creative Engagement, and Museum-based Programming” a seminar supported by the Helen Bader Foundation. Open to our community partners, docents, and the public, speakers were Mary Dickman, Outreach Specialist, Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Wisconsin; Anne Basting, Director, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Center on Age & Community; and Erin Narloch and I, Woodson Art Museum Educators.
Mary Dickman began with dementia-causing diseases and their symptoms, sharing information on the challenges faced by those with the disease and their caretakers. Most relevant to the Museum’s future programming was Mary’s assessment that “successful activities should reflect a person’s life story; be adult in nature; stimulate all five senses; perhaps be initiated by others; and consider the process to be more important than the outcome.” It’s promising that these attributes are already ingrained in Woodson Art Museum programs.
From Anne Basting’s perspective, the way museums treat people with dementia will eventually become the norm because statistics suggest that in the next decade, more than 14 million people will have some form of dementia or memory loss. These numbers mean that we must change how we address the needs of people with memory loss, especially when it comes to delivering museum services.
One of Anne’s core philosophies is the importance of focusing on the PERSON, not the disease. This “mantra” should inform the development of museum-based creative engagement programs. It’s also essential that creative engagement nurtures self-expression, which can be accomplished through the arts. By putting aside misconceptions about dementia, museums can create environments in which patients and caregivers can learn new skills and enjoy positive experiences.
Erin and I provided an overview of preliminary plans for future museum-based programming at the Woodson for individuals with early and mid-stage memory loss and their caregivers. We are developing these plans as part of a Wisconsin Museum Consortium, which includes the Milwaukee Public Museum, Racine Art Museum, Kohler Art Center, Museum of Wisconsin Art, and the Woodson, all recipients of Helen Bader Foundation planning grants.
The Woodson Art Museum is working toward developing a five-year implementation plan. We’re currently in year one: planning and information gathering. In year two, we’ll test two pilot programs: for individuals still living at home with early and mid-stage memory loss and their caregivers and for various service-providing centers.
We’ll offer additional monthly programs as needed in year three and consider expansion to satellite locations. In year four, we’ll evaluate the need for programs for individuals with later-stage memory loss and their caregivers, and in year five we’ll review all activities and implement appropriate changes.
We have a long road to travel, but we’re committed to serving the needs of dementia patients and their caregivers, and we’re confident that with our local partners, Wisconsin museum colleagues, and Helen Bader Foundation support, we’ll be successful.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I knew Carol for most of my twenty-nine years at the Woodson Art Museum. During this time, we had countless conversations about art and a variety of other subjects, too. Carol was never shy about expressing her opinions or engaging in conversation, as those who knew her well can appreciate.
Carol regularly brought her students to the Woodson Art Museum, and I often joined her classes on these visits to share insights into how an exhibition was organized or installed. Most often it was her drawing students, who were most eager to sketch in the galleries. Carol was a stickler for style and handling and she’d push students to work just a bit harder to achieve results she thought worthy. Carousel Animals: Art in Motion, the Museum’s spring 2007 exhibition, especially lent itself to in-the-gallery sketching and the enthusiasm of Carol’s students pleased her greatly.
A few years ago Carol and I judged ChalkFest and were asked to join the committee that organized the annual event. Carol was in her glory each year as she strolled along the sidewalks of Wausau’s City Square viewing the abundance of drawings and visiting with artists, many of whom were former students.
The Museum’s annual Birds in Art exhibition was perhaps the occasion that Carol most looked forward to each year. She was a fixture in the galleries on Saturday morning of the opening weekend, engaging artists in conversation and asking them to sign her catalogue. No surprise that long-time Birds in Art participant, artist Paula Waterman, who is in residence at the Woodson this week, knew exactly who Carol was when staff members were talking about her on Tuesday morning. Carol always made herself known.
In addition to teaching art and nurturing students, Carol enjoyed traveling. She often told me about trips she had taken to visit museums and experience other cultures. She participated in many Woodson Art Museum trips, traveling with me to a number of Midwest cities, including Milwaukee and Chicago. She particularly enjoyed the latter, which included visits to the Art Institute of Chicago, where Carol proudly received her Masters in Art degree.
Carol was to join me and a group of thirty Woodson Art Museum members on a three-day trip to the Twin Cities in early November. Despite failing health, Carol hoped to have the stamina for a fast-paced schedule of museum visits and theater. She was not the sort to admit defeat or to let anybody or anything get in her way. Alas, we’ll be making the trip without her.
Over the years, Carol developed quite a large circle of friends who enjoyed her zest for life and benefitted from her insights on art. I include myself among that group of friends and can honestly say that Carol will be missed. We have many fond memories and lots of stories to tell.
Carol, you’ll always be in our hearts.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Before jumping for joy and calling across the hall for director Kathy Foley to come into my office to read the message with me, I thought I better open it and see if the message was what I hoped it would be – or if it was an ad solicitation come-on.
The message from freelance writer Ann Landi said what I prayed with all my heart that it would say:
“Hi, Marcia: The Wall Street Journal would like me to cover the “Birds in Art” competition and exhibition at the Woodson. I’m wondering if the best time to visit would be your Artrageous Weekend, or if it will be quieter and easier to tour the museum and show at a slightly later date. Please drop me a line or give a call when you can.”
I calmly (I think!) asked Kathy to come to my office. When she saw the subject line, she whooped. When she read the message, we both whooped and then did a little “happy dance” – a must in an adrenaline-fueled situation like this!
I contacted Ann (above left with artists Wes Hyde and Jan Stommes) pronto and we both got working on the details for her to have a successful trip to Wausau for the Birds in Art opening weekend. She ended up spending two full days with the artists, attending all their events, and getting a firsthand look at the exhibition. I guess that made Ann an “embedded” reporter.
Ann’s article, “Birds of a Feather, Together,” appeared on Thursday, October 1, which set off another round of whoops in staff offices. The aftermath has been phenomenal. We still can’t believe how many people – folks from the Wausau area and from across the US and around the world – saw the article and e-mailed us their congratulations.
I can’t adequately describe what a tremendously satisfying feeling it is to have the Woodson Art Museum, Birds in Art, the artists who make it possible, and Wausau in the spotlight of such a prestigious international publication.
To make sure I never forget the joy of it all, I’m never deleting Ann’s message from my inbox. It’s simply too exhilarating to sneak a peek at it every so often!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Artists who visit the Woodson Art Museum as part of our artists-in-residence program give all that up. No working alone here! Picture crowds of students and adults, asking questions, watching intently, mouthing “wow,” and shaking their heads in disbelief.
Visiting artists are generous with their time. During weekday hours they actively engage and interact with students and general visitors. In the evening they lead after-school programs for children and teens. On the weekends they work with adults and again with the general public. People just can’t get enough!
Why? Because we are all captivated by the artistic process. Artist residencies also offer the opportunity to see for ourselves, to give it a try, or to ask questions we’ve never had the opportunity or courage to ask.
We’re gearing up for our next Artist-in-Residence – Scratched in Nature – featuring Paula Waterman from Tuesday – Sunday, October 20 – 25, 2009.
Frequent Birds in Art participant Paula Waterman of Eldersburg, Maryland, settles in at the Woodson to engage schoolchildren, teachers, after-school participants, families, and all visitors in the fine art of scratchboard.
Excited??? I am. For more information check out the Museum’s website.
Conversations with Norman Rockwell:
Character Actor Sam Harper in Residence
December 1 – 6, 2009
Las Artes de Mexico con Juan Flores:
Exploring the Traditional Arts of Mexico
February 2 – 7, 2010
Man’s Best Friend:
A Photography Residency with Butch McCartney
May 11 – 14, 2010
The Comics: From Peanuts to Transformers
A Residency with Comic Artist
July 19 – 26, 2010
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I do not currently collect anything. In fact, since I gave up on acquiring each of the latest and most beautiful Barbie outfits, I have resisted the urge to amass a group of anything. This is most likely healthy because some of the things I am attracted to, like large diamonds and designer shoes and handbags, make a serious dent in the cash flow.
Luckily for me, when I arrive at work each day, I am surrounded by a world-class collection which I play a small part in developing and acquiring, thereby sating the desire to have one of my own, not to mention that this “stance” also prevents any possible mis-step on my part vis-á-vis curatorial ethics.
While I have the privilege of phone bidding for works at auction – with a definite monetary limit! – and have developed friendships with gallery directors who offer works to the Woodson, I rarely “close the deal.” Kathy Foley, the Museum’s director, is typically “the closer.”
So when the Collections Committee (a group of eight who guide the Museum’s acquisitions) met following the opening of Birds in Art and identified eight artworks as “must haves,” I was thrilled when Kathy asked me to handle the details.
Here is a list of artists and their works that will become part of the Woodson Art Museum’s permanent collection.
Robert Caldwell joins the collection with Sewanee Barn, an oil on hardboard, and he quickly announced the purchase on his Blog. Amazing how fast news spreads! Also coming to roost at the Woodson are The Contender by Mary Cornish, an oil painting of an endearing California condor; Brown Pelican, a stately portrait drawn in carbon pencil and oil by B. Hugh McPeck; and Avocet by James Offeman, a stunning pastel.
Water is a major component in three works. In Running Sanderling, Ralph Grady James uses oils to depict an action-packed shoreline scene of sparkling water and an in-motion bird. In sharp contrast is Sue Westin’s Moorhen Morning, in which she renders the calm water so convincingly you feel you could walk on it. Ewoud de Groot creates an “I want to be there right now” scene of three phalaropes resting in the shallows.
The Collections Committee selected only one sculpture – and a handsome one it is: Paul Rhymer’s regal bronze bust of a Abyssinian ground-hornbill titled Haile Selassie.
Is this a dream collection or what?