Archive for the 'Behind the scenes' Category

Adventures in Tweeting

As an individual of a certain age, my relationship with social media has been tenuous at best. I am of the generation that did not have email until college, and even then, it was so new that no one really used it; I did not even access the Internet until I was in graduate school! I also grew up playing on metal playground equipment over concrete surfaces… perhaps you can guess my age.

I recall hearing about Facebook maybe ten years ago from some of the Gibbes college-age interns and thinking, “wow, Facebook sounds annoying,” and I avoided it completely for a few years. However, as a point of reference, I grew up in the Chicago area, which means that I have an entire lifetime of friends, relatives and experiences that are separate from my current life in South Carolina. At some point, the lightbulb went off that Facebook was an easy way to reconnect with people from my past; and it’s fun to see what people look like, who their husbands and wives are, what careers they chose, how many kids they have, etc. I joined Facebook in 2003 and will admit that it has become a daily part of my life; however, Facebook was as far as I wanted to go. I do have a Linked In account but it seemed necessary for professional connection and the truth is, I don’t use it much or utilize its networking components. Thank you to everyone who has “endorsed” me on Linked In. I don’t know what that means but I thank you.

social media platforms

Between Facebook and Linked In, I felt satisfied with my social media interactions. I recall hearing about Twitter about five years ago. With its 140 characters and hashtags I again thought, “why do I need to do this?” I am sure I am showing my age but the nuances, etiquette and immediacy of Twitter was just not something I wanted to dive into; I did not intend to ever tweet. For years I was able to say, “sorry, no Twitter account,” and I survived proving that it is possible to live a fulfilled, socially connected life without Twitter… really! Fast forward to September 2015 when the Gibbes suddenly found itself without a Communications Manager, a position that had recently handled the Museum’s social media accounts of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While the Gibbes ultimately made the decision to contract out marketing needs to the fabulous Lou Hammond & Associates, keeping up with social media was not part of the contract. As a result, our staff did what we always do, stepped up to handle the situation. We discussed social media offerings at a meeting and several staff members expressed interest in taking on the extra responsibilities. Becca Hiester, our Curatorial Assistant, graciously agreed to handle the Gibbes Facebook page and Amanda Breen, Membership Coordinator, volunteered to do Instagram postings for the Museum. But what about Twitter? Director, Angela Mack, asked, “who wants to tweet for the Museum?” and the silence that ensued was deafening. I really thought our younger staff would jump all over this but the pressure to tweet and hashtag constantly and be clever in 140 characters and represent the Museum well and not sound silly or make typos that 4000+ people might see was a seemingly overwhelming responsibility. Also, the fact that our entire staff is already working on overdrive to get the Museum open by the end of May 2016 contributed to the fact that the Gibbes Twitter account was left without a champion. And then, as is often the case with me… my mouth opened and the following words came out “I’ll try Twitter.” WHAT JUST HAPPENED? I think I literally stunned myself, but before I had a chance to utter another word, the entire staff response was “Great! Thanks! Done.”

Ok, maybe it wasn’t a complete verbal anomaly that I volunteered for Twitter. I have, in recent months become intrigued by this medium as it is talked about at EVERY museum professional conference I have attended over the past few years. There are sessions about how to Tweet for your museum, how to hashtag, how to use Twitter to engage millennials, how to use it to promote exhibitions, how to connect, how to open doors. It is just everywhere and I have had a growing sense over the last year or so that this was something I should at least understand and learn about its value to the 21st-century museum. Twitter is not going anywhere and neither am I; we need to be friends.

Gibbes Twitter feed screenshot

So now I had the opportunity to learn about this type of social media on behalf of my institution without the pressure of having my own account. Fine, time to dive in and tweet! Lasley Steever, Director of Public Programs and Special events, who had some experience with Twitter, helped me get logged into the Gibbes account and gave me a brief tutorial on how it all worked. I will admit that the first time I looked at Twitter I experienced temporary paralysis and immediately thought, “WHY did I say I would do this?” Unlike Facebook which seems to move at much slower pace, Twitter updates come pouring in by the second. I recall sitting in front of my computer for an hour (good use of my time right?) watching tweets roll in from the 400+ entities that the Gibbes already follows and being mesmerized by the variety of posts and hashtags and retweets. After watching the feed for a while, I began to get extremely paranoid about what I would tweet, because whatever I wrote, there was the potential for literally thousands of people to see it! What should I tweet about? On any given day the Gibbes has multiple classes and programs going on. We have events coming up. Should I tweet about those and “tag” people involved? Should I make up hashtags? I didn’t even understand the whole hashtag thing. My questions and fear of tweeting something silly continued, so I closed Twitter and went on with my day. However, I could not ignore it for long. I had to get a tweet out as the Gibbes had been in a Twitter silence for weeks due to our change in staffing. I finally reopened the application and thought, “ok, I’ll tweet about something I know, something I am living with every day,” the Gibbes renovation. I posted a picture of the outside of the Museum with scaffolding still up and put some sort of hashtag on it and made a comment about renovation progress and hit “Tweet,” and then closed the application to move on with my day. Wouldn’t you know it, when I checked back later that tweet had been retweeted and “liked” and the Gibbes had gained a bunch of new followers. This initial success made me realize that tweeting really wasn’t as a big a deal as I was making it and there was no need to put pressure on myself to send out the perfect tweet! The more I began to tweet (about the art collection, about the renovation, about the new collection storage space, about our programs) the more I began to realize that the beauty of Twitter is the immediate engagement. Each bit of information pushed out there touches one of our followers in a different way. Some are interested in the building renovation and some are not. It does not matter, it is the fact that we are making the effort to communicate with everyone!

Gibbes Twitter feed screenshot

Back to present day. I am still handling the Gibbes Twitter account and those of us working on social media have received some training on how to use the various applications more effectively. I have been on the road overseeing the return of our art collection from off-site storage sites and have admittedly not done a lot of tweeting, but I will get back to it soon. I still get a thrill when someone retweets something I have posted, or if other entities tag the Gibbes account and engage with us to share their excitement about our renovation or new logo or great press we have been getting. Every now and then I decide to be more proactive with the tweets as well. One day I posted a lovely picture I had taken in the cypress swamp at Caw Caw Interpretive Center and tagged Charleston County Parks mentioning that is was easy to see where Charleston artists get their inspiration for many of the landscape paintings in our permanent collection. This tweet led to a retweet from Charleston County Parks and a direct engagement/conversation about possible collaborative programs. THIS is the power of Twitter! I get it! I am not intimidated by it anymore and feel empowered to tweet about all kinds of things on behalf of the Gibbes; someone out there will be interested!

I am still a Twitter novice at best and it is difficult at times to get regular posts in (as I have a few other projects to juggle now… ahem… the unpacking and reinstallation of our entire art collection) but I am doing my best. So if you are a Gibbes Twitter follower now you know who is behind the tweets. If you follow us, THANK YOU… and please know that every retweet and “like” on our posts gives me inspiration to tweet more! Actually, I need to go update Twitter now. Thanks of reading!

Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration and voice of the Gibbes on Twitter

Staff Resolutions for 2016

2015 has been a wonderful year, and we’re grateful for the support from our members, donors, volunteers, board members, and corporate partners—a community coming together to make the arts in Charleston shine. We asked the Gibbes Staff to share some of their resolutions for the Museum in the New Year. We’re calling 2016 “The Year of the Gibbes,” with so much in store as the Museum plans to reopen its doors this spring. We cannot wait to invite you into the newly renovated building to view the reinstalled collection and special exhibitions, and to participate in our roster of exciting programs and events. Wishing you a Happy New Year full of creativity and inspiration!

—The Gibbes Staff

Erin Banks, Creative Director
–Establish a new Gibbes logo with the help of Gil Shuler Design.

–Launch a new Gibbes website, created by Blue Ion.

–Gather new exhibition images to use in our print materials!

John Westmark exhibition opening

Photo by MCG Photography

Rebecca Sailor, Curator of Education

–Enjoy good food and drink at the new Museum Café.

–Reopen the Museum with exhibitions, programs, and events that excite the Charleston community and visitors alike.

–Have a successful six weeks of Summer Art Camp for the first time ever in the building.

Summer Art Camp 2013

Photo by Carolina Photosmith

Becca Hiester, Curatorial Assistant
–Bring all of my friends in town on a tour of the museum, my own personal Museum Hack. Some of my friends have never been to the museum before (even if they grew up here!), and I need to spread the love!

Gibbes exhibition opening

Photo by MCG Photography

Jennifer Ross, Director of Development

–First and foremost, achieve our goal of $13.4M for the capital campaign to renovate and restore the Gibbes.

Gibbes Capital Campaign Thermometer

–Welcome back our community—both visitors and long-time supporters—to the Gibbes, the oldest museum building in the south, this coming spring.

–Engage visitors in our center of creativity with world-class exhibitions, lectures and programs.

Lasley Steever, Director of Programs and Events

–Establish an Artist-in-Residence program with outstanding contemporary artists whose work contributes to a new understanding of art in the South.

–Provide great programs allowing visitors to fully engage with the visual arts through lectures, performances, tours, and classes.

Gibbes Museum Distinguished Lecture Series, 2015

Photo by MCG Photography

Jena Clem, Special Events Manager

–Have the museum booked with private events every weekend when we reopen.

–Grow our staff to support the increased programming and events we’ll be offering.

–Be featured as the number one event venue in Charleston, South Carolina/Southeast.

Laurie Clark Wedding photo cred: Whimsey Photography

Photo by Whimsey Photography

Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration

–Execute safe return of 10,000 pieces of art from off-site storage locations to the renovated Museum spaces.

–Harmoniously work with Museum staff and contract crews to unpack the art collection and reinstall in new galleries in an extremely tight time frame.

–Remain calm, cool and collected over the next few months in order to successfully manage all that needs to be managed to reopen of the Gibbes! Eat fewer Tic Tacs to manage stress.

–Celebrate our beautiful new spaces and improved access to the collections in a BIG way once the Museum reopens with interactive, unique behind-the-scenes tours and programs.

–Share the Gibbes success with museum colleagues across the state and the region through continued, active involvement and leadership in professional museum organizations.

Gibbes Collection on the move

Art Education for All Ages

After a great summer working with the Gibbes Museum of Art as a Summer Camp intern, I was excited to return as an office intern over the fall semester. Working with Rebecca Sailor, Curator of Education, has provided me with many opportunities to broaden my understanding of the inner workings of a successful museum, and the great lengths this staff goes to in order to provide such stimulating programming to all ages.

Philippe de Montebello speaking at the 2015 Gibbes Distinguished Lecture Series.

Philippe de Montebello speaking at the 2015 Gibbes Distinguished Lecture Series.

A significant highlight of my time at the Gibbes was the opportunity to help with the Museum’s 2015 Distinguished Lecture Series. The Gibbes brought the esteemed Philippe de Montebello, the longest serving director at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, to discuss the multiple lives of a work of art. Being able to take part in such a successful and truly informational event was quite fulfilling. As an Art History student, de Montebello’s lecture was elegant and inspiring to me. Working together to bring events like this to the people of Charleston is just one of the Gibbes’ many efforts to enhance art education in the city.

Naomi Edmundson at John Pope Antiques, Charleston.

Naomi Edmondson at John Pope Antiques in Charleston, SC.

Last week, I was able to take part in The Gibbes’ Art With a Twist: Antique Stroll. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I walked with the group from the lobby of the Gibbes’ new offices (conveniently located across the street from the renovation site) to the first stop—John Pope Antiques. I was pleasantly surprised, as the walls were brightly colored and the cozy space was full of an eclectic collection of paintings, old instruments, beautiful pottery, and antique chests. The tour leaders provided the group with interesting details about several of the objects, and John entertained us with fascinating facts about his collection. I probably could have strolled around the space for another hour pondering the history of all these items, but I pulled myself away and walked down the street to Birlant & Co. Antiques. Although the setup of the space was quite different from John Pope’s, Andy Slotin and team were just as welcoming and were thrilled to show us around. We ended the visit discussing a beautiful silver dining set on display in the shop. By the end of the night, after stopping in several other shops, I couldn’t believe I’d lived in Charleston my entire life and never been inside any of these wonderful places.

George C. Birlant's & Co., Charleston, SC.

Silver Service at George C. Birlant’s & Co., Charleston, SC.

The Museum’s efforts to provide quality art education doesn’t end with intellectual lectures for art history lovers. Art education for children is a great priority at the Gibbes. Working with Rebecca, I witnessed the huge amount of planning, scheduling, and documenting that goes into the Gibbes In-School Programming. The Gibbes offers quite a few In-School Programs for elementary students, such as Art to Go, Eye Spy, and First Steps. Teaching artists visit Charleston County schools and essentially bring the art to the students with hands on projects, followed by a visit to the museum.

Mitchell Elementary students visit the Halsey Institute

Mitchell Elementary students visit the Halsey Institute as part of an Art to Go program.

During the Museum’s renovation, we’ve been lucky to partner with the Halsey Institute, City Gallery, and The Charleston Museum to continue our in-gallery programming. This semester, I was able to observe a group of first graders from Mitchell Elementary on an Art to Go field trip, as they experienced contemporary art at the College of Charleston’s Halsey Institute. The children were beyond excited to be this close to such colorful artwork! With such engaging instructors, the children felt at ease asking questions and describing the artwork in front of their peers. After learning a bit about the two featured artists, the kids walked around the gallery on a scavenger hunt to find repeated motifs in each artist’s work. I was impressed with their understanding of this concept, and took advantage of the opportunity to excite them as they turned to me with question after question about the art.

I’ve definitely enjoyed my time at the Gibbes, both in the camp classroom and behind the desk, and have gained a whole new perspective on the day to day life within a museum. I can’t wait to come back to the Gibbes for its re-opening in the spring!

Naomi Edmondson, Senior at College of Charleston and guest blogger

Interning at a Closed Museum

Intern Valerie Coughlin in front of the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Intern Valerie Coughlin in front of the Gibbes Museum of Art.

When I tell people that I am an intern at the Gibbes Museum of Art, I am often met with a confused look and the question: “How can you intern at a closed museum?” While this question is valid I have come to see the Gibbes’ renovation as an added bonus to interning at one of Charleston’s finest museums. As an arts management major at The College of Charleston, I have learned about all types of arts organizations, from well-established ones to completely new. I have learned about the challenges of developing programming from scratch as well as building upon existing programs. As a Public Programs and Special Events intern this fall under Lasley Steever, I have gotten to experience things I have only read about in textbooks. It is one thing to read about board responsibilities, but to see the number of hours and the amount of energy board members put into the Gibbes is something entirely different. As an intern I have learned about every aspect of an event, from artist accommodations to the logistics of securing a venue. But during my time here I have learned much more than how to successfully execute an event.

Insider Art with Andrew Brunk

Brunk Auctions president, Andrew Brunk, spoke to a crowd at the Gibbes Museum’s Insider Art Series.

I have been given the unique experience to be an intern at a museum with a reputation that goes back 150 years but also a museum that is undergoing renovations in more ways than one. Along with the floor to ceiling renovation of the building, the Gibbes is rebranding itself. This includes a new website, a new logo, a new mission statement, all in time for the re-opening this spring. So while I get the benefit of interning at one of Charleston’s most recognized and respected institutions, I also get to see how a museum develops on the ground floor. I have seen how the entire staff is coming together to build a new Gibbes. I have experienced how much planning and attention goes into creating a logo, how many meetings go into designing a website, and how the staff and board spend countless hours working together to discuss their hopes for the future of the Gibbes. I have learned that “Reimagine the Gibbes” is much more than a renovation tagline, it is reflective of what I experience day to day as an intern here. So while yes, I am interning at a closed museum, my time here has been invaluable. I am surrounded by the most talented, passionate, and hardworking staff and I cannot wait to see everything come together this spring when the Gibbes Museum of Art reopens!

Valerie Coughlin, College of Charleston intern and guest blogger

Many Moving Parts – A Gallerist’s Perspective

[While the Gibbes Museum is closed, we find ourselves aching to interact with real-live art. The pictures online are nice to glance at, but it can’t replace the experience of standing in front of an original work of art and seeing all the nuances of an artist’s hand. On Thursday night, Society 1858 members had the opportunity to visit the studio of artist Tim Hussey as he prepares for a solo exhibition at The George Gallery. Gallery owner Anne Siegfried shares with us what it takes to pull off a successful show.]

Most people would agree that art openings are fun to attend. You can meet with friends, have a glass of wine, and discuss what you like or not like about the art on the walls. If you connect with the art on exhibit you might also have the opportunity to meet the artist. If you are really into the art, you can buy a piece to hang in your home and enjoy forever. But how does the art opening actually happen?

Society 1858 members enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek at Tim Hussey's studio.

Society 1858 members enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek at Tim Hussey’s studio.

It takes a lot of moving parts coming together.

As a gallery owner I consider many things when planning an exhibit, the most important of these things are my clients, show logistics, promotion, and the quality of the art. I need to be confident that my clients will respond to the artist’s work. Does it match what they are looking for? Is the art work unique? Is the price point reasonable? If I can think of a dozen people off the top of my head that I believe will really appreciate the show then I move on to the next step.

The logistics are the boring part. When does the show best fit into the gallery’s calendar? What else is going on in Charleston when I want to have this show, I want to be sure there are not any obvious conflicts. Is there enough time for the artist to complete a full body of work?

The next consideration is promotion. Do I have an appropriate amount of time to get writers interested in the body of work? I’m hosting the event because I feel passionate that the artist has a story to tell. My job is getting that message out there, sometimes even before one painting has been completed. But through communicating with my artists and visiting their studios I get to understand what is motivating them, why this collection of work is important, and what the message will be once it’s hung on the walls.

The most exciting part of the exhibit for me is when I see the work in person for the first time, which is when the wheels in my head really start turning. I trust in myself and my artist that the quality of the work is up to or exceeds our standards. So far, my artists have never let me down.

When it’s time to hang the show, I finally get to be creative. I have to take into consideration where the best lighting is, which piece need to stand alone, or which is the most subtle and needs extra attention.

An opening reception at The George Gallery.

An opening reception at The George Gallery.

All of this planning, creating, promoting, etc., gets us to the wine drinking and chatting with friends. The process takes about 6-18 months on average. But it’s so worth it! I get to share the art that I love the most. The artist gets to show off his/her hard work, and hopefully you have also fallen in love, taken a piece home and will enjoy that work for many years to come.

—Anne Siegfried
guest blogger, Society 1858 Board Member and owner of The George Gallery

Summer Art Camp from our Intern’s Point of View

Naomi Edmondson-Summer Intern, Senior at College of Charleston

Naomi Edmondson-Summer Intern, Senior at College of Charleston

As a college student majoring in Studio Art and Art History, interning at the Gibbes Museum’s Summer Art Camp seemed like the perfect opportunity to excite young minds with art. Growing up, my favorite teachers were my art teachers, and getting the chance to influence a young child was very appealing to me. The camp instructor for this summer, Leonora Dechtiar, provided campers with stimulating and fun projects to explore their creativity.

welcome to our Art Show!

The first of three camp themes was “Oh The Places You’ll Go!” During these weeks, the campers learned about art from different countries such as Egypt, Brazil, China, Morocco, Australia, and India. We started our day by fastening the seatbelts to our pretend airplane on the classroom carpet and landing in a foreign country. Campers were excited to learn about the different art and cultures of all the places we “visited” before stamping their passports after each journey. Campers’ projects included Brazilian Carnival masks, drums, and maracas, African plaster masks, Egyptian Canopic Jars, Indian Mandalas, Japanese Kites, Chinese Dragons, and Australian Dot Paintings.

summer art camp 2015

Campers working with Acrylic to make their own Chinese Dragons

The second theme of camp was “Stories and Puppets.” During these weeks, campers would listen to stories and create artworks inspired by themes and characters in the story. At the end of the week, campers performed a play of The Rainbow Fish, which featured each camper’s uniquely designed fish. I couldn’t help but be impressed as the kids so excitedly delivered their lines perfectly for the room full of parents.

summer art camp 2015

Rainbow fish puppets

Our last theme of camp, “Art and Movement,” was probably most enjoyable for me personally. Leonora instructed the kids in yoga before each project (which proved to be very beneficial and effective in calming the campers down) to focus them on their artwork. Projects created included foam puppets, needle felting, body tracing, and Jackson Pollock inspired splatter painting (which, I must say…the kids thoroughly enjoyed). Throughout the week, campers practiced their yoga moves set to fun children’s songs, and on Friday they performed these impressive, entertaining yoga dances for their parents.

Summer art camp 2015

Leonora instructing campers in their morning yoga

Throughout each week, the children were thrilled to go on field trips to surrounding areas, such as the multiple art galleries on Queen Street and the Pineapple Fountain. After viewing the artwork on display at galleries such as Robert Lange Studios, Horton Hayes Fine Art, Anglin Smith Fine Art, Valentino’s Pottery, and The Atrium, the kids were noticeably more inspired to spend time creating artwork.

summer art camp 2015

Field Trip to local galleries

Working so closely with children eager to fill their hands with paint or clay or anything else has heightened my interest in the art making process and has reminded me of the childlike enthusiasm that every artist should employ when creating art!

summer camp 2015

Naomi Edmondson-Summer Intern, Senior at the College of Charleston

White Gloves Gang with Zinnia Willits, Part II

This is part II of an interview with Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration at the Gibbes Museum and current President of the South Carolina Federation of Museums.

Where did the idea for the White Gloves Gang originate?

The first SCFM White Gloves Gang (named after the protective white gloves many collections professionals wear when handling fragile museum objects,) was held at the Georgetown County Museum as part of the 2012 SCFM Annual Meeting. While I had a general model of how the program should work (based on the Reinforcement Crew) in many ways I can admit now that I was flying by the seat of my pants! I was well aware that our first WGG project was bound to have a few hiccups, but we were not going to learn how to do it unless we tried!

white gloves gang

The WGG working on textiles

Planning the first WGG included finding a host institution and explaining what exactly we wanted to accomplish. This involved building a trusting relationship with the staff at the Georgetown County Museum (GCM) since I basically asked them if my group of volunteers could have carte blanche access to their collections and exhibitions for an entire day! Then Director, Jill Santopietro, could not have been more gracious or enthusiastic about being the first WGG “test case.” After making initial contacts, I completed several site visits to GCM and worked with Jill to identify potential collection and exhibition projects that could be completed in a day. Next I had to advertise the project and gather a volunteer force; I also solicited vendors to donate archival supplies…I don’t think I even had a real budget for the first WGG. My wonderful friends at Hollinger Metal Edge graciously donated supplies for the first WGG. The shipment of hundreds of dollars of donated materials meant so much to the GCM who did not have any budget for these types of essential preservation materials. Other tasks included setting the agenda for project day, communicating the plan to our group of ten collections volunteers, dividing the group into teams, laying out each project and making sure volunteers had the necessary tools and supplies. It was a long day, but I loved every second of it and those first WGG volunteers made incredible progress on exhibits and collections at the GCM. Teams “freshened” exhibits and added protective archival barriers between casework and historic artifacts, created padded hangers on which to store and display fragile textiles, vacuumed (with a special museum-quality vacuum) historic christening gowns to remove layers of dust gathered from being on constant display, created storage containers for objects that needed a “rest” from display, adjusted light levels to better protect light-sensitive, fragile objects and so much more!! After this first experience in 2012, it was evident that the SCFM White Gloves Gang was a viable program to be built and developed.

Tell us something you’ve learned about the challenges of small museums through your work with the White Gloves Gang.

I have learned that all museums, whether large or small, matter to the communities they serve. The collections that small museums maintain are exceedingly important to the people who donated them and the stories they tell are the historical fabric of the town, county or region the museum represents. However, many small museums do not have the appropriate staff or budget to adequately care for or exhibit the objects that are so important to people they serve. A museum’s sole staff member may be the Director, often an individual with excellent administrative experience and leadership skills but minimal (if any) training in collection and exhibition management. In many cases these sole employees spend the majority of their time devising programming and membership initiatives that will ensure the museum can keep the lights on and doors open to survive another day! They know instinctively that the collections and exhibitions need attention, but there is very little time, money or training to devote to the objects that are the very reason for a museums’ existence.

working with textile exhibit at The Museum in Greenwood 2013

The WGG working with textile exhibit at The Museum in Greenwood 2013

However, the SCFM White Gloves Gang program is an excellent resource for these small museum staffs that need collections help; I have seen the benefits and inspiration our projects provide first-hand. The WGG is a tangible manifestation of SCFM’s mission to serve, represent, advocate and promote the best interests of South Carolina museums; the program educates small museums in ways they can make simple, often inexpensive changes to better preserve, and promote the collections they house and the missions they endeavor to uphold. The staffs at all WGG host sites have been grateful for the support and have let us know that watching collections professionals devote an entire day to the display and storage of the museum’s objects was inspirational; in many cases our work resulted in the Director taking future steps to raise funds for a collections manager or to hire an exhibition designer to assist with the way stories are conveyed.  These small, devoted staffs are stretched thin in terms of resources and I view it as SCFM’s responsibility to reach out and help however we can. The WGG provides a statewide network of support and supplies for collections management as well as access to collections professionals that a host site can forever turn to for future advice!

What are the future plans for the White Gloves Gang and or how will this program grow?

SCFM announced this past month that the WGG will be hitting the road! I have wanted to expand the program beyond our annual meeting for some time and have finally moved forward with this endeavor. SCFM member institutions can now apply for a day of WGG services and we hope to send volunteer teams out to complete at least two WGG projects per year in addition to the project at the annual meeting. Our WGG volunteer corps currently numbers around thirty collections professionals from across the state and is growing daily. My goal is to provide any South Carolina museum that desires a day of white glove services the assistance they need! I now have a wonderful White Gloves Gang co-chair, Melissa Jolley, Curator at the Savannah River Site, who assists me with organization and management of each project and the WGG volunteers. What fun (and a relief) it has been to share the responsibility and excitement of connecting people and projects with one of my SCFM peers! I have also recently seen an influx of museum studies students and non-collections professionals joining the WGG volunteer group; I love this! We pair those that want to learn about collections management with the seasoned professionals and in this way, each WGG project becomes an opportunity to train others and learn from peers…its win, win!

Recently the SCFM Executive Committee voted unanimously to appropriate funds to the SCFM WGG thereby officially adding the program to the annual budget. I will continue to work with our generous partners in the archival supply industry to provide donations of necessary project supplies and hope to eventually secure a lead sponsor to ensure the program’s future (naming opportunity anyone???) I will continue to engage South Carolina museum professionals to volunteer and participate in the program and encourage all SCFM members to get involved and give back. I am so proud of the SCFM White Gloves initiative and all those who have participated and supported us over the years. I am hopeful that our program will continue to grow and will serve as a model program for other state museum associations. South Carolina museums matter! Their collections and stories are important and SCFM wants to support these museums in any way it can!

Amanda Breen, Rebecca Sailor, and Zinnia Willits

Amanda Breen, Rebecca Sailor, and Zinnia Willits at the South Carolina Federation of Museums (SCFM) conference.

Thank you Zinnia for taking the time to share this story with us! For more information about volunteering with the White Gloves Gang or in requesting a visit from the WGG, visit the SCFM website.

 

 

The White Gloves Gang with Zinnia Willits, part 1

How long have you been involved in SCFM?

Though originally from Chicago, Illinois, I have been part of the South Carolina Museum community since my grad school days in the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina almost 15 years ago! While life’s twists and turns took me out of South Carolina for a few years, I returned in 2001 and have been at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston since 2003 where I manage the art collection and oversee logistics for the museum’s active exhibition and loan programs.  At the request of my friend Jill Koverman, a true force in South Carolina museums who sadly passed away several years ago, I joined the South Carolina Federation of Museum’s (SCFM) Professional Development Committee (PDC) in 2010 and have been involved with the organization ever since.

Can you describe why it’s important as a museum professional to have an active role in organizations like SCFM?

Professional development opportunities and responsibilities have played a pivotal role in my personal career growth since my entrée into the museum field so many years ago. Our profession is constantly changing. New standards for collections care, exhibition design, curatorial research, digitization of information, use of social media, educational programming, membership tracking, and every other aspect of museum work are being discussed daily on list-servs, blogs, and at various gatherings of museum professionals. Museum staff need high levels of knowledge and expertise to continue to add value to the communities they serve. Playing an active role in professional organizations, and attending conferences and relevant workshops provides opportunities for peer engagement, expansion of one’s knowledge base, and information that can be put into practice immediately. I am constantly beating the professional development drum about the importance of making time and finding funds to attend professional training opportunities that are essential to career development and remind us that our individual work contributes to something larger including the preservation and promotion of the humanities! As I say often (to anyone who will listen,) nobody will ever care about your professional growth as much as you do!

The White Gloves Gang at the Marion County Museum

The White Gloves Gang at the Marion County Museum

Where did the idea for the White Gloves Gang originate?

The Registrars Committee (RC) of the American Alliance of Museums has been operating a similar program called the Reinforcement Crew since 2007.  This annual event offers expertise, people-power and support to museums and organizations that need assistance with collections-based projects, and coincides with the AAM Annual Meeting. I have friends who were instrumental in developing the Reinforcement Crew and have always been an advocate of seasoned museum professionals “giving back” to the field. I was intrigued with the concept and as I became more involved in the South Carolina museum community, it became clear that a volunteer program similar to the Reinforcement Crew could provide real benefit to the many small museums and cultural centers that dot our state. Once I was in a leadership position and had an opportunity to move the idea for a White Gloves Gang program forward, I went for it! SCFM’s leadership has a long history of embracing program ideas suggested by the membership…even my crazy ideas. That being said, one lesson you learn early on is that if you want your program to have legs, you, the idea person, have to put in the work to get it off the ground!

Stay tuned for next week’s part two of the White Gloves Gang….

Lighting the Gibbes Museum, Q&A with Anita Jorgensen

Anita Jorgensen, IESNA, IALD, LEED, LC has been practicing architectural lighting design in New York for over twenty years. Her background in art history and theatrical lighting design brings a strong sense of aesthetics and drama to her lighting approach. Her hands-on experience gained from extensive exhibition lighting design work translates into specifications for lighting systems which not only meet the immediate lighting requirements, but also provide for durability, ease of maintenance, and long term flexibility. Anita was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work with the Gibbes Museum renovation.

2015 Gibbes Renderings

Gibbes Museum of Art, Preliminary façade lighting

How did you learn about the Gibbes Museum? I worked with Jeff Daly at The Metropolitan Museum for a number of years while he was the Head of the Department. When Jeff opened Jeff Daly Design, we worked on several projects together including: the Ringling Museum of Art; the annual Winter Antiques Show in New York; Rosecliff Mansion in Newport, RI; and others. In 2012 Jeff suggested I visit the Gibbes Museum and discuss its lighting needs with Angela Mack. Angela brought AJLD on board and I am happy to report that the Gibbes renovation has been a fabulous project with a fantastic team!

How did you get involved in lighting design? Give us a little information about what led you down this career path.

While studying Fine Arts and Art History in undergraduate school, I became aware of the work of renowned theatrical lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, who has designed for extensively for dance, drama and opera. Her work inspired me to pursue a career in theatrical lighting design. During my graduate studies at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, I became intrigued with the field of architectural lighting design. After five years with architectural lighting design firm Fisher Marantz Stone, who is best known for designing “Towers of Light” after the 911 twin towers incident, an opportunity arose to work as a lighting designer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Design Department that I could not pass up. The projects I was involved with at the Metropolitan ranged from temporary exhibitions, large-scale renovations of entire wings, extensive custom case work, as well as exterior façade lighting.

After working on staff at the Metropolitan for a number of years, I began my own practice, Anita Jorgensen Lighting Design (AJLD).

What are the challenges with lighting museums? Please give examples. How can good lighting transform museum space?

One of the great challenges of designing lighting for museums is balancing art conservation standards with visual clarity. Among the many aspects to consider are the control of daylight while balancing supplemental glare free electric light. When designing the new lighting system for the East Gallery at The Frick Collection, which included both daylight and electric light, we completed an extensive mockup process to determine the optimal method for controlling the quantity of daylight entering the galleries in combination with supplemental LED lighting to highlight the artwork. The mockup process gives the team an opportunity to actually see and test the results of our research findings. We did the same for the Gibbes Museum where we reviewed the ability of various lighting sources to render paintings accurately. During a side by side lighting comparison in the galleries, it was unanimously decided that the track mounted luminaires would use 3,000 Kelvin LED sources. LED lamps have the great advantage of emitting no ultra violet radiation, consuming only 10 watts each as opposed to 50 watts and last more than seven times longer than halogen.

FRICK East Gallery

FRICK Museum East Gallery

Another important consideration when designing for museums are issues of conservation. For example all of the windows need to be properly fitted with screens and filtering film to reduce the level of light entering the galleries and to block the damaging ultraviolet portion of the incoming daylight.

The second source of illumination in galleries is typically a fully flexible overhead track lighting system which is often the primary source for lighting art. For the first time, the track lighting in the new Gibbes Museum renovation will be energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) track mounted luminaires. After all of the artwork is installed, the gallery lighting will go through a final fine-tuning process. During this stage, the exact lighting intensity levels for each object will be specified.

We also recently completed an exterior night-time lighting mockup for the garden where we reviewed lighting the garden with cool light mimicking moonlight vs. warm candle light effect. We also demonstrated illuminating the trees from below (uplighting) vs. locating lights up in the trees pointed downwards filtering through the leaves that created patterns of light on the ground much like the light coming from a full moon.

What can the community expect to ‘see’ with the renovated Gibbes?

The visitor will be able to see the fabulous Gibbes Museum art collection rendered in a crisp new glare-free light. The galleries will be brighter and more daylight will enter the building giving the visitor a greater connection to the outside.

Below is a listing of Anita’s more memorable projects:

  • Frick West Gallery, East Gallery: designed a new lighting system that integrates invisibly with the museum’s landmark interiors
West Gallery, 2010 (new lighting installed)

West Gallery, 2010 (new lighting installed)

  • Metropolitan Museum Great Hall: recreation of the original McKim Meade and White pendants
  • Royal Bank of Canada Capital Markets: a conference center and trading floor

Art Educator of the Week, Barbie Kratovil

Barbie Kratovil, Eye Spy Art

Barbie Kratovil with Eye Spy Students at the City Gallery

Why is art an important part of learning?

Art is an essential component of the Humanities, and visually integrates the historical, political, religious and commercial morals and values of a culture. It is one of the highest forms of expression in any given period of civilization.

While art can be whimsical, its highest forms are the result of an intellectual process. It’s multi-faceted and an artist, in creating a work of art; employs through his/her technique: logic, spatial relationships, math, science-all of which are building blocks in one’s education.

How long have you been teaching, and why did you get involved in teaching?

I was an Art History major in college and art has always been my great interest. I was a docent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 18 years, before moving to Charleston; and have been a docent at the Gibbes for 5 years. The combination of being educated by the curators about their fabulous collections, and in turn, imparting this knowledge to school groups, is rewarding on so many levels.

What is a favorite memory of introducing a student to the arts?

The wonderful moments, which as a museum educator that one cherishes, are when a student looks at a work of art and becomes empowered to explain what they see, why they like or dislike it, and what it means to them.

education

Eye Spy students enjoy a tour of the Gibbes led by a museum docent

Museums are educational powerhouses. Did you know:

  • Museums spend more than $2 billion a year on education. The typical museum devotes three quarters of its education budget specifically to K–12 students.
  • Museums receive more than 55 million visits every year from students in school groups.
  • Museums create educational programs in math, science, art, literacy, language arts, history, civics and government, economics and financial literacy, geography and social studies, often tailored to the needs of state and local curriculum standards.
  • Each year, museums provide more than 18 million instructional hours for educational programs such as guided tours for students, staff visits to schools, school outreach through science vans and other traveling exhibits, and professional development for teachers.

Read the full report about museums and the future of education from the American Alliance for Museums.

To learn more about Gibbes Museum education programs, visit our Gibbes Educators Facebook page.

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