Archive for the 'Programs' Category

Professional Development Opportunities: Southeastern Museums Conference 2015

Rebecca Sailor, Gibbes Curator of Education, and Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration at the Museum, attended the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC) in Jacksonville, Florida from October 12 – 14. SEMC is the major regional networking organization for museums and their staff in the southeastern states. Both Zinnia and Rebecca are active members of SEMC, and Zinnia currently serves as an appointed member of the Executive Council and the Annual Meeting Program Committee.

Rebecca Sailor and Zinnia Willits at SEMC 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Rebecca Sailor and Zinnia Willits at SEMC 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.

This year, Zinnia presented on four different panels at the Annual Meeting on topics including successful federal grant applications, museum insurance, and mid-career transitions. Her session entitled How We Did It: Tips and Strategies for Successful Federal Grant Applications was particularly well attended and allowed Zinnia an opportunity to share her story about the Gibbes recent grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. As a Council member, Zinnia also participated in a strategic planning workshop related to SEMC’s future growth.

Rebecca was joined by Zinnia, as well as staff from the Columbia Museum of Art and the Booth Western Art Museum for a session entitled Where Did All the Programs Go? The panel focused on the challenges of effective programming when space is limited or restricted, as in the case of a renovation. The Gibbes has made a special effort to keep programming available during our current renovation, while the Columbia Museum of Art is in the preparation stages of its own capital project. The Booth Museum staff shared the experience of providing programming around town in unique venues even before their building opened to the public.

Rebecca also presented with staff from the Cummer Museum of Art and the Reynolda House Museum of American Art on healthcare partnerships with museums. It was a great opportunity to inform participants about the Gibbes Art of Healing program with Roper St. Francis Healthcare, including our hospital lending collection and our public lectures and workshops on the subject. The Reynolda House offers continuing education workshops for healthcare and community service staff. Participants also learned about the partnership between the Cummer and the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, offering programs for dementia patients and physician training; the Art Beyond Sight organization; and other special needs programs.

In addition to their presentations, Rebecca and Zinnia attended many other sessions by their peers to learn what others are doing regarding innovation and engagement. A special highlight was the keynote speech by Nick Gray, founder of Museum Hack, which was a great reminder of why museums are awesome and why what we do matters so much (watch it here).

Unlock the Artist Block

One of the quickest ways to get through life’s challenges is to approach them rather than find detours or shortcuts around them. Eventually, the challenge you’ve avoided will have no other way to go but head on. The way we approach our work is for people to feel comfortable with themselves in mind, body, and emotion to face whatever life has to bring them. And if we have not figured it out yet, eventually we will see life will always have challenges. Life without challenges is not real life. The tools you learn with Charleston Wellness Group (CWG) is to support, simple enough, life.

Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is a method based on the individual being influenced by their own inner guidance and wisdom instead of what another “expert” has to say. We have a saying at CWG that “you are your own expert and we get out of your way to trust that expert.” Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy assists individuals in connecting mind and body using embodied movement and mindfulness techniques. The body is a huge part of connecting with the expert in all of us, so we incorporate the body throughout sessions.

Since life is rich with challenges and the goal is not to get rid of them, but to face them, stress is part of the equation. There is such a thing, however, as “good stress.” “Good stress” is the belly motivation that gets you up and out of bed in the morning. “Good stress” can be how you face the challenges rather than avoid. “Good stress” keeps you living life from a more alive and engaged state.

Stress is like a bell curve. You are at risk of either too little or too much. Too little leads to “depressed” state. Too much leads to “burn out” state. What we encourage is for people to become aware of their too little/too much stress-related symptoms and recognize they have a choice with this information. For most who work with us, the first thing that has to happen is they have to realize their relationship to stress. They have to learn what their symptoms are on the bell curve. We are all different. No one person is alike. It is important for individuals to learn about themselves and trust the information their bodies, minds, and feelings are expressing so they can discern and make the right decisions to stay in the optimal state of stress.

Bell curve
Charleston Wellness Group created a program called The Deliberate Method, which combines yoga therapy techniques and self-inquiry with integrative exercises so individuals can actually apply what they learn to their everyday life situations.

The Deliberate Method, is focused on supporting businesses and their employees to mindfully show up to their stress. The material is broken into three methods: Method A- The Skills, Method B- Bridging the Gap Between Body and Mind, and Method C- Living a Deliberate Life. The sections are designed to support thoughtful learning. As we say, “We offer quick information, not a quick fix.” The content, which is audio/video, guided practices, assessments, podcasts, and articles is all less than 10 minutes time commitment. We recognize the power of time and find that unless we can apply what we learn in real time, the value is lost.

Becoming mindful takes patience and continued practice. The practice offered in The Deliberate Method is real-time, life situations rather than pretend. Chances are the skills and lessons, the ah-ha’s and other epiphanies will happen much quicker because they are applied concepts rather than abstract ideas.

Our number one intention is to inspire individuals to want to live a deliberate life, to understand their own true nature, and know they are incredible individuals in a world full of experience. We hope our message and information inspires individuals to want to continue to learn from life and therefore live life fully.

Hallie Buchanan

Hallie Buchanan

Lyn Tally

Lyn Tally

Hallie Buchanan and Lyn Tally, guest bloggers and founders of Charleston Wellness Group and The Deliberate Method

CWG founders, Hallie and Lyn, are offering a workshop, as part of the Gibbes Museum’s Art of Healing series, to help participants “Unlock the Artist Block.” The program will be held on Thursday, November 12, from 5:30 – 7:30pm. Visit our website or contact Amanda Breen at 843-722-2706 x221 to register today.

The Art of the Sea with Val Kells

Marine Science Illustrator Val Kells is an ‘obsessive compulsive’ fisherman. A photo of Kells on her website shows her proudly displaying a Permit that she caught off Cudjoe Key in 2011. “I take a photograph of every fish I catch before I release it,” she says.

Val Kells

Marine Science Illustrator Val Kells at home on the water

Kells is a full-time, highly trained, freelance scientific illustrator with over 30 years of professional experience. She works closely with educational, design, and curatorial staff to produce accurate and aesthetic scientific and interpretive illustrations. She has created over 2,000 illustrations for a wide variety of clients including publishers, designers, master planners, museums, nature centers, and public aquariums and is the coauthor of A Field Guide to Coastal Fishes – from Maine to Texas. “This comprehensive guidebook to all of the fishes found along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts should become an integral part of the library of any naturalist, angler, or fish enthusiast,” says Edward O. Murdy, National Science Foundation.

Val Kells Book Cover

A comprehensive guide book to coastal fishes

She is currently working on the Pacific coast version which will include close to 800 species and will be published in the spring of 2016. These comprehensive books are used in classrooms, labs, and on boats by students, scientists, and nature lovers. “I love when people send me photographs of themselves on a boat with a fish in one hand and my book in another,” she says. Kells says her work is ongoing and she will unlikely run out of subjects to illustrate.

Kells’ research is meticulous and each illustration can take up to a full day to complete. She works from her studio in Virginia with the support of an extensive network of associates and colleagues across the country.  She begins with a preliminary pencil drawing to ‘work out the kinks’ paying close attention to the morphology of the species from the number of scales to the placement of fins. When she is satisfied, she transfers the drawing to watercolor paper and begins to paint. “I go into a Zen mode at this point. I turn on some Bruce Springsteen and paint until it’s done.”

Kells began drawing as a very young girl in Rye, New York, and studied art throughout high school. “I also had a deep love of the natural environment from the time I was young. And when my parents sent me to a summer camp in the Florida Keys, I decided that I wanted to be a marine biologist,” she adds. After studying Marine Biology at Boston University, she transferred to UC Santa Cruz in 1983 and ‘fell upon’ the (then) newly established Science Illustration Program where she was able to combine her two loves: art and science. One of her first clients was the Monterey Bay Aquarium and since then she has worked with over 25 aquariums and museums around the country including the Florida State, Long Beach, and North Carolina aquariums. Kells also worked for our own South Carolina Aquarium when it first opened.

One of the best compliments she received was when a woman mistook her paintings for photographs. Her illustrations are precisely detailed and she says, “The artwork I create cannot be produced by photographic or digital means.” She enjoys working with fishes that are unusual and mimic coral or those that have evolved in fascinating ways. “I also love painting iridescent fishes like Billfishes, Tunas, and Mackerels because they allow the watercolor to do what it does best.” The love of her work and the fishes she carefully constructs on paper is evident in each illustration.

During her upcoming discussion “Art of the Sea” at the South Carolina Aquarium, she will discuss the continuing value of original drawings and paintings in a visual world awash with digital photographs.  Join us for another fabulous Art With a Twist Event to hear Val Kells speak about her creative process on September 24 at 6:30 pm!

For more information about Val Kells visit:

Location:  SC Aquarium, 100 Aquarium Wharf

Reception and Book Signing will follow.

$20 Members, $30 Non-Members

Reflections on Arts Education

Before starting my internship at the Gibbes Museum of Art, I didn’t have a true understanding of what arts education meant or how powerful it can be. I had read about arts education and heard how effective it is from countless Arts Management classes at the College of Charleston, but it never clicked until I experienced it firsthand this semester while interning in the Education department with Rebecca sailor, Curator of Education. Being able to interact with kids – whether it was handing out maps at the museum on Second Sunday, or doing crafts with them at an arts fair in Mount Pleasant – has given me a newfound appreciation for arts as a creative outlet for children. Even though I am an art history major, double minoring in arts management and studio art, concepts like seeking funding for arts education are relegated to paper topics and online quizzes for my classes and can feel far removed at times. Connecting with children through my internship has made these concepts come alive.

One of the programs that resonated with me is Art to Go. Through this program, teaching artists from the Gibbes are able to go to Title I schools in the Charleston County School District. This year those schools included Goodwin, Mitchell, Pinehurst, Murray LaSaine, and Angel Oak Elementary. Each year Art to Go culminates with the Charleston Marathon in January and the student’s artwork is on display at the marathon expo. I helped one of the teaching artists, Tara White, move one of the projects from Mitchell Elementary to the expo at Burke Middle High School, and saw the tangible results of this amazing program. The finished projects from each school were on display in the gymnasium, and I enjoyed hearing the teaching artists describe their experiences with the kids.

Goodwin Elementary School at Expo

Goodwin Elementary School’s art project on display at the Charleston Marathon Expo

Teaching Artist Tara White said,

“Art to Go provides an incredible experience, not just for the students participating, but also for the educator. As a teaching artist for two years at Goodwin Elementary, I’ve built relationships with approximately 300 students! The most memorable experience happened this year with two fifth grade girls who had not previously enjoyed art class and were getting into trouble at school. However, they chose to give up time on the playground to stay inside and paint with me, choosing art over negative situations. The girls’ willingness to try something out of their comfort zone continues to leave a lasting impression with me, and I’m so glad that Art to Go provided a positive intervention for them”.

Arts education doesn’t stop with children. Throughout my internship, I have been able to follow tours and hear lectures as part of the programming for adults from influential people like Peter Rathbone, who has worked at Sotheby’s New York since 1972 and orchestrated some of their highest American painting sales. I also sat in on studio art classes including pastel, and drawing the human form, that were filled with students from all walks of life. Whether it’s attending lectures by incredible people, or tackling a studio art class in an unfamiliar medium, it’s amazing to see adults continue their own arts education.

This internship has been one the most rewarding experiences that I have had in college and has helped me narrow down my passions and interests within the overwhelming art world (which is very helpful considering my graduation coming up in two short weeks!). Growing up, I was lucky enough to have taken art classes and attended arts camps that instilled in me a great passion for the arts! I am happy to say that I got to be a part of the Education department at the Gibbes, which is offering other children and adults in Charleston and surrounding areas similar opportunities.

Taylor Drury, Education intern

Education intern Taylor Drury posing in front of her favorite John Westmark painting “Exaltation.”

Taylor Drury, Outreach and Education intern, Gibbes Museum of Art

Collage, Cut, and Paste Curation by Charlotte Moss

East Hampton Garden

East Hampton Garden Collage by Charlotte Moss.


“Found objects, chance creations. . . abolish the separation between art and life. The commonplace is miraculous if rightly seen, if recognized,” wrote poet Charles Simic.

How true. Collage is a vehicle for disseminating ideas, organizing thoughts, and developing and determining your tastes. What I most appreciate about collage is that it’s not a snob. It’s an art form for everyman; it is ignorant of skill level and thoroughly forgiving. Collage doesn’t require a deft hand like painting, yet it has been prevalent in fine art through the ages. Collage has seen us through Cubism, Surrealism, Constructivism, and Abstract Expressionism. Artists throughout history have embraced the technique, artists such as Braque, Picasso, Jasper Johns, and so many others. Collage became a twentieth-century art form thanks to these artists. Dreams, dissonance, eccentric and disparate bits and pieces merged to produce juxtapositions that gave the subconscious and our inspirations a legitimate outlet.

I have always collected things, wherever I go, whether they were objects, ideas, quotes, or images taken by my camera. It was natural that I would be drawn to collage. As I am a visually inspired person, collage has been my vehicle for recording and retaining important moments in my life, as well as absorbing things that I am drawn to: still-lifes, gardens, interiors, and fashion among them. The medium welcomes chance findings and randomness and understands the consequence might well be a totally unintended one. My collages are put into books and they have become my visual memoirs, personal storyboards, my inspiration, and my creative outlet for years—the DNA of my design aesthetic as well as the story of my life so far. And I’m more aware than ever about the importance of these hand-recorded memories and dreams for my family and for the future.


Hautefort France

Hautefort France collage by Charlotte Moss.


“There are no new ideas in the world, only new arrangements of things,” wrote Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Scrapbooks are the working documents that have been essential in my evolution as a designer. I’m a teacher in my work. I am always studying and learning. By examining what others have written and done and processing those ideas with my hands, scissors, and a glue stick, I’ve been able to develop my own approach to living and design, one that works for my home and my life—the basis of which has been honed from others over the course of my career. Collage always made sense to me as a methodology. I am a hunter, a collector, an editor—in truth, a stylist, I think, since birth. I see the world in composition—always have. A gathering of anything, anywhere, inside or out, can be arranged into a still life. I’ve learned that the most ordinary of found objects can be elevated when artfully considered and arranged. It is in our carefully curated environments that we share a specific point of view, a personal aesthetic, a vision, and a passion for life. In essence, creating a composition is about seeing. And sometimes, it’s seeing the beauty in ordinary, everyday found objects.


The Orsan Gardens, France

The Orsan Gardens, France collage by Charlotte Moss.


Collage permits experimentation.

Collage is self discovery.

Like David Hockney said, “The thing with high-tech is that you always end up using scissors.”

Charlotte Moss, author and designer, and guest blogger
Learn more about Charlotte Moss on her website,

Excerpted from A Visual Life by Charlotte Moss (Rizzoli, 2012). Purchase a copy of A Visual Life from the Gibbes Museum Store.

Charlotte Moss is the featured speaker at the Art of Design luncheon and lecture on March 7, hosted by the Women’s Council of the Carolina Art Association and the Gibbes Museum of Art.

The Art & Heart of Philanthropy

Why is giving back important to the community? This was the theme of a recent panel discussion hosted by the Gibbes Museum of Art and the Center for Women. The “Art & Heart of Philanthropy” panel discussion was held at The Sanctuary on Kiawah Island on Tuesday, January 14, and featured four prominent, local women who are passionate philanthropists. Panelists Laura Gates, Carolyn Hunter, Susan Romaine, and Anita Zucker spoke with moderator Jane Perdue about the art of giving back.

The Art & Heart of Philanthropy at the Sanctuary on Kiawah Island

Guests attending the Art & Heart of Philanthropy panel discussion at the Sanctuary on Kiawah Island.

As the marketing manager for the museum, I had been preparing for the event for some time, and was looking forward to it on a personal level because I was seeking inspiration. When I was young, my dad was very involved with our small town community in Vermont, and worked hard to model this behavior to my sister and me. However, instead of being inspired, I often dragged my heels and complained when he took us to a nursing home to sing carols on Christmas Eve, or pulled us out of the house to help build the town playground. Those memories are more than three decades old, and now it’s my turn to introduce the concept of giving back to my children. As the mother of three boys, I finally understand what dad was trying to do, but I don’t know how to do it. So, I was looking forward to hearing what these women would share about getting involved with the community.

I recorded several of the questions and answers I found most inspiring during the conversation to share with you below. Moderator Jane Perdue began with asking the women to explain why giving back was important to them.

A. Susan Romaine, a nationally recognized artist, said she starting giving out of a sense of gratitude. “I gave to Planned Parenthood because they offered me free health services and enabled me to be healthy when I was young and didn’t have any money.” As she grew older and earned more money, she began to widen her giving reach, and shared her time and money with other non-profits. Carolyn Hunter, President of C&A Unlimited, and owner of three local McDonald’s franchises, said giving back is important to her because “we need to share what we have with others.” Anita Zucker, Chairperson and CEO for the InterTech Group, said her parents were Holocaust survivors who taught her that if you don’t have the money, give your time. Laura Gates, Board President of the Carolina Art Association/Gibbes Museum of Art, said she is motivated to give back because she feels very fortunate. Laura began her philanthropy when she was young by giving $5 to her alma matter, Wellesley College, because she wanted to participate. “There is a thrill associated with giving,” Laura added. “Endorphins are released and there is a ‘giving high.’”

Q. In their book Reinventing Fundraising, the authors describe six reasons women are motivated to give:  create, change, connect, collaborate, commit and celebrate. Do any of these six resonate with you? And if so, why?

A. Carolyn Hunter said her reasons for giving were to Change and Celebrate. She said, “I want to know how I can get more African American women from the community involved.” Laura Gates said her reasons for giving were to Change and Create because “educated women will change the world.”

Q. What are your thoughts on how to get children participating in and learning about philanthropy?

A. Anita Zucker explained that when her children were young, she took them with her to volunteer at Crisis Ministries. “It’s important to show your children how other people live, then they understand that everything they do has an impact,” she explained. Susan Romaine agreed and said when her daughter was young that she tried to lead by example. “At the end of the day my daughter wanted me to stay home with her, but I explained to her that this was important work. Sometimes I would take her with me to volunteer or attend a meeting so she could see what it was all about.”

Q. The Women’s Philanthropy Institute writes, “Women have traditionally been heralded for their generations of life-changing service to society. But today, women are not limited to contributions of service as they are achieving full confidence in their capabilities as financial donors.” You all certainly embody this transformation! What advice do you offer to other women in gaining confidence relative to money and influence?

A. Susan Romaine said that nothing is too small. “Give $5, $10, or $1,000 and you will feel empowered!” Anita Zucker agreed and said that she began giving in increments of $18 and called it ‘bite-sized pieces.’ “Then you can inspire people through your giving,” she said. Laura Gates added that women need to understand their financial situation so they can give in their lifetime. “Enjoy giving now,” she encouraged the audience.

Carolyn Hunter summed up the discussion with the simple phrase: “The more I give, the more I get.”

I left the discussion feeling empowered, and realized that I didn’t have to follow in my father’s exact footsteps and make my boys sing carols at Christmas, but that I could create my own path of giving. I could follow the panelist’s advice and lead by example.

Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager, Gibbes Museum of Art


Arts Education: A Continuing Legacy at the Gibbes

Arts education has always been central to the mission of the Gibbes Museum of Art. In 1912, the Charleston Sketch Club was formed and aspired to be “the basis of an art school where the fine arts in all branches should be taught by the best of teachers in the Gibbes art building.” With exhibition space, lecture room, and art studios, the museum was a hub for local artists and art supporters. Archival photographs show artists poised in front of their easels in a museum classroom in 1910. Another photograph shows artist Minnie Mickell working in the Gibbes Art Gallery Studio in 1925. By 1965, in need of additional exhibition space, the museum purchased 76 Queen Street, now the popular Husk restaurant, for its school of art. Studio art classes included drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, and clay and were held in this location for many years. As a college graduate in 1993, I took a drawing class in the Queen Street studio. Little did I know that nearly 20 years later, I would be an employee at the museum—a dream come true! Arts education has always been a vital part of the museum no matter where the actual classes have been held, and this focus on art education continues today.

Minnie Michael at work

Minnie Michael painting in the Gibbes Art Gallery.

Recent research from a partnership between the University of Arkansas and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art has validated this mission through a large-scale, random-assignment study of school tours to the museum. Researchers were able to determine that strong relationships exist between arts education and a range of desirable outcomes. In other words, art makes students smart!

In an ongoing partnership with Charleston County School District Title I schools, the Gibbes education outreach program, Art to Go, combines art making and instruction through firsthand experiences with works of art. The goal of the program is to increase understanding of visual expression, creativity, and art. Gibbes Teaching Artists work with public schools to enhance the schools’ art curriculum. Through this program, the museum’s notable collection is explored as part of the instruction along with a field trip to the museum. All lessons are designed to broaden students’ understanding of art principles, art history, and creative expression.

A mosaic created for the 2012 Charleston Marathon

A mosaic created for the 2012 Charleston Marathon by Mitchell Elementary School students.

Art to Go has been implemented in five local Title I schools including Angel Oak, Murray LaSaine, Mitchell, Pinehurst, and Goodwin Elementary. “Our Art to Go program has been a great success year after year. It’s a wonderful partnership and collaborative effort that enhances the visual arts curriculum,” says Gibbes Museum Curator of Education, Rebecca Sailor.

Art to Go program at Angel Oak Elementary.

Students at work in the Art to Go program at Angel Oak Elementary.

Local artist and Gibbes Museum teaching artist Kristen Solecki has been involved in the Art To Go program for two years. She appreciates the access to fine arts and art education that the program provides to her students. “However, perhaps even more importantly it gives them confidence and pride,” she adds. This year Kristen is teaching at Angel Oak Elementary on Johns Island, a Title 1 neighborhood school that serves approximately 350 students.

“One week we learned about printmaking. This is a very forgiving medium and allows students to create abstract pieces using simple line and form. Students were so excited to reveal their prints and to show each other what they made. They would encourage each other and tell one another, ‘great job!’ ‘Wow! Look at hers!’ Some students would even ask me to show their work to siblings who were coming into the next class after them. The best part is seeing the same students later in the day walking around with their work still in hand.”

Kristen explains that her students have also been working on a mosaic mural where each child’s hand painted work makes up a piece of the giant mosaic. “We have assembled it and each child’s work is crucial because without it our mural will be missing a piece. This mutual respect between peers, teachers, and students, is wonderful. Art class encourages students to experiment, express their ideas, and to create. There is not a stress on perfection, it is a medium to celebrate who you are. When I walk through the halls on the way to class, students stop me and ask if I will be coming to their class today, and that they cannot wait for art.  I don’t think you could ask for anything better.”

Art to Go at Angel Oak Elementary

Artwork from the 2013 Art to Go program at Angel Oak Elementary.

For several years the museum has collaborated with the Charleston Marathon, which benefits the Youth Endowment for the Arts, a local non-profit that supports fine arts programming in Charleston County Schools. Gibbes Teaching Artists work with schools to create structures designed for the race expo that signifies the marathon’s purpose: Going the Distance for the Arts. Dr. James Braunreuther, Charleston County Fine Arts Learning Specialist says,

“The Charleston Marathon and the Gibbes Art to Go programs were both designed to offer greater opportunities in the arts for the children of Charleston County. It is only logical that these two tremendous programs would work together to increase the impact of both. The Charleston Marathon raises funds to support arts programs while increasing awareness of the importance of health and movement. The Gibbes museum supports this effort by working with schools to produce art work that highlights the athlete in the artist and the artistry of the athlete.”

This year’s marathon takes place the weekend of January 17–18 and the student’s artwork will be exhibited at the Health and Fitness Expo on Friday, January 17, 2014, held in the gymnasium at Burke Middle High School, 244 President Street. Come out and see the beautiful and creative art work the students have created. Enjoy the rewards of an arts education and maybe you’ll decide to enroll in a class yourself! To see a full listing of our studio art classes visit

Amy Mercer, marketing and communications manager, Gibbes Museum of Art

Changing the World through the Visual Arts

Nelson Mandela Education quote

Nelson Mandela on the importance of education.

Last week the world lost Nelson Mandela; a great man who left a significant mark not only on the world, but on humanity. At the time of his death, my ten-year-old daughter noticed all of the news coverage and inquired about him. What did he do? Why was he important? Of course, I provided her with a basic summary that she might be able to comprehend, but then I began to consider the larger themes reflected by this person and his role in the history of humankind. As he stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

This year the American Academy of Arts and Sciences published a study on the significance of the humanities. In this study entitled The Heart of the Matter, and the partnering video, the value of humanities is reflected upon as it serves to “remind us where we have been and help us envision where we are going.” Screenwriter and Director George Lucas shares his thoughts on the importance of science and technology in partnership with the humanities by saying, “science is the how and the humanities are the why.” He then argues “we cannot have the how without the why.” As a liberal arts major, I find it particularly disturbing that according to the study, “less than a quarter of 8th and 12th grade students are proficient in reading, writing, and civics.” The study goes on to say that “three out of four employers want schools to place more emphasis on the skills that the humanities and social sciences teach: critical thinking and complex problem-solving, as well as written and oral communication.”

The visual arts are a significant component of the humanities and decades of studies reveal that effective arts education promotes self-directed learning, sharpens critical skills, develops self-awareness, and improves school attendance. Yet a recent study from the National Endowment for the Arts on The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth tells us that “nearly four million elementary school students do not get any visual arts instruction at school during their formative learning years.” In recent weeks, a number of articles have been published, such as the New York Times article entitled Art Makes You Smart, that emphasize the critical need for humanities programs including arts education. How will a ten-year old like my daughter be able to better understand the future world and her place without subjects like history and art?

Ashley River School group

Elise Detterbeck with students from Ashley River Creative School of the Arts.

To me the Gibbes Museum is a center for creativity that addresses these issues by offering solutions and resources. Museums are places where education thrives, and the Gibbes is no exception. It is a place that combines the how and the why. James Shoolbred Gibbes, who founded the museum after Reconstruction, envisioned a locus for creative capital in Charleston, and by providing it, he hoped to retain the area’s best and brightest minds. The academy-style institution he established continues this tradition to this day. Arts education remains central to the mission of the Gibbes and serves as a center of creativity for students and adults. From in-school programs such as Art to Go, Eye Spy, and Eye Opener, developed in conjunction with S.C. Learning Standards, to on-site museum programs such as Courage by the Sea: Revolutionary Tales of the Gibbes Family, where students become actors in a drama that traces the history of Charleston from the Revolutionary War to the dawning of the Civil War, these outstanding programs allow students within our community to stretch their minds and develop their potential.

At this time of year, I always reflect upon the past year and count my blessings. I can truly say that I am happy to have a place like the Gibbes Museum that stimulates innovation and discussion and offers our community a place to integrate our past with our future. I encourage you to take part in one of our many programs and to help share these programs with others. I also thank you for continually supporting the Gibbes and transforming education in the Lowcountry for generations to come.

Jennifer Ross, major gifts and grants consultant, Gibbes Museum of Art

Curating Conversations

As a Programming & Events intern this semester, I’ve had the great opportunity to share the room with some pretty remarkable people. This list includes guests of the Gibbes such as Jeff Rosenheim of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Charleston’s own Jonathan Green, artist Louise Halsey (daughter of Corrie McCallum and William Halsey), Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell, and Estée Lauder chairman emeritus Leonard Lauder. But the Gibbes has some remarkable people of its own. Its entire staff—from Executive Director Angela Mack to the custodian Russell Morrison—realizes the importance of museums as places to bring art and people together. The Gibbes staff is composed of hard workers who are dedicated to the success of the museum’s mission, to preserve and promote the art of this unique city.

Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell at the Gibbes Museum.

Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell speaks to a group of visitors in the Photography and the Civil War exhibition.

To some, museums appear to be passive temples of art where visitors must be silent and detached. But the Gibbes is so invested in this community; they seek to promote an active conversation between their collection, their programs, and the public. And to initiate such great conversations, the Gibbes is bringing some really good stuff to our city.

Traveling from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition Photography & the American Civil War presents intimate snapshots of life during the war—battlefields, street scenes, political propaganda, portraits of the young and the old. The exhibition also shows how photography influenced how we perceive the Civil War today. I was fortunate enough to talk with the Met’s curator in charge of the Department of Photography, Jeff Rosenheim, when he visited for the exhibit’s opening. He was incredibly knowledgeable about photography and its history and uses. But what impressed me most was his deep passion for the impact of photography. Jeff explained to me how photography is accessible, perhaps more so than any other medium, and how this justifies its instant popularity. He explained how photography is a democratic medium, an art form for everyone.

Photography and the American Civil War

Visitors explore the Photography and the American Civil War exhibition at the Gibbes.

I believe this idea of democracy and art for all can also be found in the Gibbes’s mission. They strive to present art and programming that is relatable to everyone. Their art speaks, and is, Charleston’s history—our history. If you love our city, then there is absolutely no way that you could not love what the Gibbes has to offer. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I’ve had this semester to work with such a dedicated team of art managers who care so greatly about art and its influence in Charleston. Like I mentioned above, the Gibbes team is truly committed to their work in this community and this is what will always stick with me long after my internship is over. I know what I’ve learned here will benefit me wherever I end up in the art world, and I’m proud to call Charleston, the Gibbes, and its great art my starting point.

Intern Amelia Roland

Intern Amelia Roland stands next to a painting by Robert Gordy at the Gibbes.

Amelia Roland, Public Programs & Marketing Intern and guest blogger

Esther Ferguson: A Woman with a Vision

Esther Ferguson is small in stature, but her dedication to the Gibbes Museum is immense. A long-time supporter of the museum, she joined the Gibbes Board in the spring of 2013. I sat down with her recently to talk about the inspiration behind The Distinguished Lecture Series.

Esther Ferguson at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Esther Ferguson at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Fifty years ago Esther Ferguson was a young woman alone in Manhattan. She traded the security of Hartsville, South Carolina, for the great unknown of New York City. “I was scared. Women didn’t do that sort of thing back then. I was very poor and on the weekend, I would go alone to The Metropolitan Museum to listen to the lecture series. I remember walking out of a lecture and sitting down to cry because I’d learned so much about the art world, and because I realized how much more there was to learn!” The experience was nurturing during an unsettling time in her life. “Attending these lectures kept me going throughout the week,” she explained.

The significance of the Met lecture series stayed with Mrs. Ferguson throughout the years, and after returning to the south, she began to dream about bringing a lecture series to Charleston. In 2010, the Fergusons loaned works of art from their private collection to the Gibbes Museum to form the exhibition, Modern Masters from the Ferguson Collection. Two mixed-media works by world-renowned installation artists Christo and Jeanne Claude were part of the exhibition, which ran from April 30–August 22, 2010. As part of Modern Masters, Christo was invited to speak about his large-scale temporary works of art including the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris, the 24 ½-mile-long Running Fence in Sonoma and Marin Counties in California, and The Gates in New York City’s Central Park.


Esther Ferguson with artist Christo.

“At the end of his stunning lecture, it was the men who clapped the loudest,” recalls Mrs. Ferguson. “After the lecture these men gathered around Christo and told him they didn’t know if they liked his work, but they understood it. That’s when I knew art could fill stadiums.” She smiled.

The Old Mill, ©Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York; by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas; 15 x 18 inches, Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Trust.

The Old Mill, ©Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York; by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas; 15 x 18 inches, Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Trust.

Mrs. Ferguson began to formulate her plan to establish a fund to create the Distinguished Lecture Series at the Gibbes Museum. She had the perfect speaker in mind, her friend of thirty years, Mr. Leonard Lauder. “Every time you see him it’s art, art, art,” she laughed. Mr. Lauder’s attention to art became evident to the world at large last spring when he donated his $1.5 billion collection of Cubist art to the very museum that brought Mrs. Ferguson to tears all those years ago. In a Vanity Fair article, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas P. Campbell (who visited the Gibbes museum in October) said of the donation, “In one fell swoop this puts the Met at the fore-front of early-20-century art.” Mrs. Ferguson decided she would ask her friend and philanthropist, Leonard Lauder, to be the inaugural Distinguished Lecture speaker. “He is a very private man, but when I asked he said yes. I’ll do this for you Esther.”

Leonard A. Lauder

Leonard A. Lauder, Chairman Emeritus, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Chairman Emeritus, The Estee Lauder Companies Inc.

We are so fortunate to have friends like Mrs. Ferguson who are working to bring outstanding, world-renowned artists, art collectors, museum leaders, philanthropists, and art historians to Charleston to stimulate discussion about the visual arts and creativity. We are already planning for future speakers and are excited about the future of the Distinguished Lecture Series!

Amy Mercer, marketing and communications manager, Gibbes Museum of Art

The inaugural lecture in the Distinguished Lecture Series, featuring Leonard A. Lauder, is Wednesday, November 20. A limited number of tickets are still available for this event at or by calling 843.722.2706 x21.

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