Archive for August, 2011

An Eventful Summer

Curator Sara Arnold and intern Amanda Breen, in front of Gibbes Street Party festivities.

When I arrived in Charleston in May after two days and just over a thousand miles in the car, I wasn’t completely sure of what I was getting myself into. A new city, a new work experience, and new people to meet was exciting, but also a little terrifying. Looking back over the three months I spent as the Media Relations/Communications intern at the Gibbes Museum, I’m happy to report that Charleston, the Gibbes, and all the people I have worked with and met have truly made this an unforgettable experience!

When I decided to go back to school for a certificate in museum studies, almost two years after completing my undergraduate degree, I never would have imagined I would end up in Charleston, SC. I had always heard wonderful things about the city, so as my final semester approached I began doing a little research on the museums in the area where I might be able to apply for an internship. The Gibbes Museum caught my attention right away, not only for its collection and exhibitions, but for its unique history and true commitment to South Carolina’s artistic heritage. Since I wasn’t able to visit and interview with the museum in person, I spoke on the phone with Marla Loftus, the Director of Museum Relations, who offered me the position of Media Relations/Communications Intern for the summer. I knew this would be a great opportunity to learn about and participate in the marketing and events departments of a museum. My second day at the Gibbes, the museum hosted its annual Street Party, a fabulous and exciting way to kick off my internship and the summer. Shutting down one of the busiest streets in Charleston, amazing food, and great entertainment is probably not the norm after less that 48 hours at a new position, but I wasn’t going to complain!

Over the past three months, I’ve had a chance to work with a variety of people within the museum, but have primarily assisted the Director of Museum Relations. From posting press releases online, to fulfilling donation requests and organizing media coverage of the museum and its programs, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the museum and Charleston from an insider’s perspective. One of my favorite parts of this internship was being included in almost every meeting that the Director of Museum Relations attended, which gave me a better understanding and appreciation for how much planning goes into promoting the museum and the importance of community relationships and allowed me to meet some wonderful people in Charleston’s cultural community. If I’ve learned anything from this internship, it’s that the time spent cultivating partnerships with media outlets and sponsors is essential to the success of a museum.

I’ve also spent a lot of time working with the Program and Events Manager. Almost immediately after the sidewalks were swept following the Street Party, planning began on the next fundraising event, Bitters and Twisted in the Salon d’Orleans. Timed to coincide with the opening of one of the new exhibitions In Search of Julien Hudson: Free Artist of Color in Pre-Civil War New Orleans, this event was organized by the Gibbes’ young professionals auxiliary group, Society 1858. I assisted with everything from researching options for hand-held fans to helping with set up on the day of the event. It’s impossible to understand the amount of time and dedication that goes into planning an event such as this unless you are involved with the preparations. Performers and caterers don’t magically appear the night of the event, poised and ready for a couple hundred guests. Months of research and decisions go into making the night so memorable and successful. I have a deeper appreciation for anyone that plans programs and events and I know I will be able to apply the experiences I’ve had this summer at the Gibbes in my professional career.

This internship at the Gibbes Museum has given me the confidence to begin a career in the museum and art world. I’ve learned and participated in more than I ever imagined I would and have enjoyed being a part of this amazing team!

Amanda Breen, Media Relations/Communications Summer Intern, Gibbes Museum of Art

What I Did this Summer—Becca Goes to Camp

I’ve been volunteering with curator Sara Arnold for a couple of years, and I’ve been able to work on a variety of interesting projects. I have helped document the Alfred Hutty print inventory, update catalogue records for publication on the museum’s website, research French miniature painters in America for the In Search of Julien Hudson exhibit, write information sheets for docent training, along with many other tasks around the curatorial department. When Sara asked if I would be interested in working with the summer art camp, I readily agreed and looked forward to seeing kids express their creativity and learn more about the fabulous collection at the Gibbes. The campers certainly didn’t disappoint.

Campers create artist palettes.   Creating a miniature portrait.

Above: Campers created artist palettes and miniature portraits.

The first session was all about portraiture, and my favorite project was creating miniature “paintings.” While visiting the galleries, the campers were amazed to see the miniature portrait collection, and were even more surprised to learn that artists used single-hair brushes to complete such small masterpieces. We used Shrinky Dinks paper and markers (a much easier tool!) to draw small portraits, and after they “cooked” they were tiny! The second session focused on Charleston artists, and we were fortunate to have local painter Tate Nation visit our class and talk about his inspiration and process.

Tate Nation visits with campers.
Above: Tate Nation visited with campers.

The last session covered the unique features of Charleston architecture, and each camper created a maquette of a Charleston single house, complete with piazzas (or porches) and a landscaped garden. Even during these hectic mornings—gluing shingles, cutting out windows, and designing yards—I could not help but think about how this magical city has intrigued artists for years, and how fortunate it is that we have preserved our history for future generations to enjoy. I was reminded of my time looking at Alfred Hutty’s Charleston prints—I could recognize the scenes he depicted because many of those buildings and gates are still here.

Adding a red metal roof.   Designing a Charleston Single House.

Above: Campers designed Charleston Single Houses.

Becca Hiester, Volunteer, Gibbes Museum of Art

Japanese Art and Charleston: Inspiration from Abroad

Carolina Paroquet, by Anna Heyward Taylor

If you’ve visited the Gibbes Museum in the past few weeks, you may have noticed some different objects in The Charleston Story exhibition. We’ve changed out a number of works, including a group of woodblock prints by various artists working in this medium. I was particularly interested in this selection of prints because a number of them are actually by 19th-century Japanese artists, and the history behind how this medium influenced many Charleston artists was equally fascinating to me.

Nearly 500 woodblock prints in the Gibbes permanent collection came from one collector, Motte Alston Read. Read traveled extensively and began avidly collecting Japanese woodblock prints in the early 1900s. During this same period, South Carolina artist Anna Heyward Taylor also traveled abroad in Europe and Japan, where she was exposed to the traditional Japanese method of using different blocks for each color to create a polychrome print. Upon returning to the United States, Taylor met American artist B.J.O. Nordfeldt, who had developed a method for using only one block to create a polychrome print. In Nordfeldt’s method, each shape was separated by grooves to prevent the colors from mixing when applied to the block, which produced white outlines around each area of color. Taylor connected with this white-line technique and it can be seen in many of her pieces, including Carolina Paroquet, now on view.

  Crescent Moon from the series Twenty-eight Views of the Moon, by Ichiryusai Hiroshige        Moonlight on the Cooper River, by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith  
Another South Carolina artist, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, found inspiration much closer to home here in Charleston. Smith was a close friend and distant relative of Motte Alston Read, and had ample opportunity to study his collection in person. Smith translated many of the techniques she saw in Read’s Japanese print collection into her own work, such as the vertical composition seen in Crescent Moon from the series Twenty-eight Views of the Moon. A similar format is seen in Smith’s Moonlight on the Cooper River, however she incorporates Lowcountry imagery that was familiar to her.

These two artists found inspiration in the vivid colors, respect for nature, and striking compositions that they saw in Japanese woodblock prints. Taylor and Smith made this technique their own by incorporating common themes in Japanese art such as birds, flowers, and landscapes, into their own unique perspective of Charleston and South Carolina.

Amanda Breen, Museum Relations Summer Intern, Gibbes Museum of Art