Archive for November, 2011

Designing the New Galleries

We have made great progress on plans for the Gibbes renovations since my earlier post in October. The first phase of the gallery designs and plans were approved and the drawings completed. This trip, curatorial staff members Angela Mack, Sara Arnold, Pam Wall, and I had a great time creating the look and feel of the newly expanded second floor galleries. As we worked together, I realized that we had captured an additional 10,000 square feet of gallery space as a result of the transformation of the Main Gallery, the extension of the third floor at the back of the building, and the conversion of the current store rooms and office space located in the 1970s addition that surrounds the original Beaux Arts building.

Unidentified sitter, ca. 1755, Mary Roberts

During my November visit, we started to delve into the museum’s incredible collection of miniature paintings in order to tell the story of this medium in the South. I was not really surprised when Angela told me that the collection is the third largest in America—of course that would be the case with all the romance and charm of Charleston! The Miniatures and Cabinettes Gallery will showcase a grand history of Charleston’s residents through the development of American miniature portrait painting. The works on view will highlight the premiere artists of the period and the evolution of the genre. The gallery will include other major prints, drawings, and images created by many of the artists who worked in Charleston and helped it flourish as an American center of portrait miniatures. Visitors will move from the cases displaying hand-painted likenesses into galleries exhibiting the development of the Daguerreotype and early photographs in the museum’s extensive photograph collection. The scale of these tiny works of art will not translate well in an architectural drawing, so I think this space will be the first 3-D model we will build.

At my suggestion, the museum invited lighting designer Anita Jorgensen—who worked with me at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and is now consulting all over the country—to participate in the project. She reviewed the lighting proposals for the galleries, the museum’s exterior, and the entire first floor including the new café, the shop, and the new lecture and events spaces. We plan to install all new track and energy-efficient light fixtures throughout the building and create some very dramatic displays.

Greg Jenkins and Anita Jorgensen examine the dome structure from above the Rotunda Gallery.

Greg Jenkins and Anita Jorgensen examine the dome structure from above the Rotunda Gallery.

On the second floor, we will reopen the original skylights above the Main Gallery with state of the art light-diffusing glass and a new illumination system. The Tiffany-style dome in the Rotunda Gallery is in extremely good condition and it will get a serious cleaning. Anita and I followed operations manager Greg Jenkins up to the skylights and the stained-glass dome “installation room” above the Rotunda. We reviewed the dome’s existing lighting system and concluded that the best treatment will be to simply bounce dimmable fluorescent lighting down toward the dome to provide an even wash of light. We will also work on a new approach to illuminating the oculus, or center, of the dome and its decorative grillwork.

The museum’s dome is the only Beaux Arts example in Charleston, so highlighting the exterior of the building is key as well. Anita and I mustered the courage to go up on the roof again to review the potential exterior lighting options. We have a lot of work to do in order to achieve our plan. This truly makes me appreciate the monumental effort that Greg makes on a daily basis to keep the building in great shape.

Lighting designer Anita Jorgensen on the roof of the Gibbes Museum.

On a beautiful fall day, lighting designer Anita Jorgensen enjoyed the wonderful warm breeze and the view of the Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper River as she examined the roof of the Gibbes Museum.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we are rehabbing the space from top to bottom, so imagine our delight when we saw the amount of original tile flooring that has survived under the 1970s carpeting. It appears that the first floor tiling still remains under the central hallway carpeting so it will be cleaned and restored. But the area that really surprised everyone is the spectacularly patterned tile flooring in the second floor Rotunda Gallery. I snapped several photos to show the floor in it current condition—it looks very tired now but we are hopeful that it can be restored to its original grandeur. It appears that the center area of the floor has a very large pattern that may be a floral design. It is large enough that its diameter will most likely match the Tiffany-style dome above.

A detail of the tile design in the flooring original to the Beaux-Arts building.

A detail of the tile design in the flooring original to the Beaux Arts building.

I am excited for the final results when the Rotunda floor is uncovered, the walnut architectural woodwork is stripped of years of paint and refinished, and the dome is cleaned and glows with new lighting elements. The space will be brought back to life again and it will unquestionably become a Charleston destination place. I cannot wait!

Jeff Daly, museum designer and guest blogger

Women’s Council Auxiliary: Giving Back for Over 60 Years

Past presidents of the Women's Council at the 60th Anniversary celebration.

Past presidents of the Women's Council at the 60th Anniversary celebration.

In March of 1950, five women—Mrs. E. E. Wehman, Mrs. Ashby Farrow, Mrs. H. Evans Townsend, Mrs. James Wilson, and Mrs. C. Smith Toms—gathered in the museum to discuss the formation of a new group called the Gibbes Art Gallery Auxiliary. The auxiliary group’s main activities would include running receptions for exhibition openings and supporting children’s art classes operated in the Gallery. This meeting initiated what is now known as the Women’s Council of the Gibbes Museum of Art, and began a long career of giving back to Charleston’s art museum.

Members at the Annual Valentine's Day Card Party, 1961.

Members at the Annual Valentine's Day Card Party, 1961.

For the next three years, the Gibbes Art Gallery Auxiliary raised money for the children’s art program through card parties, silver teas, and raffles. The group defined their purpose “to foster an interest in art in the city, especially among children,” and in 1955, they contributed $300 to the Junior Gallery. They also worked to maintain the grounds of the museum. Joining forces with The Garden Club of Charleston, volunteers improved the museum’s courtyard landscape and the restoration of the historic Charleston Gateway Walk.

Under the guidance of Corrie McCallum, the Gibbes created and conducted the first comprehensive art appreciation program for Charleston County public school students.

Under the guidance of Corrie McCallum, the Gibbes created and conducted the first comprehensive art appreciation program for Charleston County public school students.

By 1960, the auxiliary group had grown to 87 members, and in 1961 the group initiated a docent program at the museum. Twenty-four women were part of the inaugural program that assisted with education in the galleries. During the 1960s, the Council supported the public school art programs in Charleston County. Under the direction of artist Corrie McCallum, the first art appreciation program began in the schools, and reached an estimated 20,000 children a year.

In the late ‘60s the group changed their name to the Women’s Council, and defined their mission as volunteerism. Under the direction of a member named Lenora Kessler, thirty women staffed the reception desks at the Gibbes five days a week. In addition to the visitor services the group provided, they organized garden parties, house tours, and gala fundraising events.

A garden tea hosted by the Women's Council of the GMA.

A garden tea hosted by the Women's Council in 1965.

In 1970, the Women’s Council added a museum shop to their roster of duties, and dubbed it “The Turtle” based on an Anna Heyward Taylor print in the museum’s collection. The women organized a gala event to raise money to purchase the inventory and staff the operation. The Women’s Council had become an integral part of the museum, and their volunteerism and fundraising efforts were an important resource for the day-to-day operations of the institution.

Sea Turtle from the series This Our Land, 1948, by Anna Heyward Taylor (American, 1879–1956). Gibbes Museum of Art (1949.002.0003.002)

Sea Turtle from the series This Our Land, 1948
Anna Heyward Taylor (American, 1879–1956).
Linoleum print on paper
Gibbes Museum of Art, Gift of the Artist (1949.002.0003.002)

In the 1980s, members of the group continued their educational focus by providing curriculum objectives, instructional assistance, and classroom visits to five elementary schools serving the underprivileged community. They continued to host the exhibition opening events, and to produce fundraising events to support the Gibbes. In the late eighties, they gave a gift of $15,000 towards a permanent gallery for the Charleston Renaissance collection, now called the “Alice Smith Gallery” on the first floor.

The Council established an Annual Holiday Tour of Homes in 1990, which continued until 2007. Historic homes were decked in holiday décor and tickets were sold for admission on the tour. During this time, their ranks grew to 248 members and they contributed research to a museum publication titled, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, An Artist, a Place and a Time; aided the implementation of a collections department and museum archive; and funded, in-part, a new museum store, just to name a few accomplishments. In 1993, the South Carolina Federation of Museums recognized the Women’s Council for “their contributions of services, manpower, money, and ideas to support the goals, ideals, and programs” of the Gibbes.

Janice Waring and Kathy Nistad present a check for $24,000.

Janice Waring and Kathy Nistad present a check to the museum for $24,000.

Rhett Ramsay Outten and Dolly Lipman at the Fine Art and Flowers opening night party, March 2011.

Rhett Ramsay Outten and Dolly Lipman at the Fine Art and Flowers opening night party, March 2011.

The Women’s Council remains an auxiliary eager to support the Gibbes Museum through participation and fundraising. Their fundraising efforts have evolved over time, and now are focused on a spring luncheon and lecture, called the Art of Design. This year, the group is proud to present renowned designer, Carolyne Roehm, as the speaker.

Joanne Harth, Beatty Martin, and Debbie Fisher at Fine Art and Flowers, March 2011.

Joanne Harth, Beatty Martin, and Debbie Fisher at Fine Art and Flowers, March 2011.

Today, the membership includes women of all ages from across the Tri-County area, and is actively reaching out to potential new members. Four meetings are scheduled each year, exploring a variety of topics relating to the arts. The Women’s Council continues their legacy of sponsoring exhibition openings, and supporting community outreach efforts at the museum. Its goal is to impact the community in a favorable way by bringing educationally and socially stimulating opportunities through the arts to Charleston’s vibrant constituency.

Contributed by Joanne Harth, Women’s Council President, and Ginny Brush, Women’s Council Past President

Learn more about the Women’s Council and opportunities to participate.

Save the Date: The Women’s Council presents the Art of Design Luncheon and Lecture with Carolyne Roehm, designed by Tara Guérard Soirée, on Friday, March 30, at noon.

Photocredits: All images courtesy of the Gibbes Museum of Art.
Corrie McCallum with works from the Gibbes Picture Lending Gallery, ca. 1965: photo by Gene Evans.
Fine Art & Flowers event images, March 2011: photos by Jason Baxley