Archive for March, 2012

It’s All in the Details

Second Floor Main Entrance Wall

The building design process for the Gibbes’ renovation is getting much busier these days. We are all juggling many aspects of the project at the same time but everyone is very excited about our results. Design ideas for both the Museum Store and new Café are moving into more finalized proposals. The Store will have illuminated displays in each of the Meeting Street windows and the new cabinetry and lighting will really highlight the beautiful merchandise. I have been reviewing current trends in museum gift shops all over the east coast, and I feel that we will have something very special in Charleston. The Café plan is becoming more defined—with input on the prep and service areas being provided by one of the major restaurant equipment companies in the area. The look of the Café is also changing. I want to stay true to impressive Beaux-Arts architecture of the original building but create a space that will encourage visitors to relax and enjoy the community environment of the café. I have been inspired by the numerous cafés in many of the Washington, DC museums. Our plans include a large community table at the center of the Café surrounded by a series of three or four banquettes nestled into the reopened Meeting Street windows. The Café and Museum Store will be open to visitors without paying admission, which is a key aspect of the newly renovated first floor open corridor spaces.

The first floor art classrooms are well into the planning stages—ready for the architects to insert into the final design document. We’ve invited a few artist friends of the museum to help conceptualize the professional artist studios in an attempt to guarantee that we get it right the first time. The curators and I are refining the plans for the second floor galleries to tell a visual narrative from the early history of southern art through to current developments and trends in contemporary art. And we are finally developing elevation drawings that will be used to create a 3-D model of the second floor galleries with all of the artworks in place. This next step will bring the future galleries to life so that we can share more concretely how the museum displays will be completely transformed.

Back in the first floor main corridor, beautiful reproduction pendant light fixtures will be installed down the long hallway. From old photographs in the museum archive, we know these new pendant fixtures are a similar design to the originals that hung in the corridor, and they will relate to the restored originals in the second floor colonnade. Museum visitors will be able to walk from the Museum Store and Café at the front of the building, past the classrooms and studio spaces, and into the newly renovated reception gallery and lecture hall at the garden end of the building. Flexible lighting options in the rooms at the rear of the building will increase their multipurpose functionality and we hope will create an appealing event space leading to the glass-covered back porch and the new sculpture garden.

Second Floor Main Entrance Wall (Front)

A major step in the process is the development of a completely new lighting system for all of the galleries and public spaces, which is being designed by Anita Jorgensen from New York. The LED lighting she has specified for most public areas of the building will enhance the artworks and transform the space—showing the original intent of the artists and architects. The Rotunda gallery and Tiffany Dome will be lit from above and below with LED and fluorescent lighting. I expect the illumination techniques we have planned for the stained-glass dome will result in the most perfect likeness to its original installation in 1905. Imagine the Rotunda’s original tessera tile floor, which relates to the ceiling’s Beaux-Arts architectural details and mimics the design of the dome itself, once it is restored and beautifully lit!

As I have been doing during each visit, Angela and I spoke with museum friends and supporters about the plans for the future for the Gibbes. With each event, we have received great responses and suggestions. I am impressed with our supporters ideas and their passionate concerns about the new Gibbes. As these concepts continue to develop, I look forward to sharing them with you on this blog. I honestly can’t wait until we start the restorations and reconstructions!

Jeff Daly, museum designer and guest blogger

“EYE SPY” Something Fun in the Classroom

When I was asked to write a post for the Gibbes Museum’s blog I was very excited. It’s fun to be able to share the terrific pilot project I am doing called ”EYE SPY.” This new program teaches art history to students in local elementary schools using the Gibbes collection.

Debby Passo in the classroom at St. Andrew's Math and Science Elementary School.

I moved to Charleston from Ohio three years ago and decided I wanted to bring a project into the Charleston schools drawing from my experience as an art history minor in college. I approached the Gibbes and worked with Rebecca Sailor, Associate Curator of Education, and Elise Detterbeck, a Museum Educator, for over a year to launch EYE SPY. I am grateful to both ladies, especially to Rebecca for her hard work to secure a grant from the C. Louis Meyer Family Foundation which provides funding for us to partner with two schools this year. Elise teaches at Springfield Elementary School, and I work at St. Andrews Math and Science Elementary School with a wonderful art teacher named Valerie Garrison. My approach is to compare and contrast works of art from the Gibbes with the artworks of some of the most recognized masters of the 20th century, which was my emphasis in college.

I visit the second and third grade art classrooms once a month. The importance of having an art teacher who is enthusiastic and supportive of this project is essential. For this first year, Mrs. Garrison and I selected a theme of famous artists’ birthdays. In the classroom, Mrs. Garrison displays many pictures of iconic artworks so it has been fun to use these in our project. Each month I select one or two masters who have a birthday that month. I then pick an artist from the collection of the Gibbes Museum and help the students to identify some similarities and differences between the two artists’ works. I emphasize the fundamental elements of art, such as basic shapes, lines, colors, and styles. The goal is for students begin to appreciate and talk about the art. Fortunately, the creative hands-on aspect of the class is left up to Mrs. Garrison.

This has been wonderful for both the students and me. I spend a great deal of time preparing because I am still learning about our treasured artworks in the Gibbes Museum. The reward—after only a few months—is encouraging a dialogue between the students, and expanding their world of discovery. It is so exciting to see their hands go up to share an idea or a question. They are incredibly focused on each piece of art and they want to know the backgrounds of the artists—mostly when and where they were born and how old they were when they died. They remember previous works that we have studied, and they bring these ideas into our discussions. I have introduced the works of Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, Monet, and Pollock, comparing them to works by Jonathan Green, Merton Simpson, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, and William Halsey. Sometimes I forget that these students are only second and third graders with their remarkable comments and pertinent thoughts. It was a nice reminder to me of their ages when after only one class they wanted to know if I had met any of these artists—imagine how old they must think I really am!

I am looking forward to the remainder of the school year. The time goes by so quickly because we are so engaged in discussion and the groups stay very attentive. I feel so fortunate to be able share my love of art history with these students and in return I am the one being rewarded by their enthusiasm. They are looking forward to their visit to the Gibbes, which is funded by the grant. Some of these students have never been to a museum and I cannot wait to see their faces when they see some of the paintings in person that we have discussed in class. Working with the museum, I hope to expand this pilot program to reach more students with the aid of additional funding and volunteers. There is nothing more thrilling than watching the smiles on the faces of these students as they explore the grand world of art.

Debby Passo, museum educator and guest blogger

To learn more about EYE SPY and other in-school programs organized by the Gibbes Museum of Art, please contact Associate Curator of Education Rebecca Sailor at rsailor@gibbesmuseum.org or 843.722.2706 x41.