Archive for July, 2013

The Art of Being a Curator: Details Matter!

I feel so lucky to be a collections and curatorial summer intern at the Gibbes Museum of Art! I have learned a lot about both curatorial and collections management work every day. I even got a chance to organize the Artist Spotlight exhibitions in Gallery H, which is located on the first floor next to the stairwell. I used to be a curatorial assistant in my undergraduate university’s museum, but this was my first time to actually curate an exhibition all by myself!

Molly hanging object labels.

Molly installs object labels in the gallery, making sure they are hung at the correct height and spacing.

I started my work by researching the themes of the exhibition. Later on, I used PastPerfect, which is a powerful collections management software, to help me manage the exhibition details. I needed to consider a series of questions for preparation, such as the size of the art works, their condition, whether the works were framed, and if I would need exhibition furniture for display. I also needed to prepare all of the text materials for the exhibition. The logic and order of artworks are also of great importance. In other words, this time I was no longer an assistant, but a real “curator!” It was so exciting to have this chance!!

Measuring a display case.

Measuring a display case.

As a student from architecture school, I also practiced what I had learned in my studio class when designing the exhibition. Google SketchUp is a very basic and easy-to-use software for architectural design. Architects never use it for professional drawings, but I found it perfect for curatorial work! It helped me measure and organize the works in the space quickly, and also provided me with a multi-perspective preview of the exhibition. I felt excited to put my school knowledge to good use!

Google Sketch-Up drawing.

A Google SketchUp drawing for the Art of the Print exhibition.

Google Sketch-Up Image

A schematic drawing of an exhibition of works by Edward Middleton Manigault.

By working on the two exhibitions in Gallery H for the coming fall, I realized the importance of details in curatorial work. For example, one thing to remember when writing for a museum text panel is many of my readers will be first-time visitors. Therefore, text materials should be clear, readable, and interesting. Another important method I learned was how to arrange multiple profile portraits. Visitors feel more comfortable when seeing two portraits facing one another rather than hanging back to back. In addition, it’s better to have a figure in a portrait staring at another image rather than staring at a corner or a wall. These types of details are carefully considered by a curator—hopefully the visitor won’t even think about it—and the impact on a whole exhibition can be huge. That is why sometimes we feel comfortable when visiting an exhibition, while other times we feel weird or unsettled. Art is to a gallery like notes are to a symphony—they are following harmony rhythms and melodies, and the “symphony” of a museum is carefully composed by its curators.

A current installation of works by George Biddle in the H-Gallery.

A current installation of works by George Biddle (1885–1973) in the H-Gallery.

I hope you will enjoy the upcoming Spotlight exhibitions about Edward Middleton Manigault and Gibbes’ outstanding collection of prints! Come and visit Gibbes Museum this fall!

Molly Huang, collections and curatorial summer intern and guest blogger

Summer Art Camp: An Intern’s Perspective

Working with Rebecca Sailor, curator of education, at the Gibbes Summer Art Camp has been a unique experience that has allowed me to see many aspects and details that go into working with a prominent local art museum. As the Education Department intern, I’ve had the opportunity to work with different groups of children each week as they engage their creativity through various art mediums and styles.

Young campers explore Modern Art.

Intern Caroline Haygood helps campers ages 4 – 7 explore Modern Art styles and techniques.

It is particularly fun for me to be able to work with new groups of campers each week. I have spent a significant amount of time with children, from interning as a third-grade teaching assistant, to being a full time nanny each summer. Working with children in the early developmental stage can be challenging, but extremely rewarding. There is a great deal to learn from young children who are just beginning to exercise their imaginative minds, and helping out in the Gibbes Art Camp has certainly been an ideal spot for me. I enjoy watching the transition from aimless doodling at the beginning of the week to thoughtful projects towards the end of the session— especially in the 4 to 6 year-old age group. During each session, children learn to take their time and to follow instructions, as well as how to use different mediums, textures, and styles to convey their creative ideas.

I appreciate the way the Gibbes structures their sessions. Our first session taught printmaking, and was a neat way to understand how art can be reproduced many times over. The next session, focusing on modern art, has also been incredibly interesting as the children learned to paint portraits like Mary Whyte, or attempted marble splatter paintings like Jackson Pollack. I look forward to our last sessions, which will examine Charleston’s rich history and connection to the beautiful sea landscape.

Instructor Kristen Solecki with campers.

Camp Instructor, Kristen Solecki, talks with campers about color palettes.

I have thoroughly admired the guidance of our camp teacher, Kristen Solecki. She is not only a successful local artist, but also an experienced teacher who continually inspires the children to work to their best ability and seek meaning in their art. Her artistic talent and knowledge provide a great example for the children, and she helps them recognize that their artwork can be appreciated and admired.

My favorite part of working with the Gibbes Summer Art Camp is our weekly trip to tour the museum galleries. The campers spend each week learning about new artists, such as Jasper Johns and Jackson Pollock. They are enthusiastic about the chance to view works of art in the styles they’ve been emulating in the classroom. As an adult, I am inspired to see young children gaining an appreciation for art through outlets like the Gibbes Summer Art Camp. So many young people do not have the opportunity to gain insight into their local artists and exhibits, and the Gibbes has made that possible for these campers.

Parents and campers enjoy an art show at week's end.

Parents and campers enjoy an Art Show at week’s end.

Although it is just three hours each morning, by the end of the week the children have incredible displays of all the artwork they have made. I love the way the children’s’ faces light up at the art show on Fridays when they proudly get to reveal to their parents the many projects they’ve worked on throughout the week.

Caroline Hagood, Education Department summer intern and guest blogger

Stroll down King Street on Second Sunday

Second Sunday on King Street is the brainchild of Susan Lucas of the King Street Marketing Group. If you haven’t come downtown for one of these events, you are missing out! With the streets closed off to traffic, King Street is transformed into a European city where strolling is a time honored tradition. Second Sunday draws tourists, locals, children, and even dogs who stroll in and out of delightful boutiques, stop for lunch at some of Charleston’s favorite restaurants, and of course, visit the Gibbes Museum.

King Street Second Sunday

The Gibbes offers three Free-Admission Sundays throughout the year. We have waived admission on select days for many years because it’s a way for us to open our doors and give back to the community. This is the first year that we have partnered with Second Sunday, and we want to encouraging strollers to continue down King Street, through the Gateway Walk next to the Charleston Library Society, and come into the museum.

Mending a Break in a Rice-Field Bank, from the series A Carolina Rice Plantation of the Fifties

Post-Conservation

This Sunday, July 14, visitors will have the rare opportunity to experience the stunning watercolor series, A Carolina Rice Plantation of the Fifties, by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith. This collection is not often on display because of the fragile nature of the watercolors. Curator of Exhibitions Pam Wall wrote an earlier post “A Commitment to Conservation” about the museum’s efforts to restore and preserve the vibrant colors of the watercolor series. In the recent article, “The Quandry of Alice Ravenel Huger Smith” Post and Courier Arts Editor Adam Parker writes, “Smith was a master manipulator of watercolor, creating images, landscapes mostly, influenced by Japanese printmaking and woodblocks and romantic English art that transformed the objects of nature into symbol, myth and memory.” This exhibition will close on Sunday so the free admission day gives visitors a final chance to see the works as a whole.

The Spoleto Watercolors of Stephen Mueller and Carl Palazzolo From the Collection of David and Carol Rawle is on display in the Rotunda galleries, and People’s Choice: A Community – Curated Exhibition is on view in the Main Gallery.

This Sunday we are also excited to offer visitors the chance to meet Monica Karales, widow of award winning photographer James Karales. Come to the Museum Store from 1 – 4pm for a special book signing as Ms. Karales celebrates the release of the book documenting the life of her late husband, Controversy and Hope: The Civil Rights Photographs of James Karales, by Julian Cox with Rebekah Jacob and Monica Karales. Stunning photographs chronicling the Civil Rights Movement were on view at the Gibbes in the recent exhibition Witness to History: Civil Rights Era Photographs by James Karales.

Ms. Johnson (Estelle), 1972, By Barkley Hendricks (American, b. 1945) 

So this Sunday, take advantage of our free admission and stroll through the museum. One of the best parts about my job is that I get to do that on a daily basis. On my way into the office I am greeted by the Veiled Lady. On my way to lunch I walk past Ms. Johnson (Estelle) and on my way home at the end of the day, I pass Persephone bathing in the courtyard garden. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to surround myself with art, and am excited that our free admission days will give visitors that same opportunity. Stroll down King Street this weekend, and come say hello to Ms. Johnson.

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

Upcoming Free Admission Days:
Saturday, September 28, 10am – 5pm: Smithsonian Museum Day Live! Must present pass, available on smithsonianmag.com, to be eligible for free admission.
Sunday, October 13, 1 – 5pm: Second Sunday Free Admission Day
February 9, 2014, 1 – 5pm: Second Sunday Free Admission Day

Artist Spotlight: George Biddle (1885–1973)

This summer the spotlight is on Philadelphia native, George Biddle (1885–1973). Biddle spent most of his childhood in New England. He went to the Groton School, where President Franklin Roosevelt was a classmate, and received both his undergraduate and law degree from Harvard. In 1911, upon graduating law school and passing the Pennsylvania Bar exam, Biddle left a career in law behind setting off for Paris, France, to study art at the Académie Julian. Over the next five years, Biddle also studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, learned printmaking in Madrid, Spain, and spent summers in Giverny, France, to study Impressionism. After serving in World War I, he traveled extensively, going to Tahiti, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the West Indies, and France.

The Battery, Evening, 1931, by George Biddle

The Battery, Evening, 1931, by George Biddle

In 1928, Biddle traveled to Mexico with muralist Diego Rivera. He spent six months with Rivera, learning the techniques of mural painting and soaking up the social and political ideas embodied within the art of the state supported Mexican School. In 1933, Biddle wrote a letter to President Roosevelt, his boyhood friend, campaigning for a government funded arts program to use as a platform for “expressing in living monuments the social ideals [President Roosevelt] was struggling to express.” The letter was acted on almost immediately and by year’s end the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) was established—the predecessor of the Federal Arts Project (FAP).

The Crowd, Folly Beach, 1930 By George Biddle

The Crowd, Folly Beach, 1930 By George Biddle

Biddle spent May and June of 1930 in Charleston, South Carolina, sketching a series of illustrations for George and Ira Gershwin, who were then developing the opera Porgy and Bess based on the 1925 novel Porgy, written by Charleston native Dubose Heyward. While Biddle was in town, Heyward encouraged him to explore downtown Charleston and the piers of Folly Beach. During those two months, Biddle created works reflecting the spirit and customs of everyday life and developed a large folio of drawings and watercolors recording the social and cultural landscapes of Charleston.

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Works by George Biddle are on view at the Gibbes Museum through September 29, 2013, in the H Gallery.