Endless Variety and Superabundance of Beauty

If Katy Huger or Harriet Smartt suggests that something might be interesting, fun, and informative—do it! That’s one of the things I’ve learned most recently as a member of the Gibbes Collection Committee, when I volunteered (upon their advice) to spend some time, as they have done much more generously, helping with an inventory project. My experience took me behind the scenes with Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration, to a room with long tables, shelves, crates, and the Solander boxes which held the works on paper we’d be checking against inventory lists. The inventories Zinnia brought out for my session featured primarily Charleston Renaissance artists such as Prentiss Taylor, Charles Henry White, Leila Waring, Emma Gilchrist, Eola Willis, Thomas Addison Richards, and Antoinette Guerard Rhett; others on the list included Harold Tatum and Richard Lofton.

My M.A. is in Literature of the English Renaissance; what I realized I don’t know about Charleston Renaissance art could fill many of those afore-mentioned Solander boxes. Since I’ve confessed to having been an English major, I’ll admit that I was preoccupied for a bit wondering how these boxes were named. It’s fascinating to learn that they are so named in honor of Dr. Daniel Charles Solander, a botanist who traveled to the Pacific with Capt. Cook and later became the British Museum’s Keeper of Printed Books. He invented the boxes to provide safe storage for precious prints and manuscripts. Interesting! I went home and looked him up on a bookbinders’ webpage, finding out even more about him and his passion for archiving and conserving.

Solander Archival Storage Boxes

Solander archival storage boxes

But back to “my” project boxes and their tantalizing contents… Zinnia opened a box, handed me a printed list of images and description of the works we were to verify—about five images per page, each packet consisting of fifteen to thirty pages. The procedure was that she would carefully lift each work, call out its catalogue number, largely in numerical order by year, while I would find the corresponding item on the inventory list and check it off to show that its location had been verified. First, naturally, I was struck speechless (well, maybe not speechless enough; speed and efficiency were also Zinnia’s goals…) by the volume of each box’s contents, realizing that here in my short morning’s work I was seeing only a tiny slice of the Museums’ holdings. Second, I was impressed by the accuracy and thoroughness of the staff’s work, as evidenced by the matching of box contents and image lists. As a member of the Collections Committee, I knew how dedicated and talented the staff is, but here was proof in an area not polished for display.

Crabapple Blossoms, ca. 1920s By Antoinette Guerard Rhett

Crabapple Blossoms, ca. 1920s, by Antoinette Guerard Rhett (American, 1884–1964)

Perhaps most thrilling about my experience with the inventory projects was seeing the variety of subject and technique represented in just these boxes—though I had to remember that I was there to inventory, not examine! Here was Hutty’s student, Antoinette Guerard Rhett (whose husband, I later learned, was of the family for whom our house in Charleston is named!). I could have studied a long time her delicate, small-scale color etchings (Crabapple Blossoms, for example), influenced by Japanese design, I learned, and printed on paper as fragile as their subject. In fact, I could have taken one home to enjoy had Zinnia only stepped out of the room… Alas, she didn’t! Rhett’s titles, too, sometimes delighted; her image of two caterpillars on a leaf is titled The Courtship.

The Courtship, ca. 1920s, By Antoinette Guerard Rhett

The Courtship, ca. 1920s, by Antoinette Guerard Rhett (American, 1884–1964)

Here also were images by Leila Waring, whom I knew to be a leading figure with Alice Smith in reviving interest in miniatures. After having checked off many images of lovely gates, alleyways, buildings and gravestones, how interesting to see her pencil drawing of a young woman sitting on a rug. This resting figure with fluid dress and bobbed hair looked as though she might at any minute get up and resume dancing “The Charleston.”

Untitled (Young Woman Sitting on Rug), n. d., By Leila Waring (American, 1876 – 1964)

Untitled (Young Woman Sitting on Rug), n. d., by Leila Waring (American, 1876–1964)

As I was getting accustomed to the delicate lines and colors and fine detail of characterization of many Etchers’ Club artists, I was surprised and intrigued to see the woodblock by Richard Lofton (1908–1966) called Politicians: The Joke. No Spanish moss or soaring steeples or finely-wrought gates here! The face in profile is brutish—huge, sharp teeth—huge, threatening hands—and one figure has a kind of Death’s Head back view. Are they crowding in on a voter? Offering a flask? I could almost feel the ooze and stink. Was “The Joke” on the voters who elected these politicians?

Politicians, Number 2, The Joke, n. d, by Richard Lofton

Politicians, Number 2, The Joke, n. d., By Richard Lofton (American, 1908–1966)

Sometimes, reminiscent of discussions about acquisitions and de-accessions in the Collections Committee meetings, I was left wondering why some of the works were stored and maintained in several iterations although they didn’t seem to have a great deal of congruence with the collecting mission of The Gibbes. For example, the museum owns seven identical images by Harold Tatum of the often-depicted Construction Worker Resting [on a girder, skyscraper in background]. Those are issues which the staff and Director face daily, and this project has given me even more respect for and understanding of the delicate nature of these decisions.

On page nine of her beautiful book The Charleston Renaissance (1998), Martha Severens shares a quote from Charles Henry White, who said in a 1907 Harper’s article inspiring painters to visit and explore Charleston, “…as you press on, you are thrilled with a sense of the endless variety and superabundance of beauty that lures you… fearful that something might escape you…” That is a fair description of how I felt going through those Solander boxes during my inventory morning. Thank you, Zinnia, Harriet, and Katy, for encouraging me to take this opportunity—I pass on your encouragement to others! As Michaelangelo said in his 80s, “Ancora Imparo—I am always learning.”

Cathy Bennington Jenrette, Collections Committee Member and guest blogger

Create-A-Map Gets A Facelift!

Every teacher looks for ways to make learning “stick” and many will agree that hands-on lessons are the most unforgettable. The Gibbes Museum of Art has a portable kit called Create-A-Map that is totally hands-on, and it’s available for schools to use. With Create-A-Map, learning about South Carolina is fun, educational, and, most of all, memorable.

Gibbes Museum Create a Map

The Create-A-Map kit has been updated and is ready to travel to your school!

Create-A-Map allows students to construct a 9×12 foot, three dimensional map of South Carolina right on their classroom floor. The base is a large canvas floor cloth with the outline of the state and a numbered and lettered grid drawn on it to help guide the placement of cities, rivers, products, etc. Participants are divided into seven “teams” and for each team there is a small map for reference and a box of items to place on the floor map.

Adding SC Products to the floor map

Students can add their game pieces to the floor map.

The “Cities” Team has nine plastic cups, labeled with city names and covered with artwork and photos, to place on the grid. The “Rivers and Lakes” Team uses blue ropes and foam-board lakes. “Interstate Highways” are represented with long black strips affixed with Matchbox cars. The “Regions” Team divides the state with yellow ropes, and then adds labels, bean-bag mountains, and sandhills to the floor map. “Products” (a tiny basket of cotton, strawberries, a toy boat for shipping, etc.), “State Symbols” (a piece of blue granite, a plastic spotted salamander, etc.), and “People” representing famous South Carolina citizens (each represented with a small scrapbook), round out the teams. The map can be assembled in about an hour, and when it’s finished, it’s loaded with information that can foster discussions and further study. The map was an idea that began as an outdoor project at the museum more than fifteen years ago. Using the back patio of the museum as the grid, student visitors built an enormous South Carolina map right in the courtyard. The next step in its development was to make a travelling kit that would fit in a classroom, and Create-A-Map was born.

SC Products ready to be placed on map

Some of the products important to South Carolina’s agricultural economy.

Over the years the kit has been used by many schools and has been revised several times. This year the museum asked me to refurbish Create-A-Map, bring it up-to-date with school standards and technology, and streamline it for easier use. I’ve always been a big fan of the kit because it combines social studies, geography, history, mapping skills, art appreciation, problem-solving, and teamwork! It was my pleasure to tweak it for 2013.

A completed map

A completed map includes regions, people, products and other details specific to the state of South Carolina.

Those of you who have used the kit before might notice some changes. I added the outline of South Carolina directly to the floor cloth so students wouldn’t have to lay out the border with a rope (which never stayed put!). I added a team for famous South Carolinians and made a tiny “scrapbook” to represent each of the ten people. I reworked the regions team to comply with the SC standards. The instructions and team boxes have been streamlined so now the entire kit fits into one rolling bin (2’6” x 1’6” x 1’2”).

The new kit is complete and ready to go! Reserve it for your classroom by contacting Rebecca Sailor at the Gibbes Museum by phone, 843-722-2706 x41, or via email at rsailor@gibbesmuseum.org. We would love your feedback, and we hope you enjoy the new and improved Create-A-Map!

Mary Droge, Gibbes Museum Educator and guest blogger

A Summer Behind-the-Scenes at the Gibbes Museum

Interning at the Gibbes Museum of Art for the majority of this summer has been an absolute privilege and certainly an eye-opener towards discovering the elements that allow a museum to function successfully. Here, I have been exposed to almost every different department, a few being Development, Curatorial and Collections Management, and Education Programs. Given the opportunity to assist various staff-members in these departments, I have entered an incredibly determined, passionate, and efficient network of people. The museum staff have devoted an immeasurable amount of effort and enthusiasm towards interpreting and preserving the meanings of various art collections that derive from Charleston and the South. Throughout my time here, I have noticed that the Gibbes’s mission—to preserve and promote the art of Charleston and the American South—rings true within the museum as well as with local communities and visitors to the Lowcountry.

Gibbes Renovation Rendering

A cross-section of the building reveals plans for a renovation to the Gibbes Museum of Art.

In my first week, I was introduced to the more “executive” facet of the Gibbes, working with the Development team. I learned that the museum is not-for-profit and depends on funding from various sources including private trusts and foundation grants, as well as individual and corporate gifts, for its daily operations and to maintain its collection. Each fiscal year the Development team starts all over to identify funding sources that will help with the operations of the museum. I realized how much more work and fortitude is essential in order for a non-profit organization to function. During my time in the Development office, I also learned about plans for an extremely substantial and thoughtfully planned renovation that will commence in the summer of 2014. Throughout each meeting that I was attended, staff-members delivered innovative and fascinating ideas contributing to the plans of the redesign, and further emphasizing the importance of preserving the Gibbes’ mission statement. I am ecstatic to see the end result and to be able to watch everyone’s ideas blossom as they come to life in 2016!

After working with the Development group, my directors provided me with a complete change of scene. For the next week, I assisted with the summer art camp and my coworkers consisted of creative mini-Picassos. It was remarkable to see how eager and focused the children were when it came to organizing their ideas and then tactfully putting them onto paper. The end result was fantastic, expressive, and always original! As they discovered their artistic abilities, the enthusiastic teacher Kristen Solecki also enlightened the children about contemporary artists such as Jasper Johns and Mary Whyte. The children were interested to use the work of the artists that they learned about as models for their own pieces of art, incorporating characteristics of abstract and modern artwork into their own masterpieces.

Instructor Kristen Solecki with campers.

Camp Instructor, Kristen Solecki, teaches campers about color palettes.

For the next two weeks, I worked with the Collections Management and Curatorial departments. With Collections Management, I was always on my feet and was able to see each different part of the museum, and even took a thrilling adventure into “deep, dark storage” where sizeable amounts of artwork were carefully kept. I was so lucky to be able to see and even handle some of the artwork, including marvelous paintings, many delicate miniatures, and valuable sketches done by Alice Ravenel Huger Smith. As I worked in these departments, I learned about numerous past exhibitions, even those that took place during the early 1900s. These departments provided me with an amazing view into the museum’s past and historical culture, as well as a wonderfully close look at the collection.

Receiving an inside look at the careful consideration of curating exhibitions, establishing connections to the community, promoting educational programs, and further projects that define the creative purpose of the Gibbes, I have seen the museum’s mission statement continue to speak louder and grow more meaningful each day. The Gibbes Museum of Art is built upon and held together by a thoughtful, strong, well connected, and ambitious group of people with whom I have had the absolute pleasure of being able to work.

Elizabeth McGehee, Porter-Gaud High School Intern and guest blogger

2013 is the second year of a partnership between Porter-Gaud School and the Gibbes Museum of Art. Made possible by the generous support of past Porter-Gaud parents Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Wendell, this internship is designed to enrich a student’s knowledge of art history and the museum profession.

Days (Not So) Beyond Recall: An Intern’s Reflection on Art and Change

At the start of each day of my summer internship at Gibbes Museum of Art, I walk past Michael Tyzack’s Days Beyond Recall on my way into the office. It is great way for any person enthusiastic about visual arts to start their day, but lately, this part of my routine has taken on more meaning.

Since the start of my Master of Library and Information Science program, change has been a reoccurring motif, and one that I cannot help but contemplate frequently, especially now that I myself am in the midst of a lot of changes taking place in my own life… Today is my 26th birthday. I am now a Reference Librarian at my alma mater, College of Charleston, working at Addlestone Library. Tomorrow marks two and a half years of being married to my husband, an art educator in Colleton County School District. The last day of my internship at Gibbes is only 15 days away. In just 20 days, I will turn in my final project for Humanities and Art Information Services—my last course in the MLIS program. And in 24 days I will graduate from The University of South Carolina.

Days Beyond Recall, 1982, by Michael Tyzack

Days Beyond Recall, 1982, by Michael Tyzack (British, 1933–2007)

So, I am in a transitional stage of sorts, and I suppose this has led to a significant amount of reflection. My thoughts about the future are much like Tyzack’s painting—bright and alluring, though nonetheless abstract.

The title of the piece, Days Beyond Recall, denotes a time that has long since passed. I see now that my days as a student are coming to a close. And slightly to my chagrin, I admit that I am growing up and will probably continue to do so. I see that this time in my life will soon be a part of my past. However, I can’t see how these days could ever be beyond my recollection of them. They are far too memorable. And after all, everything I have worked at thus far will contribute to my future, whatever it may hold. Still, the unknown that comes with change can be daunting at times. I have found that focusing on what I know about change can help me cope.

Much of my graduate curricula and the LIS profession have revolved around a notion of embracing change. Technology and the overall realm of information are now tremendously different, among other things. In any case, if libraries are to continue to meet the needs of the communities they serve, they must adapt and develop new services accordingly. Succeeding at this can mean improvement. Information settings can then encourage intellectual and personal growth more effectively.

Art museums are no exclusion. As an emerging information professional, I have enjoyed being at the Gibbes this summer, and seeing an undertaking of such a valuable transformation in real life. The museum, as you may know, is preparing not only for being physically under construction, but there are also plans for re-branding. The goal is to make the Museum more relevant to its community, and to enhance the experience of visitors through reform of educational services and visual art information services.

Intern Alison Paul

Intern Alison Paul worked on Social Media and marketing campaigns for the museum this summer.

Perhaps you are wondering how a Public Programs & Marketing internship pertains to a LIS student. Although I may not be specifically handling books, I am most certainly working with information. Careers in Library and Information Science are evolving beyond their traditional forms. To remain valuable, it will be important to think of our work and skills more broadly. My summer reading—Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals by G. Kim Dority—has been teaching me this. So, the value of a non-traditional LIS internship experience in a world immersed in change is an important one that has helped me to diversify my skill set.

Over the summer, there have also been changes in my understanding: I have learned how my research skills can support the development of the Gibbes’ brand, exhibitions, and programs. I have seen firsthand how information can be used and made available in ways that engage the Museum’s visitors and enhance its web presence and overall visibility in the eye of the public. Most importantly, I now realize how my specialization can help to advocate for the Gibbes, and foster its community’s love of art and culture.

Despite all of these changes, I feel that some things will remain as they are. The core values will persist—those of both the LIS profession and Gibbes Museum of Art. Also, my own values—my love for art and lifelong learning are still intact, perhaps even more so than ever before—I am just learning how to apply them in new and meaningful ways.

Just as we change, so can the way we see and respond to art. This is similar to rereading a book. We often will gain something different from the experience because we are at a different stage in our lives. I look forward to discovering new meaning upon viewing Days Beyond Recall in the years to come!

Alison Paul, public programs and marketing intern and guest blogger
[Written July 17, 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.

Join the Gibbes Museum and see the World, or at least Chicago!

This June, I had the pleasure of traveling with a group of about thirty Gibbes Fellows to the great city of Chicago. Because the trip was planned by the Gibbes, the visual experiences were unparalleled. Many people who actually live in Chicago were involved in the planning process, so we visited the typical tourist destinations but also private homes, collections, and clubs. Even when we visited a public venue, we had a customized experience with a tour given by a museum curator or private collection owner.

The Cloud Gate, aka "The Bean," by Anish Kapoor (British (born India) 1954)

The Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean,” by Anish Kapoor in Millennium Park, Chicago.

So where did we go? On the first night we had dinner at an exquisite Art-Deco style private club in River North. The next day was a picture-perfect clear day and we strolled through Millennium Park to see “The Bean” and Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion and watched the children frolicking in the “Crown Fountain” with the changing faces on our way to our private tour of the Art Institute of Chicago with its new Renzo Piano-designed modern building. We felt at home at the museum because we had lunch at the Terzo Piano restaurant.

Chicago's spectacular skyline, seen from a guided cruise on the Chicago River.

Chicago’s spectacular skyline, seen from a guided cruise on the Chicago River.

People always talk about the Chicago river cruises and there is a reason for that—we went on one and it was amazing—the knowledgeable guide (who is a volunteer docent) gave the background and description of about 50 world-class high-rise buildings that have made Chicago famous. But the day was not over for us, off we went to an elegant private home that housed a collection that rivaled the best of the Museum of Contemporary Art, all described by the knowledgeable owners. Already, we knew, this was not going to be a cookie-cutter, boring trip!

A view of Lake Michigan from a rooftop garden of a private residence.

A view of Lake Michigan from a rooftop garden of a private residence.

A mirrored sculpture installed on a private rooftop garden in downtown Chicago.

A mirrored sculpture installed on a private rooftop garden in downtown Chicago.

On Friday morning, we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art which exhibits thought-provoking art created since 1945—very cutting edge—but then we visited a private home with a rooftop garden featuring a mind-blowing array of art. Needing refreshment, we went to the Arts Club of Chicago for lunch. Although this club is private, there are works by the likes of Picasso, Klee, Matisse, Noguchi, and Braque hung casually on the wall so it is a very special place. Our next visit was a real change of pace—the Driehaus Museum which is a huge late-19th century Victorian mansion, darkly decorated with heavy wood paneling, Tiffany lamps, and highly polished stone. Later that afternoon, we went to the high-end, commercial interior-decorating studio of Suzanne Lovell so that we could learn how to live with all this fabulous art. The day came to a perfect end with cocktails in the home of a member of our group, a beautiful Art-Deco apartment in the Palmolive Building looking out over Lake Michigan and Lake Shore Drive.

The stained glass dome in the Driehaus Museum, attributed to Giannini & Hilgart.

The stained glass dome in the Driehaus Museum, attributed to Giannini & Hilgart.

On the last day, we headed out to the North Shore for house and garden tours. When we started out, it was pouring rain and we imagined that we would view those gardens with our noses pressed up against the windows of the bus. But fortunately, the rain became a mist and we toured a house and garden in Lake Bluff, right on Lake Michigan that housed a museum-quality collection of 17th and 18th century antiques, oriental carpets, oil paintings, and decorative arts—with another section housing Stickley furniture and decorative arts—talk about variety!

whimsical sculpture towers among the tree trunks

A whimsical sculpture towers among the tree trunks in a garden along the tour.

A sculpture bust peeks out from behind a hedge.

A sculpture bust peeks out from behind a hedge.

By this time, we were on top of the world, but there were more delights to come—two more world class gardens and private collections including the Chicago Botanic Garden and a visit to the Lenhardt Library, a horticultural rare book library housing million dollar editions. We ended the day with the best part—a stroll in the garden and a dinner in the handsome Winnetka home belonging to a couple in our group.

Take my advice, if the Gibbes Museum offers another trip—go for it!

Eleanor Hale, Gibbes Board Member, Adventure-seeker, and Guest Blogger

In Union there is Strength: Events at the Gibbes

Gibbes Museum Garden Gallery

Society 1858′s Habanero Rhythm event packed the house.

When I began working at the Gibbes Museum of Art in October 2012, I quickly realized that as an employee, a lot of different hats are to be worn. We are a non-profit after all! Currently, I am the events and rental coordinator for the museum, and I assist in coordinating in-house events and all outside rentals. The Gibbes is such a popular venue with requests ranging from small, intimate gatherings such as cocktail parties, dinners, and business meetings to large wedding receptions, ceremonies, and corporate events. For more than a century, the Gibbes Museum of Art has been a beacon for the visual arts in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina.

The Gibbes consists of a small staff of approximately 20 full- and part-time employees, and at one point or another, they have all assisted in planning a rental. Between our curatorial staff, development team, marketing group, facility manager, and security staff, rentals planned at the Gibbes would not be perfectly executed without the help of my colleagues. We rely on each other to make sure each client is pleased with their Gibbes experience, not only as a museum, but also as a venue.

‘Tis the Season to get Married
Working at the Gibbes has given me an abundant amount of first-hand experiences when planning the bride’s big day. One of my favorite rentals that took place at the Gibbes was Catlin and Chris Whiteside’s wedding reception. Caitlin, an event planner at Calder Clark, was, as you can imagine, highly organized and knew exactly what she wanted. Her husband Chris, aka Whitey, was a joy to be around and brought laughter to every conversation.

Wedding Ceremony in Gibbes Rotunda

A gorgeous wedding ceremony in the Gibbes Museum Rotunda gallery.

Caitlin and Chris hold special memories of the Gibbes as their first date took place in the Gibbes Courtyard, so where better a place to have their reception. The months of planning for their special day came together on Saturday, February 23. Every detail was just as Caitlin had planned, including the miniature putting green built under a side tent as a surprise for Chris. The bride and groom were happy to be married and celebrating with their closest friends and family, even with the torrential downpours that happened that evening.

As Caitlin and Chris were getting ready for their send off, soaking wet shoes and all, they kindly requested a pizza be ordered and sent to their room at Charleston Place Hotel. I got an obvious laugh out of this request, but I was more than happy to make the call to Domino’s. I mean who wouldn’t want to end their wedding night with a hot pizza delivery to your suite?

A Hard Days Night
Being able to connect with different businesses through various Gibbes’ rentals has provided me a large professional and social network. Different companies throughout the nation utilize the Gibbes as a venue for dinners, holiday parties, receptions, etc. Some of these corporate rentals have brought the Gibbes new members. Recently, we were fortunate to host Carriage Properties, a longtime supporter of the Gibbes. They held a large party attended by more than 300 people that included clients and friends.

Gibbes Courtyard Family Circle Cup event

A sponsor event during the Family Circle Cup, featuring the Lee Brothers, in the Gibbes Courtyard.

The doors could not have opened any sooner as guests waited patiently to enter the Gibbes. Carriage Properties and Gibbes’ guests filed in for the mix and mingle. New homeowners to Charleston were pleased to have an opportunity to visit the museum and learn about its many programs and events. And, many people, longtime Charlestonians had not visited the museum in a while and enjoyed their return.

A Historic Venue
The Gibbes Museum of Art is the Lowcountry’s leading cultural institution, the premier collection of art focusing on the American South, a dynamic resource for visual learning, and one of Charleston’s most beloved and distinguished landmarks. The exceptional education programs at the Gibbes preserves and promotes the art of Charleston and the American South. Between art lectures, performances, and fundraisers, the Gibbes calendar has a busy event schedule. Along with the Gibbes events are the booming rentals which bring in an additional 700 guests per month and serve as an additional revenue source.

Gibbes Museum Courtyard, Art of Design event

The Art of Design luncheon and lecture in the Gibbes Courtyard.

I hope you will consider the Gibbes Museum as a rental for your next event. I am always available to assist in your planning needs. Please feel free to contact me at jclem@gibbesmuseum.org.

Jena Clem, Events & Rental Coordinator, Gibbes Museum of Art

Download a PDF of our Rentals brochure for more information about making the Gibbes Museum of Art the location of your next great event!

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