The White Gloves Gang with Zinnia Willits, part 1

How long have you been involved in SCFM?

Though originally from Chicago, Illinois, I have been part of the South Carolina Museum community since my grad school days in the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina almost 15 years ago! While life’s twists and turns took me out of South Carolina for a few years, I returned in 2001 and have been at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston since 2003 where I manage the art collection and oversee logistics for the museum’s active exhibition and loan programs.  At the request of my friend Jill Koverman, a true force in South Carolina museums who sadly passed away several years ago, I joined the South Carolina Federation of Museum’s (SCFM) Professional Development Committee (PDC) in 2010 and have been involved with the organization ever since.

Can you describe why it’s important as a museum professional to have an active role in organizations like SCFM?

Professional development opportunities and responsibilities have played a pivotal role in my personal career growth since my entrée into the museum field so many years ago. Our profession is constantly changing. New standards for collections care, exhibition design, curatorial research, digitization of information, use of social media, educational programming, membership tracking, and every other aspect of museum work are being discussed daily on list-servs, blogs, and at various gatherings of museum professionals. Museum staff need high levels of knowledge and expertise to continue to add value to the communities they serve. Playing an active role in professional organizations, and attending conferences and relevant workshops provides opportunities for peer engagement, expansion of one’s knowledge base, and information that can be put into practice immediately. I am constantly beating the professional development drum about the importance of making time and finding funds to attend professional training opportunities that are essential to career development and remind us that our individual work contributes to something larger including the preservation and promotion of the humanities! As I say often (to anyone who will listen,) nobody will ever care about your professional growth as much as you do!

The White Gloves Gang at the Marion County Museum

The White Gloves Gang at the Marion County Museum

Where did the idea for the White Gloves Gang originate?

The Registrars Committee (RC) of the American Alliance of Museums has been operating a similar program called the Reinforcement Crew since 2007.  This annual event offers expertise, people-power and support to museums and organizations that need assistance with collections-based projects, and coincides with the AAM Annual Meeting. I have friends who were instrumental in developing the Reinforcement Crew and have always been an advocate of seasoned museum professionals “giving back” to the field. I was intrigued with the concept and as I became more involved in the South Carolina museum community, it became clear that a volunteer program similar to the Reinforcement Crew could provide real benefit to the many small museums and cultural centers that dot our state. Once I was in a leadership position and had an opportunity to move the idea for a White Gloves Gang program forward, I went for it! SCFM’s leadership has a long history of embracing program ideas suggested by the membership…even my crazy ideas. That being said, one lesson you learn early on is that if you want your program to have legs, you, the idea person, have to put in the work to get it off the ground!

Stay tuned for next week’s part two of the White Gloves Gang….

Lighting the Gibbes Museum, Q&A with Anita Jorgensen

Anita Jorgensen, IESNA, IALD, LEED, LC has been practicing architectural lighting design in New York for over twenty years. Her background in art history and theatrical lighting design brings a strong sense of aesthetics and drama to her lighting approach. Her hands-on experience gained from extensive exhibition lighting design work translates into specifications for lighting systems which not only meet the immediate lighting requirements, but also provide for durability, ease of maintenance, and long term flexibility. Anita was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work with the Gibbes Museum renovation.

2015 Gibbes Renderings

Gibbes Museum of Art, Preliminary façade lighting

How did you learn about the Gibbes Museum? I worked with Jeff Daly at The Metropolitan Museum for a number of years while he was the Head of the Department. When Jeff opened Jeff Daly Design, we worked on several projects together including: the Ringling Museum of Art; the annual Winter Antiques Show in New York; Rosecliff Mansion in Newport, RI; and others. In 2012 Jeff suggested I visit the Gibbes Museum and discuss its lighting needs with Angela Mack. Angela brought AJLD on board and I am happy to report that the Gibbes renovation has been a fabulous project with a fantastic team!

How did you get involved in lighting design? Give us a little information about what led you down this career path.

While studying Fine Arts and Art History in undergraduate school, I became aware of the work of renowned theatrical lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, who has designed for extensively for dance, drama and opera. Her work inspired me to pursue a career in theatrical lighting design. During my graduate studies at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, I became intrigued with the field of architectural lighting design. After five years with architectural lighting design firm Fisher Marantz Stone, who is best known for designing “Towers of Light” after the 911 twin towers incident, an opportunity arose to work as a lighting designer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Design Department that I could not pass up. The projects I was involved with at the Metropolitan ranged from temporary exhibitions, large-scale renovations of entire wings, extensive custom case work, as well as exterior façade lighting.

After working on staff at the Metropolitan for a number of years, I began my own practice, Anita Jorgensen Lighting Design (AJLD).

What are the challenges with lighting museums? Please give examples. How can good lighting transform museum space?

One of the great challenges of designing lighting for museums is balancing art conservation standards with visual clarity. Among the many aspects to consider are the control of daylight while balancing supplemental glare free electric light. When designing the new lighting system for the East Gallery at The Frick Collection, which included both daylight and electric light, we completed an extensive mockup process to determine the optimal method for controlling the quantity of daylight entering the galleries in combination with supplemental LED lighting to highlight the artwork. The mockup process gives the team an opportunity to actually see and test the results of our research findings. We did the same for the Gibbes Museum where we reviewed the ability of various lighting sources to render paintings accurately. During a side by side lighting comparison in the galleries, it was unanimously decided that the track mounted luminaires would use 3,000 Kelvin LED sources. LED lamps have the great advantage of emitting no ultra violet radiation, consuming only 10 watts each as opposed to 50 watts and last more than seven times longer than halogen.

FRICK East Gallery

FRICK Museum East Gallery

Another important consideration when designing for museums are issues of conservation. For example all of the windows need to be properly fitted with screens and filtering film to reduce the level of light entering the galleries and to block the damaging ultraviolet portion of the incoming daylight.

The second source of illumination in galleries is typically a fully flexible overhead track lighting system which is often the primary source for lighting art. For the first time, the track lighting in the new Gibbes Museum renovation will be energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) track mounted luminaires. After all of the artwork is installed, the gallery lighting will go through a final fine-tuning process. During this stage, the exact lighting intensity levels for each object will be specified.

We also recently completed an exterior night-time lighting mockup for the garden where we reviewed lighting the garden with cool light mimicking moonlight vs. warm candle light effect. We also demonstrated illuminating the trees from below (uplighting) vs. locating lights up in the trees pointed downwards filtering through the leaves that created patterns of light on the ground much like the light coming from a full moon.

What can the community expect to ‘see’ with the renovated Gibbes?

The visitor will be able to see the fabulous Gibbes Museum art collection rendered in a crisp new glare-free light. The galleries will be brighter and more daylight will enter the building giving the visitor a greater connection to the outside.

Below is a listing of Anita’s more memorable projects:

  • Frick West Gallery, East Gallery: designed a new lighting system that integrates invisibly with the museum’s landmark interiors
West Gallery, 2010 (new lighting installed)

West Gallery, 2010 (new lighting installed)

  • Metropolitan Museum Great Hall: recreation of the original McKim Meade and White pendants
  • Royal Bank of Canada Capital Markets: a conference center and trading floor

Art Educator of the Week, Barbie Kratovil

Barbie Kratovil, Eye Spy Art

Barbie Kratovil with Eye Spy Students at the City Gallery

Why is art an important part of learning?

Art is an essential component of the Humanities, and visually integrates the historical, political, religious and commercial morals and values of a culture. It is one of the highest forms of expression in any given period of civilization.

While art can be whimsical, its highest forms are the result of an intellectual process. It’s multi-faceted and an artist, in creating a work of art; employs through his/her technique: logic, spatial relationships, math, science-all of which are building blocks in one’s education.

How long have you been teaching, and why did you get involved in teaching?

I was an Art History major in college and art has always been my great interest. I was a docent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 18 years, before moving to Charleston; and have been a docent at the Gibbes for 5 years. The combination of being educated by the curators about their fabulous collections, and in turn, imparting this knowledge to school groups, is rewarding on so many levels.

What is a favorite memory of introducing a student to the arts?

The wonderful moments, which as a museum educator that one cherishes, are when a student looks at a work of art and becomes empowered to explain what they see, why they like or dislike it, and what it means to them.


Eye Spy students enjoy a tour of the Gibbes led by a museum docent

Museums are educational powerhouses. Did you know:

  • Museums spend more than $2 billion a year on education. The typical museum devotes three quarters of its education budget specifically to K–12 students.
  • Museums receive more than 55 million visits every year from students in school groups.
  • Museums create educational programs in math, science, art, literacy, language arts, history, civics and government, economics and financial literacy, geography and social studies, often tailored to the needs of state and local curriculum standards.
  • Each year, museums provide more than 18 million instructional hours for educational programs such as guided tours for students, staff visits to schools, school outreach through science vans and other traveling exhibits, and professional development for teachers.

Read the full report about museums and the future of education from the American Alliance for Museums.

To learn more about Gibbes Museum education programs, visit our Gibbes Educators Facebook page.

Alice’s Wonderland, a trip to Crystal Bridges Museum

The Gibbes’ Fellows members had an Arkansas adventure to “Alice’s wonderland.” With their fine details and accompanied by Gibbes Executive Director, Angela Mack and Private Events Manager, Jena Clem, our group journeyed to Bentonville, Arkansas to visit the Crystal Bridges Museum founded by Walmart heiress, Alice Walton! Many of us discussed the global reach of Walmart and how its suppliers impact the community. At the chic 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville green penguins greeted us with a basketball hoop tree sculpture, generating many smiles!

Green Penguins at 21c museum hotel

Green Penguins at 21c museum hotel in Bentonville, Arkansas

The evening exposed the Gibbes’ group to the superb collection of American folk art in the handsome home of private collectors, Becky and Bob Alexander. The juxtaposition of an expressive Edgefield face jug with a nuanced New Hope George Nakashima bench and Native American textiles reflected an edited, personal evolvement from their earlier collection of advertising pieces. Later that night we had a private dinner at 21c and the trio of table rounds at the hotel dinner were framed by great conversation with new friends and interesting art!

trails at Crystal bridges

Woodland Trails surrounding Crystal Bridges

The woodlands approach to Crystal Bridges was a wonderful prelude to the clarity of the catenary curves of architect, Moshe Safdie’s structure.  Alice Walton’s vision of architecture spanning ravine ponds and streams was astounding to experience!  Our arrival at Crystal Bridges was met with the movement of a striking kinitic sculpture by George Rickey  and the welcoming words of Director Rod Bigelow.

Curator Mindy Besaw then relayed her American art expertise as we walked through the galleries.  I was taken by the luminous wall of Martin Johnson Heade’s “Sixteen Gems of Brazil“and the brilliant jewels of tropical exoticism!  A highlight of our lunch was a visit from the gracious and grounded Alice Walton, who stopped by to say hello.  We then enjoyed The Albright Knox Museum’s VAN GOGH TO ROTHKO exhibit with rare insight provided by Angela.

crystal bridges curator led tour

Curator led tour of the permanent collection at Crystal Bridges

The late afternoon saw many of us seeking the Crystal Spring (the natural spring for which the Museum is named.) and perspectives of the Frank Lloyd Wright house (currently being reassembled from a New Jersey site).  Thoughts of Fallingwater surfaced… (A National Historic Landmark house, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, that was built over a waterfall.) Though Bear Run may have Bentonville beat with volume of water, Arkansas aced Pennsylvania with access-for-all in rural regions to vivid art.  Sculptures of Robert Indiana to James Turrell (Love to light!) enhanced gardens to crystal grotto.

A stroll through the town of Bentonville revealed a festival setting up on the square and the facade of the original Walton’s.  An ode to the finesse of Sam Walton as merchant with his sharp focus on all facets of marketing and customer relations, family photographs relayed how much only-daughter-Alice has her mom’s features. What a magical legacy the Waltons wrought! We concluded with a lovely dinner at James at the Mill overlooking a historic mill.

Culturally-rich Charleston captivates post-Bentonville as our Gibbes Museum of Art coalesces!

Shannon Gillespie, Gibbes Board Member and Guest Blogger

2015 AAM Museum Expo and Conference

This week several Gibbes staff members traveled to Atlanta to attend the American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting and Expo. The theme for this year’s event was “The Social Value of Museums; Inspiring Change.” There were over 180 program sessions over four days and each one of came away filled with new ideas and inspiration!

Rebecca Sailor, curator of education, says highlights from the conference include networking with other museum educators and learning how others continue to combine history and art to encourage school group visitation and programming. Before leaving town she was able to meet with some of the education staff at the High Museum of Art to learn more about their programming. 

Sara Arnold says that from a curatorial standpoint, it was inspiring learn-in this increasingly digital world-that original objects, artworks, and  the human stories they tell, remain an important and valued resource in our communities. However, museums today must strive to relate to their audiences by communicating these stories in compelling ways and in a variety of formats. Doug Hegley, director of media technology, Minniapolis Museum of Art, commented that “To remain viable, museums must rethink not only what types of knowledge they create, but how/with whom they create it, and finally how they communicate it.”* While digital devices will become more and more a part of our museum experience, when done properly, it will be the scholarly content and the original work of art, rather than the technology,  that is the star. Our goal with the reinstallation of the Gibbes permanent collection has been to communicate compelling and relatable stories for our visitors. We hope that our exhibitions, museum publications, labels and text panels, and any digital content we design will capture these captivating stories and inspire our visitors to engage with the museum on a regular basis. Sara says that the conference offered a refreshing opportunity to see the variety of ways in which museums are rediscovering their roles and their relevancy in the twenty first century.

Zinnia Willits at the AAM

Zinnia Willits at the AAM learning about 3D printing for the visually impaired

For the past several years Zinnia has served as the Fellowship Chair for the Registrars Committee (RC) of the American Alliance of Museums and holds a seat on the larger AAM Fellowship Task Force. As such, she is directly responsible for reviewing fellowship applications and offering travel stipends to collections care professionals to attend the Annual Meeting. Each year at AAM, she has the satisfaction of presenting the fellowship awards and meeting the recipients, many of whom would not be able to attend the Annual Meeting without a travel stipend. This year she presented nine travel fellowships to RC members and matched each recipient with a conference mentor from the RC Executive Board. While Zinnia took full advantage of all of AAM’s sessions and networking opportunities, meeting the fellowship recipients and seeing the direct value of her professional development endeavors to the larger museum community was one of the most gratifying aspects of attending AAM.

I was grateful to be awarded a marketing fellowship to attend the conference, and learned a great deal about building and engaging museum audiences. I attended a particularly informative session with the authors of “Magnetic: the Art and Science of Engagement,” and the Director of Communications from the Wallace Foundation who spoke about best practices for building arts audiences. 
Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager

Save the Date: May 5, 2015 #LiftTheLowcountry

Lowcountry Giving Day 2015

On May 5, 2015, we invite members of the entire community to participate in Lowcountry Giving Day, a 24-hour online fundraising event sponsored by the Coastal Community Foundation.  In 2014, Lowcountry Giving Day raised over $4M, the highest amount collected in 24 hours of giving in similar challenges among all 50 states.

This year the Gibbes Museum is participating and proceeds from this event will support the Gibbes capital campaign that will transform the Museum and provide a state-of-the art cultural center for the community.  It is hard to believe that in 2016 we will be moving back into a restored Beaux Arts building with innovative galleries and public spaces where art, technology, and interpretation blend to inspire explorations of the Museum’s collection.

Gibbes facade

Rendering of the renovated Gibbes Museum

Recently, a Gibbes patron stated that “an art museum is an invaluable cornerstone to civic coherence and cultural identity.” Refocusing on the Museum’s foundation as an academy-style institution will allow the Gibbes to serve as a center for content-rich arts education. Not only will the entire first floor serve as a center for education and community engagement, but also allow the on-site studios, classrooms, and lecture space to increase opportunities for hands-on, process-driven learning. A rear reception area and lecture facility, which link to the redesigned Lenhardt garden, will be perfect for corporate meetings or intimate dinners and receptions. In addition, the first floor will provide a pedestrian walkway along the historic Gateway Walk from sites on the Meeting Street Museum Mile to the busy King Street shopping district. A beautifully refurbished Museum store and a new café will greet visitors upon their entrance.

This renewal of the Gibbes, through a five-year, $13.4M capital campaign will offer visitors to Charleston an opportunity to understand the significant role Charleston has played and continues to play in the history of American art. With fully-restored galleries and exhibition spaces, and the installation of furniture and silver from the Rivers Collection of Southern Decorative Art, visitors will gain a comprehensive interpretation of the region’s exceptional artistic achievement during the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Since 2011, and during the silent phase of the campaign, pledges and contributions of $10.9 million have been received from the City of Charleston, Charleston County, and the Town of Kiawah Island as well as from individuals, foundations, and corporations. We are thrilled to have received national attention over the summer with the awards of $100,000 from The Henry Luce Foundation in New York, and $250,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, DC.  Additionally, we received a $250,000 gift from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. This past December we also were fortunate to receive a generous grant from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation in the amount of $150,000 for the miniature portrait collection. Since the start of our capital campaign, we have raised approximately $2.6M per year, which has put us in reach of our goal to raise $13.4 million by 2016. This is in addition to the $1 million raised annually to support operations.

Groundbreaking Ceremony, October 2014

Gibbes staff at the Groundbreaking Ceremony, October 2014

We still need your support! We are on the homestretch and we hope that you will consider supporting the Gibbes on May 5th through Lowcountry Giving Day. Even more exciting is that your gift will be increased by an incentive gift provided by generous donors. Visit on that day to make an online gift or, if you prefer to send a check, please note that it will only be accepted from Monday, April 20 to Friday, April 24. For more information on the current renovation, please visit our renovation website to see the transformation or contact me Jen Ross, Director of Development at or by phone at 843.722.2706 X16 for more information.

Jennifer Ross, director of development

Why Do You Support the Gibbes Museum of Art?

Boomtown employees

BoomTown employees

By Elizabeth Allen and Nina Magnesson of Boomtown

We are fortunate to have so many wonderful donors and sponsors whose support helps us provide innovative programs, exciting events, and engaging educational opportunities. Over the next few months we will introduce these talented people to you through our blog. Nina Magnesson, Community Relationship Manager of the real estate web platform, Boomtown and Elizabeth Allen, wife of Boomtown founder Grier Allen, were gracious enough to launch this series.

Q: Why did you become involved with the Gibbes Museum, or, how did you first learn about the museum and what was the process that led to your involvement?

Nina: BoomTown became involved with the Gibbes in 2013 through participation in Society 1858. A couple of Boomers were invited to participate on the Winter Party Planning Committee. BoomTown’s CEO and Co-founder Grier and his wife, Elizabeth Allen were invited to participate on the Winter Party Planning Committee the following year. BoomTown was also a sponsor of the 2014 party and the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art.

Q: Tell me about your company and your philanthropic mission. How do you hope to engage your employees in this mission and how can nonprofits such as the Gibbes help in the process?

Elizabeth: Personally, I believe that philanthropy has always been a big part of BoomTown since its launch. The company was thankful for the people and other companies who gave them a helping hand as they were beginning, and it became a part of their core value to engage in the community as BoomTown grew. Also, Grier has taught me that part of running a successful company is creating a space where people are thankful, have gratitude and understanding for where they are and what they are doing. There is not a better way to show that appreciation than by giving back to the community where you live, work and that you love!

Nina: BoomTown’s Philanthropic Mission (BoomTownLOVE) is to improve lives through social innovation by helping to create amazing experiences for the BoomTown Greater Charleston and extended family community. The goal of our giving strategy centers around BoomTown’s group-sourced Core Values:

  • Create Amazing Experiences
  • Stay Humble
  • Go For It
  • Spread Some Laughter & Have Some Fun
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Communicate Openly & Honestly
  • Do More with Less
  • Seek & Share Knowledge

BoomTown also has an annually rotating volunteer board called the BoomBassadors who promote awareness and facilitate participation with community organizations as well as ultimately decide how to allocate our annual philanthropic budget. Non-profits can help by bridging the gap between businesses and organizations through clear communication of their goals and top priority needs. They may also offer a variety of ways that employees can engage with the organization through volunteerism to help foster a sense of ‘pride of ownership’ and deepen the sense of belonging for new members of our community.

Q: Why in your opinion is an art museum important to our community?

Nina: A fine arts museum serves as the cultural anchor for a city and its residents. It is an asset that “every city resident owns” in much the same way as Mayor Riley refers to our outdoor public spaces. It is a center for visual art that is open to all ages from every socio-economic background; individuals, can experience the world of art where they would not have the opportunity to otherwise, can learn about local and world history through art and artifacts, and can explore new expressions and movements in art and technical innovations. An art museum is an invaluable cornerstone to civic coherence and cultural identity.

Art museums are one of the best ways to share our culture, past and present, with visitors as well as locals.  Museums teach us about where we live and the people who have shaped the lowcountry. Art is an amazing form of expression that we must continue to expose younger generations,” adds Elizabeth.

Q: What do you look forward to most about the new Gibbes scheduled to reopen in 2016?

Elizabeth: We are thrilled for the reopening of the Gibbes and cannot wait to see the new building as well as the new exhibits you all will bring. Visiting the Gibbes will truly be an event for both patrons and visitors. We appreciate all of the hard work and energy everyone is putting in to the reopening. We look forward to being a part of it!

Nina: BoomTown is especially looking forward to being able to regularly visit an arts center where we may see and learn about the museum’s collections as well as visiting exhibitions in the new open, well-lighted galleries, seeing interesting films and performances, volunteering in the digital art labs, and gathering in the new open spaces available around the museum.

To learn more about supporting the Gibbes Museum of Art, please visit or call Director of Development, Jen Ross at 843.722.2706 x16

Early Education and Eye Spy Art

When you observe curious, giggling, fidgeting four year-olds, it’s hard to imagine them as future businessmen and women. But these young minds are absorbing everything around them at a rapid rate and statistics show early education is the key to future academic success. (The young brain forms more than 700 neural connections every second!). However, only 54% of Hispanic and African American students in South Carolina graduate from high school, and more rural “dropout factories” exist here than in any other state in the country. Research shows that the opportunity gap between low and high income students begins before kindergarten and widens over time. This makes early educators a critical first line of defense against educational inequity.

First Steps_Dec_2

Eye Spy students at the First African Child Development Center

The Gibbes Museum of Art has partnered with Charleston County First Steps to introduce preschool children to the fundamentals of art in a hands-on way. Rebecca Sailor, Curator of Education, and a team of teaching artists and museum educators have joined with First Steps Child Development Centers to offer experiences with colors, shapes, lines, textures, portraits, landscapes and pictures that tell a story.

“Gibbes educators and teaching artists are assisting the child care centers teachers on how to use the visual arts to expand their classroom curriculum. They demonstrate using literature, music and theater as well as hands-on art to encourage deeper learning of shape, line and color. The children are now recognizing these concepts in the world around them. Because the Gibbes educators and teaching artists are working with teachers and children on a continuous basis, they are forming relationships and are eager to learn more,” says Mrs. Sailor.

Lorraine Powers, chair of the Charleston County First Steps board and former Gibbes board member sparked the initial idea to encourage more African-American families to engage with the Gibbes museum through Eye Spy, an in-school program originally designed to help Charleston County School District elementary students look at and talk about art. Gibbes’ museum educators work with classroom visual arts teachers throughout the school year, creating interactive lesson plans. Classroom visits, using objects from the Gibbes’ collection, and major artists highlight the elements of art, introduce broad explanations of style, and teach students to compare and contrast.

Mrs. Powers says, “I think it’s really important to expose all young children between the ages of three and five to a variety of experiences. Young children are like sponges and absorb everything. Who knows, there may be a Jonathan Green, Romare Bearden or David C. Driskell amongst them, but first they have to know/see what is possible.”

eye spy students

Museum Educator Elise Detterbeck teaching students about movement

In 2013 the pilot project was supported by the Continental Society, an international public service organization dedicated to the socioeconomic and cultural welfare of underprivileged children and youth, and Charleston County First Steps, who joined forces to provide funding for this endeavor. Charleston County First Steps helps to prepare young children to reach school healthy and ready to learn.  The Eye Spy First Steps program is now offered in seven child development centers including Carousel, Child & Family, First African, Van Buren, New Israel, NIA, and Foster’s led by Gibbes Museum educators and teaching artists.

“The Eye Spy program works with children who are not often exposed to visual art concepts and cultural art pieces. The program expands their world by introducing them to the artworks from the Gibbes Museum, as well as to art concepts in general. It’s been inspiring for me to see the children gain an appreciation for art and the joy it brings them. The children also discover that there is a wonderful art museum in their own city that they never knew about and now can’t wait to visit when the museum reopens! The Eye Spy program is designed in a really fun, engaging way that makes them really want to be part of the world of art,” says teaching artist Leonora Dechtiar.

We look forward to continuing this program and incorporating field trips to the museum when the Gibbes reopens in spring of 2016. Engaging the students with actual works of art allows for a richer experience for these young students. Paintings that have been discussed in the centers will be seen in their actual, full enormity, and richness of color.
Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager

Art Educator of the Week, Elise Detterbeck

Did you know we currently have 15 active museum educators and teaching artists teaching and collaborating! These hard working educators have great insight into the value of arts education and we’ve decided to profile them here! Meet our Art Educator of the Week, Elise Detterbeck

Else with Eye Spy students

Else with Eye Spy students

Why is art an important part of learning?  

I view art as a window to the world. We all need to look beyond our little corner of the world to expand our experiences and grow. Art shows us how people live and think today and in the past in the United States and all over the world. It helps us understand ourselves and others. I see this every time I work with children either at the Gibbes or in the schools. It doesn’t matter if it’s a traditional painting or a very modernistic sculpture. They look, they think, and they respond.

How long have you been teaching and why did you get involved in teaching?

When I chose French as my major in college, I never really thought about what I’d do with it. I floated into teaching and loved it. A new language is also a window to another world, and I really thrived on leading students into that new world. Teaching children how to talk about art is similar, but easier. It’s more open-ended, more forgiving, and more expansive. With art you can teach almost any subject and students can respond in an increasing variety of ways after learning to look, think, and then respond.

What is a favorite memory of introducing a student to the arts?

I have a lot of great memories of students looking at art, but this may be my new favorite:

With my third grade Eye Spy students we were talking about genre scenes, which we call “pictures that tell a story.”  I showed them on the Smart Board a picture of 3 of my grandchildren (ages 20 months, 5, & 8) squished together on a sofa, all reading books in their pajamas. We talked about the elements of art in that photo, the medium used and then we got into the Who? What? When? Where? Why? game to figure out the “story.” They decided very quickly that these were (who?) 3 siblings (what?) reading their favorite books (where?) in their home (when) on a day off from school (why?) due to a snowstorm. Then all of a sudden, they said: “Wait a minute, are those YOUR grandchildren?” What thrilled me was that they could, from the picture, support every assumption they made, without any help from me.

For over 100 years, education has been central to the mission of the Gibbes. Serving more than 15,000 preK-12th grade students each year, the Gibbes interactive programs develop intellectual and aesthetic skills while addressing South Carolina Learning Standards. We are so grateful to have the support of educators like Elise who have been instrumental to the success of these programs.

To learn more about the value of art education, here are a few recent articles:

What to do if your Child’s First Love is Art?

Art Education Poised for a Comeback in Nation’s Largest School Districts

Bringing Back What Works in Education

Q & A with Architect, Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt

Joe Schmidt and Rick Fisher at the Groundbreaking Ceremony in October, 2014

Evans & Schmidt Architects has designed a wide range of projects since it was established in 1984. The primary focus, however, has remained unchanged over the past twenty-nine years. Evans & Schmidt Architects has openly embraced the challenge of targeting new and existing construction in the dense historic fabric of downtown Charleston and the surrounding Lowcountry. These include private residences, corporate offices, retail, municipal buildings, as well as academic and performing arts projects.  The firm has been the Architect of Record for the renovation and preservation of numerous properties individually registered as National Historic Landmarks. Joe Schmidt was kind enough to answer some questions about the museum renovations.

How did you become involved with this project?

In 2006, Angela Mack and I worked together on the renovation of City Hall. She coordinated the removal, off-site storage, and eventual return of City Hall’s permanent extensive art collection within the Council Chambers. Restoring the Council Chambers to its pre-1886 earthquake floor plan presented unique challenges as we sought to better showcase the art for all to enjoy while also maximizing the available seating space for the public wishing to attend council meetings. We also enhanced the environmental indoor control system to ensure the art is protected to the highest possible standards.

Describe your design process, for example, what specific challenges did this 100+ year old building pose?

The Gibbes was constructed very stoutly of solid masonry in 1905, but absolutely without any physical accommodation space for running any electrical piping or air conditioning. Consequently, as those necessities were added over the years, the ceilings were repeatedly lowered, which totally changed the character of its many spaces.  The challenge was to selectively redesign and consolidate these modern day necessities, incorporate additional life safety features, and then restore as much of the original spatial character as possible.

How will the renovation change the visitor’s experience?

The original building was incredibly open, dependent entirely on natural light and a few gas light fixtures to illuminate the interior. Over the years, as more gallery hanging space became needed and exhibit layout fashions changed, the natural light was eventually blacked out entirely. Our hope is that future visitors will embrace the far brighter renovated spaces that better connect the indoor gallery spaces with the outdoor garden. Because of advancements in glass protected surfaces, the additional sunlight will not harm the artwork and sculpture on display.

 What aspect of the renovated museum do you think will have the biggest impact on the visitor’s experience? 

Being able to step through the front door and see clearly through the building all the way to the beautifully redesigned Lenhardt garden in the rear, then looking right or left and glimpsing for the first time ever the marble flanking staircases enticing you to venture upstairs. A physical visual relationship with the exterior is maintained at all levels, which is contributory in helping to lower stress and increase stamina.

Joe Schmidt

Joe and Mayor Riley on a hard hat tour, February, 2015

Why is this project important to Charleston?

The renovation restores not only the façade, but encourages the public to once again freely walk down the 1905 hallways and observe active art studio work and classes taking place on a daily basis as was originally envisioned in 1905. This practice has been discontinued since the 1960s. The Gibbes Museum is one of Charleston’s preeminent cultural institutions and this renovation will ensure that the future needs of the museum are best addressed while restoring this 110 year old building as close as possible to its original condition and mission.

Can you give us some behind the scenes glimpses of what’s happening right now with the renovations?

The building has been undergoing extensive interior demolition work since December. This includes the removal of added partitions and antiquated electrical utilities in careful preparation for the expansion of appreciably more spacious galleries and event spaces. This dismantling work will continue for several more months before any actual renovation work will be observable from the street. In the meantime, pilings have been driven for the new extension on the building’s south side to house a new first class art delivery and storage facility.

Gibbes facade

Rendering of the renovated Gibbes Museum

To learn more about the renovations, please visit our renovation website!

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