Museum plays educational, cultural
Shusens Japanese woodblock print, c. 1804-1820, A
Depiction of the Life of Common People on the Ryogako Bridge
Crossing the Sumida River East of Downtown Edo, is part
of the museums permanent collection.
By Jane Ford
University of Virginia
Art Museum opened its doors in 1935 in the Thomas H. Bayly
Building with the humble idea of being a gallery for donated art.
Today, the museum counts as its treasures not only the more than
10,000 works of art in its collection, ranging from ancient Greek
and Roman artifacts to modern works by 20th century American artists,
but also the more than 30,000 students and visitors who come to
the museum each year to deepen their understanding of world cultures
and art history.
museum has grown into a lively, active institution that attracts
students, community members and visitors to enjoy the numerous
exhibitions, receptions, docent-led tours, community outreach
programs, gallery talks and seminars.
members and students who volunteer and intern, as well as faculty
and other students, find the collection a rich and varied resource
have positioned ourselves as a teaching museum, said Jill
Hartz, museum director since 1997. We are committed to supporting
the academic mission of the University and work actively with
schools and other groups in the community to stimulate their intellectual
and cultural pursuits.
Taxi Driver, a 1996 watercolor and ink on paper by American
artist Lawrence Amos, is one of the works selected to provide
inspiration to writers who will be submitting poems and short
stories for the 15th annual Writers Eye competition.
The works will be on view through Nov. 16, and entries of
original compositions must be submitted to the museum by Nov.
30. The Taxi Driver is also part of the museums
Singular Visions: Folk Art from Charlottesville Collections
exhibition, on display through Dec. 2.
faculty who use the museum for teaching are not limited to the
arts but include professors of history, English and engineering.
Spaar, who teaches creative writing and poetry in the English
department, has always used the art museum in her interdisciplinary
approach to teaching. She considers the museum a tremendous resource
for her students to understand the spatial and two-dimensional
aspects of art that can be applied to writing and to understand
that writing is visual.
upcoming exhibit of William Blakes poetry and engravings
an interdisciplinary collaboration with the departments
of art, English and religious studies will provide her
students the opportunity to study the powerful example of parallel
use of lines in engravings and lines in poetry, she said. Spaar
applauds the museums outreach efforts. Jill has made
an extra effort to make it happen, she said.
year, Phyllis Leffler, director of the Institute for Public History,
brings students in her History, Museums and Interpretation
course to the museum. On a visit to the recent exhibit, The
Art of John Dos Passos, Leffler and her students discussed
how a literary figure such as Dos Passos used a visual medium
to catalog his travel experiences. The students explored issues
of how an exhibit is put together and how an art museum shapes
an exhibit differently than an exhibit emphasizing history or
literature. Its an incredible resource for the students,
Blakes watercolor drawing, The Morning Stars sang
Together, is one of the works to be featured in an upcoming
exhibition at the museum, Portions of the Eternal World:
Prints by William Blake, from Jan. 26 through March
31. This particular Blake drawing is from Illustrations of
the Book of Job, c. 1821.
occurs in numerous formal and informal ways. At the museums
First Friday receptions, students, faculty and members of the
community come together to enjoy art, as well as to socialize.
David Gies, professor of Spanish, was introduced to these events
a few years ago when his graduate students encouraged him to attend.
Theres a synergy there. It provokes conversation,
said Gies, who with his wife, Janna, a Virginia Quarterly editor,
are faithful supporters. We look forward to talking to the
students, he added. This is a wonderful example of
intellectual community on Grounds.
an effort to build community and attract students, the museum
opens its doors for events sponsored by student groups. A recent
reception at the museum, sponsored by the student docents, welcomed
first-year students to the University. Last April, Latin American
students, through the Dean of Students office, planned an evening
of fun in the museum where they created cultural self-portraits
through poetry and drama readings, shared music, food, and photographs
while exploring their heritage.
museum reaches beyond its and the Universitys
walls to acquaint members of the Charlottesville/Albemarle community
with life-time learning experiences. Museum volunteers, called
docents a mix of U. Va. students and enthusiastic area
residents extend the educational mission by leading K-12
students and other groups on interactive tours that often focus
on reinforcing the statewide Standards of Learning.
museum collections are wonderfully eclectic, said Jane Anne
Young, the museums director of education. We have
created tours to cover a wide range of topics, from ancient culture
to Middle Ages to math.
gives special praise to the roughly 25 student docents who go
through the same rigorous training course as the others. Their
adult counterparts watch them in awe, Young said. They have
amazing ideas and approaches to different ages and learning needs.
helmet mask of the Eastern Pende people of Zaire. the mask,
made of wood, pigment and raffia, is part of the museum's
1998, a student docent created the successful peer-mentoring program,
Early Visions, designed to help challenged high school students
working at grade level find avenues to express themselves. Through
art and visual learning, in one-on-one mentoring with the student
docents, they work on problem-solving and critical-thinking skills,
thereby reinforcing the curriculum.
year, the student docents are creating an introductory video to
encourage teachers to bring their classes to the museum. The docent-led
tours are a different approach than they get in class,
said Rebecca Gerber, a fourth-year religious
studies and psychology major who is this years student docent
museum also caters to the retired community, creating a welcoming
space for groups out for monthly arts adventures.
like the atmosphere and feel the exhibits are more varied than
what we see on our trips to museums in Washington, D.C.,
said Ellis Flinn, who retired to Charlottesville from Northern
Virginia. We really enjoy the interactive approach,
he said. Its a nice thing to do for the community.
there are the youngsters. The museum sponsors several summer programs,
including a new three-week camp for fifth- through ninth-graders
that showed them how to study and create within the museum setting.
the early years the museum collection included several important
works of art that were donated, including Frederick Churchs
Natural Bridge, Virginia, two Rodin sculptures, and
two 17th century Flemish tapestries. It was not until 1972 that
it began to function as a collecting institution.
ninth-graders particpate in the museum's summer program, which
allows them t study art and art history and crete within a
the museum has an impressive collection with special strengths
in Old Master prints, a photography collection that was built
with curriculum support funds, a collection of American art dating
from the mid-century to today, more than 100 works by mid-20th-century
American artists, and the Age of Jefferson Collection, which includes
neoclassical art with biblical and mythological themes.
miniature paintings and Japanese woodblock prints that were recently
acquired will be the subject of future exhibits. Due to space
limitations, only 5 percent of the collection is on view at any
for the future
on its successes, the museum has ambitious plans for its future
as a vital University resource and community partner.
the Universitys master plan for the Arts Grounds, the museum
envisions a new environment for experiencing art a 41,000
square foot state-of-the art facility above Lambeth Colonnade
near the Rugby Road Faculty Apartments. Terraced into the hillside,
only a short walk from its current location, the new museum will
incorporate added galleries for the temporary and permanent exhibits,
a theater/auditorium, education and administrative facilities,
space for the care and storage of collections, plus a museum gift
shop and a café. The museum will be a vital link along
the proposed Groundswalk, a University-wide pedestrian path, but
more than that, it will be a focal point for the future growth
of the arts in the University and Charlottesville/Albemarle communities.