Oberlin College’s “Illuminate” Capital Campaign was publicly launched amid a fun-filled weekend last September, which included numerous events at the AMAM. The campaign will provide support for a broad range of initiatives across the campus for years to come, and the AMAM is proud to figure in it, primarily for greatly needed staff positions. My colleagues and I were thrilled to learn in late November that the museum was successful in its bid to receive a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for $500,000 towards the endowment of a curatorship in Asian Art. Oberlin has already been able to match the challenge grant with the 3:1 match required, through a $1.5 million gift and pledge from a private donor. This extraordinary accomplishment means that the Asian art curator position – vacant since 2003 due to lack of funding – will be permanently reinstated at the museum. Oberlin students and faculty, and the general public, will once again be able fully to benefit from the magnificent collection of Asian art which makes up approximately one third of the AMAM’s collection. Professors in East Asian Studies, art history, history, and a wide range of other departments across the campus will work with the new curator to ensure that Asian artworks are integrated into their courses. Through the campaign, another donor has provided $1.5 million to name a position for legendary and much-beloved professor of art Ellen Johnson. Such extraordinary generosity is a testament to the AMAM’s important collection and programs, and its broad impact over many decades, both across the campus, and around the world.
As part of the campaign, the AMAM still seeks to endow a number of other staff positions, including completing the required match to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s endowment grant for the Curator of Academic Programs position; endowing the Curator of European & American Art and the Curator of Education positions; and endowing much-needed post-baccalaureate positions in various departments for recently-graduated Oberlin College students, who would work full-time for a year at the museum, building their résumés in a difficult job climate while contributing to and enlivening the AMAM’s many programs. The museum is additionally seeking funds to continue many other initiatives, including cleaning the historic ceiling in the King Sculpture Court – whose colorful sections currently languish under 95 years of dirt – and building up endowments named for former directors Charles Parkhurst and Stephanie Wiles, which provide funds for conservation treatments and publications. Should you be interested in contributing to any of these important initiatives, please feel free to contact me directly.
The museum’s galleries are enlivened by several new exhibitions this semester, many of which are part of our year-long emphasis on the theme of “Religion, Ritual and Performance.” And as part of our many public programs this spring, we’ll be holding a two-day scholarly symposium, open free to the public, on April 25-26. The symposium will focus on “Religion, Ritual and Performance in the Renaissance”, in conjunction with the exhibition in the museum’s Stern Gallery made up in part of exceptional loans from the Yale University Art Gallery, combined with masterworks from the AMAM collection. I hope you will consider joining us during these two days, which will be full of discussion and discovery.