From the Director - Fall 2017

The much-anticipated year-long celebration of the centennial of the Allen Memorial Art Museum is upon us, and the staff and I look forward to sharing with you the many events organized for this momentous occasion. Our exhibitions this academic year have been planned with a focus on the museum’s history and on the important donors who have ensured, through their generosity, the outstanding quality and breadth of its encyclopedic collection. A centerpiece of our celebratory events will be a symposium on Saturday, October 7, cosponsored with the Art Department and featuring former AMAM directors and staff as well as emeritus art professors and alumni. Additionally, in conjunction with this singular moment, we have launched a fundraising effort – the Second Century Campaign – to provide endowed support for the museum’s future programs, infrastructure, staff, and holdings. Please contact me if you are interested to help assure that the AMAM’s next 100 years encompass the broad range of robust educational and creative programming, and excellence in collecting, that have been hallmarks of its first.

It is especially gratifying at this time to be able both to look back on past successes, and forward to new projects. The AMAM was pleased to partner with the museums at DePauw University and the College of Wooster through a grant from the Great Lakes Colleges Association, to publicly launch a web portal called “Teach Visual,” designed to provide faculty and museum staff members the ability to widely share innovative ideas for teaching with objects. We are also happy to have received, through the efforts of curator Andaleeb Banta, a grant for a summer intern from the International Fine Print Dealers Association Foundation, and to participate, with a wide range of Northeast Ohio colleagues, as a partner site in the FRONT International Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, which will take place in summer 2018. Collaborations such as these get at the heart of what we strive to do each day at the AMAM – innovate, educate, and connect, all in the service of great art and for the benefit of the public.

New staff members are integral to our efforts, and we are especially pleased to welcome Andrea Gyorody and Jill Greenwood as curators. In addition to many other projects, each – along with Asian art curator Kevin Greenwood – will present a program this coming year to celebrate another important milestone:  the 150th anniversary of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth. Thanks to Ellen Johnson, a formidable and long-serving Oberlin College professor, the college owns – and the AMAM oversees programs at – the 1949 Weltzheimer-Johnson house, a treasure for our community. And while we are glad for additions to our staff, some personnel changes are much more challenging. I am very sad to share the news that Museum Security Officer Michael Gilbert – who loyally served the AMAM from 1993 to 2017 – passed away suddenly on April 1. His loss has been a blow to all of us, and as we send our sympathy to his wife, son, and family, we recall his friendly demeanor and excellent work ethic that helped ensure the smooth running of all our operations. We miss him.

People – whether staff, faculty, visitors, or other supporters – have been the bedrock of the museum’s success over this past century. The AMAM is a remarkable institution, which has always been open free of charge to all. Above the main entrance of our beautiful Cass Gilbert building, “The Cause of Art is the Cause of the People” is incised in stone. This quote from William Morris encapsulates our belief that art is for everyone. The staff and I are so proud to be here, working with our irreplaceable collections, on behalf of teaching and learning across disciplines at Oberlin College, and for the benefit of all of those who visit. Please be one of them this year – we look forward to welcoming, and celebrating, with you.

Andria Derstine

John G.W. Cowles Director


Read previous Director's Letters here.