From the Director - Fall 2018

Furthering education through original works of art of the highest quality is the AMAM’s mission, and the coming months provide many rich opportunities for this via key collaborations. As a presenting partner of the FRONT International triennial founded by alumnus Fred Bidwell (OC ’74), the AMAM has organized installations in three Oberlin venues. While FRONT officially ends September 30, as so much of the museum’s work involves the Oberlin College community, we have extended through the fall semester the installation by Barbara Bloom, which brings to the fore aspects of our collection and the architecture of the Robert Venturi-designed Ellen Johnson Gallery, to allow it to contribute to the college curriculum. I thank staff members Andrea Gyorody, Kendall Christian, Lucille Stiger, Jill Greenwood, Megan Harding, and Sally Moffitt, who have been instrumental in implementing the Oberlin FRONT installations and their wealth of related programs.

Partnerships through grant-funded initiatives have been integral to the museum’s efforts over many years. A grant from the Luce Foundation to Oberlin College has partially supported curator Kevin Greenwood’s thought-provoking exhibition Worlds Apart: Nature and Humanity Under Deconstruction, which highlights the myriad environmental challenges posed by rapid development in East Asia. Asian art makes up about one-third of the AMAM’s collection, and my colleagues and I are delighted that the museum has recently received a substantial two-year $203,238 grant from the Freeman Foundation to expand K-12 and public outreach with East Asian art, an initiative that will be overseen by curator Jill Greenwood.

Even as we celebrate new projects such as these, we think back on the past exciting year of the AMAM’s centennial celebrations, in which many of you participated. The purchase party held in May as the culminating event of these celebrations saw the acquisition of five works through Friends of Art funds, following which donors Douglas and Elaine Barr stepped up to purchase a silver- and gold-glazed Japanese tea bowl, while supporters Driek and Michael Zirinsky, Robert Taylor and Ted Nowick, Carl Gerber, and Catherine and Jamie Gletherow contributed to the purchase of a portfolio by Catherine Opie, thus ensuring that all seven of the works selected for the event joined the collection. To them and to you—and to all of the museum’s generous donors—we offer our sincere gratitude. Recognition of the AMAM’s importance to our community continues this year—our 101st—through an innovative mural cleverly titled “Art 101,” created during the June 2018 Chalk Walk and spearheaded by Oberlin resident David Baker with a team of local artists. And with regard to the museum’s centennial projects, I am very happy to report that we are more than 87 percent of the way to meeting a Second Century Campaign goal to raise $500,000 to shore up endowments.

The wealth of art-related teaching and activities at the museum is the result of the creativity and energy of its dedicated staff, and while we have said goodbye to Andaleeb Banta, former curator of European and American art, who has left for a position at the Baltimore Museum of Art, we welcome Oberlin alumnae Ava Prince (OC ’18) and Emma Laube (OC ’17) to post-baccalaureate positions in the departments of education and academic programs, respectively. The museum has a long history of furthering the career development of Oberlin College students, especially in the art world, and a November 1–2 symposium jointly organized by the AMAM and the Art Department, “Creating Space: Curating Black Art Now,” will celebrate this by bringing back alumni, while asking important—indeed, urgent—questions about equity and diversity in the curatorial and broader museum fields. We’re also excited to partner with the Conservatory of Music and the history department on public gallery talks on September 8 to commemorate the centenary of the conclusion of the First World War—part of a wealth of public offerings this fall highlighting artists, community members, and curators.

The past six-plus years since I became director of the AMAM has been an exhilarating time, thanks to our dedicated staff and marvelous supporters. I’m glad now to have the opportunity for a six-month sabbatical, during which I will be working on a range of research projects relating to the museum’s excellent collection. From September 10 to March 10, Katherine Solender (OC ’77), a member of the museum’s Visiting Committee, has kindly agreed to reprise her role at the museum’s helm, as acting director. Having served as interim director during 2003–04 and 2011–12, and having taught the museum’s docent-training course in January 2017, there is no one more qualified for this role. I am deeply grateful to her for taking this on, and for her unstinting generosity to the AMAM over many decades—just as I am to all of you, our dedicated supporters.

Andria Derstine
John G.W. Cowles Director

Read previous Director's Letters here.