A change in season always heralds new and exciting initiatives at the Allen Memorial Art Museum (AMAM), and spring, summer, and fall 2014 have been no exceptions. May was an especially busy month, as the museum hosted Claes Oldenburg—whose works, including his Giant Three-Way Plug, have so enhanced the museum’s collection—and the Print Council of America, a national association for print scholars. In conjunction with the art department, the AMAM additionally held a special reception in honor of retiring studio art professor John Pearson over Commencement/Reunion weekend. Thanks to several generous donors, and announced by Pearson’s son at the reception, an endowed acquisition fund has been established in John Pearson’s name. This important resource will provide for the acquisition of abstract works of art, perpetuating Pearson’s legacy of teaching in this area.The AMAM continually seeks sources of outside funding not only from generous private donors such as those who gave to the Pearson Fund, but also from government agencies and foundations. My colleagues and I were pleased to learn this spring that we were successful in securing a $20,000 grant from the Ohio Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant provides for special programs and outreach related to the academic yearlong exhibition Latin American and Latino Art at the Allen, the first AMAM exhibition ever to focus on this important—and growing—aspect of the collection and the first comprehensive exhibition in Ohio to focus on 20th and 21st century Latin American art.
In conjunction with the exhibition, a new catalogue has been published, Latin American Art at the Allen Memorial Art Museum, with essays by Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Denise Birkhofer and history professor Steven Volk. We hope it will prove to be informative for the general reader as well as an important scholarly resource. A symposium, free and open to the public, and with talks by such leading scholars of Latin American and Caribbean art as art historian Edward Sullivan of New York University, will be held on October 3–4. We encourage you to join us.
Numerous other exhibitions newly on view relate to the AMAM’s general theme this year of “The Americas.” An Insider’s Lens: The Jazz Photography of Milt Hinton focuses on this important American musical art form, and the jazz bassist who captured images of its performers over many decades. Several exciting evening events—a film screening, talk, and jazz performances—have been planned in conjunction with this loan exhibition, which comprises 99 photographs from the Milton J. Hinton Photographic Collection. Other exhibitions, on American 19th-century art, Disney animation, Mexico, and World War I, are also on view. Kevin Greenwood, who joined the staff in May as the Joan L. Danforth Assistant Curator of Asian Art, has mounted a new installation of Asian art, with a focus on American collectors. We also welcome a new curatorial assistant, Hayley Larson, to the staff. You can learn more about some of the many current and former Oberlin students who have worked at the AMAM in our current newsletter.
Finally, there is one thing that no visitor to the AMAM this summer, fall, and winter will be able to miss: the cleaning of our historic ceiling in the King Sculpture Court. Immediately after commencement the art in this space was deinstalled, and in June ICA-Art Conservation began its work. Every day the ratio of cleaned to dirt-covered surfaces grows larger, as does our excitement as we envision seeing and celebrating the cleaned ceiling next spring. We expect the project to be complete by May 2015, and urge you to consider a gift in support of it, as we are still raising the funds needed to complete the work. One exciting aspect of the project is a course for Oberlin students, taught this fall by conservator Heather Galloway, about the work under way. Such a combination of attention to our collection and historic infrastructure, and innovative work with Oberlin students, exemplifies the balance of old and new, of preservation and access, that we strive for daily at the AMAM.