From the Director - Spring 2020

The start of a new year—indeed a new decade—in the life of the museum brings with it a palpable sense of renewal, and of possibility. Pleasantly compounding this are just-launched initiatives, as well as new staff members who bring fresh energy and creative ideas to our team.

In August, AMAM staff participated in a daylong retreat with team-building, strategic planning, and mindfulness exercises. A few days later we celebrated our volunteers, members of the Museum Guild and docents of the Frank Lloyd Wright house, who so generously share their knowledge and time.

In the fall, we were thrilled to welcome to the staff Hannah Kinney, Alexandra Letvin, and Andre Sepetavec, who have already made a positive impact on student outreach, collection research, and gallery installations. And in early January we welcomed a new class of student docents, under the tutelage of Jill Greenwood, Eric & Jane Nord Family Curator of Education, through an Oberlin College Winter Term course that has been a key aspect of the museum’s outreach and our emphasis on career preparation since the 1980s.

Important works from the museum collection have been showcased widely in recent months. Andrea del Verrocchio’s relief Madonna and Child and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s painting Self-Portrait as a Soldier hung proudly in exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and at the Neue Galerie in New York, respectively. (The former show was organized by Oberlin alumnus and AMAM Visiting Committee member Andrew Butterfield ’82.) In addition, 70 drawings by Eva Hesse were on view first in New York and then in Vienna.

In Oberlin, a major aspect of our offerings this semester is an exhibition of ukiyo-e woodblock prints bequeathed by Mary Ainsworth (OC 1889), organized by Kevin Greenwood, Joan L. Danforth Curator of Asian Art. He chose the works on view from among a larger group of 200 that toured three Japanese museums in 2019. Extensive exhibitions such as this—and its accompanying catalogue—often take years to come to fruition, and we are delighted that the moment has come to present this signature aspect of our holdings. Greenwood has also strengthened our Asian collection through several recent conservation grants; the happy result of one of these, funded by Japan’s Sumitomo Foundation, is now on view in the exhibition Monkeys, Apes, and Mr. Freer.

Our schedule of public programs keeps growing, and this semester we have renamed two of our event series. “Allen After Hours” returns as a moniker for evening events, replacing “First Thursday.” While some of these programs will indeed be held on the first Thursday, the name change gives us greater flexibility to schedule programs on alternate days, such as will occur this March and April. In addition, “Art Break” is the new name for our morning gallery talks held on third Fridays, formerly known as “AMAM in the AM,” the brainchild of curator Jill Greenwood.

We are particularly excited to host, on April 16, the Harold Jantz Memorial Lecture, which will commemorate 500 years since the death of the eminent Renaissance artist Raphael (on April 6, 1520). We hope you will join us for guest speaker Yvonne Elet, an esteemed Raphael scholar. The AMAM collection includes a fascinating 1806 painting of an imaginary scene at Raphael’s deathbed by the French artist Pierre-Nolasque Bergeret, purchased by Napoleon Bonaparte for his wife, Josephine—an impetus for the choice of subject, which, however, will range widely over Raphael’s magnificent contributions to architecture, urban design, and other media.

One of our most exciting initiatives this year is the development of a new museum website. The new site will be much more flexible, mobile-friendly, and visually exciting—an appropriate showcase for the museum’s exceptional holdings. Megan Harding, our manager of publications, membership, and media, is working closely on this with the Allen’s staff to envision a vibrant web presence that will better connect us with AMAM members, the Oberlin campus, and friends near and far. Communicating effectively with you about the museum’s mission-centered activities is among our most important priorities. Please feel free to contact me to share your ideas for the Allen, and thank you for your support.

Andria Derstine
John G.W. Cowles Director

Read previous Director's Letters here.