Welcome to WAM Updates

WAM Updates are short, informal posts that put the spotlight on small, but exciting, Museum-related projects, such as the addition of a new painting or sculpture to a gallery. They also serve as updates on staff, new services or programs, and other WAM news.

We hope you like reading the Updates! If you are interested in learning about something specific, or have a suggestion for a WAM Update, please update us at wamupdates@worcesterart.org

Monday, October 23, 2017

Armor Invasion!

Suit of armor on display in the Renaissance galleries The next time you visit our Renaissance painting galleries you will notice some dramatic changes. We have started integrating suits of armor into the galleries, getting more of the Higgins Armory collection on view for our visitors. As curator at the Armory for 15 years, I was often frustrated that I could never show the suits of armor in connection with other kinds of objects of the period. The limitations of a small museum also meant that I was never able to put significant resources into how the armor was displayed. So I’m pretty thrilled by the new installation—these armors have never looked better. We put a lot of effort into helping visitors get a feel for how they actually looked on a human being, and seeing them in relation to other artworks of the period helps put them into their proper setting. So come see some star suits from the Higgins Collection, now in their “natural habitat” for the very first time in centuries!

- Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art

Monday, September 18, 2017

The WAM Experience - Reflections of a Summer Intern

As a curatorial intern at the Worcester Art Museum I had the opportunity to gain a one-of-a-kind experience behind the scenes of the museum.

I mainly worked on preparing mannequins for four suits of armor and a chain mail shirt for the Renaissance Galleries and Medieval Gallery. Like any other job, this one had its challenges. Dressing the mannequins was the most difficult part. I couldn’t use a sewing machine because the clothing had to be sewn in place on the mannequins. The work was even harder when I had to hold the mannequin up with one hand while sewing its pants with the other! However, the day we went to the storage room and loaded the armor onto the finished mannequins I was rewarded with a glimpse of the completed project. Seeing something I made coming together, and knowing that it will be on display, made me particularly proud, because in my own way I played a significant part in an important project at the museum. A few days later I had the pleasure of seeing one of the suits of armor in its glass case, ready for the public to enjoy it. All the hard work had finally paid off and the obstacles I encountered made me more experienced.

My internship wasn’t just making clothes for the mannequins. I loved taking part in Free Fun Friday, interacting with visitors in the museum’s Medieval Galleries. I was part of the team staffing the medieval cart, helping kids and grownups try on reproduction armor. Through this experience, the visitors were not limited to just looking at objects, they had a chance to feel the material and weight and understand the function of the objects they saw on display.

Throughout my internship I was included in decisionmaking, my opinion was always taken into account and I was always part of a team. The staff were always willing to advise and guide me in the projects I worked on. My internship at the Worcester Art Museum created a solid foundation for my future—thank you to everyone who made it an amazing experience for me.

- Sofia Pitouli, Curatorial Intern

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Summer Youth Student Exhibition on view now

The Higgins Education Wing will exhibit artwork created by young artists as a part of the Studio Art Program’s summer classes from August 5 – September 17. Our Summer Youth Student Exhibition presents over 200 works of art by young artists from 50 classes in the areas of painting, sculpture, illustration, mixed media, and printmaking. The exhibition features a wide range of visual practices, spanning many genres and media.

Artwork by WAM Student Jane Curran
Our philosophy places value on the process of creating art and learning to think and respond creatively. We provide an environment where students can explore other cultures through our outstanding collection of artworks from antiquities to contemporary art. Students will have the opportunity to try new materials and gain self-confidence. All youth, not just those with perceived talents, benefit from working with art materials and learning about self-expression.

The exhibition, located in the Higgins Education Wing, is free and open to the public Sunday–Saturday, from 9am to 5pm. Register for a WAM Studio Art Class to be eligible for our next student exhibition! WAM’s fall session for adult starts September 11th and youth/teen classes start September 23rd. 

Click here for more information about faculty and their classes or to register today. 
- Ashley Occhino, Manager of Studio Class Programs

Monday, August 28, 2017

New hours and admission prices take effect September 1

Starting on September 1, the Worcester Art Museum will have new hours.  The galleries will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm and on the third Thursday of each month from 10am to 8pm.  The Lancaster Street Welcome Center will be open Monday through Friday from 9am to 6:30pm, Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 4pm.

In addition, there will be a modest increase in the cost of admission for adults, seniors, and college students. The new admission prices are $16 for adults and $14 for seniors and college students. The admission price for ages 4-17 remains $6.  There is no admission charge for children ages 3 and under. Admission is always free for anyone who would like to purchase a Museum membership. 
Why is the Museum changing the hours it is open?  We know that both school groups and families with young children prefer to visit in the morning, while attendance overall tends to taper off by late-afternoon. By opening and closing an hour earlier, we will be able to meet the needs of all of our audiences and to be more efficient in staffing the galleries.

Why is the Museum increasing its admission fees?  The modest increase in the Museum’s admission fees will help pay for the programs, exhibitions, collections, and services that our visitors enjoy.  We will continue to offer Free First Saturday mornings and Free August, so that everyone—regardless of ability to pay admission—can have transformative art experiences at WAM. 
In addition, the Museum participates in the EBT Card to Culture program offering EBT cardholders reduced admission of $2 cash per person for up to four people.   EBT Card to Culture is a collaboration between the Mass Cultural Council and the Executive Office of Health and Human ServicesDepartment of Transitional Assistance.  It ensures the state’s best cultural and educational experiences are accessible to low-income residents.   

If you have any questions about these changes, please don’t hesitate to contact us at wamupdates@worcesterart.org.
-   Julieane K. Frost, Manager of Marketing, Communications and Design

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

America’s Peculiar Institution

The paintings on view in the Worcester Art Museum’s American portrait galleries celebrate a story of mercantile exchange, rational thought, and military prowess. As with most portraits, however, these paintings depict the sitters as they wish to be seen—their best selves—rather than simply recording appearance. The sitters are shown in poses and with objects intended to articulate their social status, such as the fine fabrics and coral beads in the portraits of John, Elizabeth, and Mary Freake.

At his death, John Freake’s estate included partial ownership of six ships, significant holdings of land, and “one Negroe named Coffee,” who was valued at £30. (Source: Inventory of the estate of John Freake, 24th day, 7th month, 1675, Suffolk County Probate, Boston, miscellaneous docket, V, 294–96.)

Yet a great deal of information is effaced in works such as these, including the sitters’ reliance on chattel slavery, often referred to as America’s “peculiar institution.” The Freakes, like many other wealthy American citizens, supported their way of life through this system of violence and oppression, which was legal in Massachusetts until 1783 and in regions of the United States until 1865. This tragic history has long been overlooked in our galleries—to address this omission, the Museum has added special labels to indicate different portrait sitters’ participation in slavery.

- Elizabeth Athens, Assistant Curator of American Art

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Armor in the Galleries

Now that we’ve installed our new Medieval Galleries, featuring a selection of objects from the Higgins Armory Collection, we have started to incorporate arms and armor into other parts of the Museum as well. Come check out the helmets recently added to the [remastered] paintings gallery. The one shown below is from the early 1600s and weighs a punishing 10 ½ lbs. It’s a siege helmet, for use in fortifications rather than on the march, and it’s made to be proof against musket balls. In fact, there are two bullet marks in the rear, evidence that it saved someone’s life more than once.

Watch the galleries over the next few months as we begin to install some suits of armor to keep company with our spectacular collection of Renaissance paintings!

- Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art

Photographs:  Kim Noonan / Worcester Art Museum

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

WAM Superlatives Wall encourages "best" thinking

This May we launched a new way to engage visitors with works in the WAM collection.  Located just inside the Higgins Education Wing on the first floor, our “Superlatives Wall” presents a different topic each month and encourages guests to vote for their favorite work of art in various categories. Guests are also encouraged to comment on WHY they voted for an artwork. Our first question was “Which event would you rather attend?” We pitted Model of a Ball Game, 1947.25; The Discovery of Honey by Bacchus, 1937.76; and These Days of Maiuma, against each other. Over 300 people voted and over 60 comments were left; the winner was Model of a Ball Game with 43% of the vote.  

Almost as soon as the images were up, our wall started filling up with votes and comments. The wall changes monthly, to make room for a new question — but don’t worry; we’re keeping track of all the feedback, hoping to learn what in our collection most intrigues and inspires our guests.

Below are some of the most thought-provoking comments so far:

The Discovery of Honey by Bacchus:

  • Diversity appears to be welcome!
  • It is a great piece of art and there are so many details! I could look at it for hours.
  • I like this painting because it reminds me of freedom.
  • Because it seems that everybody is having fun!
  • Because I am interested in Greek Mythology.
Model of a Ball Game (see above):
  • The crowd looks like they are having normal conversations and everyone seems happy and well fed.
  • Because it's an interesting subject.
  • Very intrigued by the Mayan culture and artifacts!
  • Because it interests me and I play ball.
  • Ancient relics reveal hidden truths.

 These Days of Maiuma

  • would want to know what its true meaning is.
  • Hunting theme that relates to the mosaic.
  • Because beautiful chaos is my jam!
  • I like it because it shows an accurate representation of the world today!
  • It shows what humanity looks like!
  • Because the piece is in a style that I live and everyone lives a little chaos!

The next time you are at WAM, look for the Superlatives Wall and let us know what YOU think!

Megan Blomgren Burgess
Public Events Coordinator

Recent WAM Updates