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

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

AP Art History Class Exhibition

Artwork created by students from the Worcester Public Schools Advanced Placement Art History (APAH) class is currently on view in the Higgins Education Wing. The 2016-2017 student exhibition featuring work by 35 students is on view through July 23, 2017. APAH is designed to provide the same benefits to secondary school students as those provided by an introductory college course in art history. In the course, students examine major forms of artistic expression from the ancient world to the present and from a variety of cultures. They learn to look and analyze works of art within their historical context, and to articulate what they see or experience in a meaningful way. One way to experience works of art is learning to frame an understanding that relates how and why works of art communicate visual meaning.

This innovative program collaboration began in 2010 between Worcester Public Schools and the Worcester Art Museum. The course is held every Tuesday and Thursday nights and allows students from Worcester’s seven high schools to engage in the authentic study of art history. Historically, approximately 70% of students who take the required APAH exam at the end of the course receive a score of three or better, enabling them to earn advanced placement in college and/or advanced college credit.

The exhibition is free and open to the public. The Higgins Education Wing is open Sunday–Saturday, 9am to 5pm.

Click here for more information about WAM faculty and studio art classes

- Ashley Occhino, Manager of Studio Class Programs

Image: Artwork by student Diane Khong

Monday, May 15, 2017

Eyes on Adult Art!

The Higgins Education Wing will again exhibit artwork created by WAM’s adult students as a part of the Studio Art Program’s classes from May 12 – June 4. Our annual Adult Student Art Exhibition presents over 90 works of art by WAM artists in the areas of collage, collagraph, acrylic and oil painting, photography, mixed media, printmaking, and more. The exhibition features a wide range of visual practices, spanning many genres and media.

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 artists, not just those with perceived talents, benefit from working with art materials and learning about self expression.

The exhibition is free and open to the public. The Higgins Education Wing is open Sunday–Saturday, 9am–5pm. Register for a Studio Art Class with Worcester Art Museum to be eligible for our next student exhibitions! WAM’s Summer session for adult starts July 10th.

Click here for more information about WAM faculty and their classes

- Ashley Occhino,  Manager of Studio Class Programs

Image: Frank J Pozzi (Student), Eye On You

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

WAM & WPI Medieval Collaboration

Hi, we’re four students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and we’ve spent the last seven weeks conducting research in collaboration with WAM's Arms and Armor Curator, Jeffrey Forgeng. You may have seen us surveying in the Medieval or Asian Galleries lately—we've been researching how the touch interactives in the Medieval Galleries add to the museumgoing experience. We also developed a new trivia game in the Medieval Gallery so you can come and Test your Knightly Knowledge! And check out the link below to enjoy our video showcasing some of the fun to be had at WAM. We hope you enjoy your experience in the Medieval galleries as much as we did!

Learn more about Reinstallation of the Medieval Galleries

- Kyle Carrero, Jake Halverson, Allyson Mills, Amanda Richards

Friday, April 14, 2017

Welcoming “little ones” to WAM

As a parent with two young children myself, I understand the challenges of visiting cultural institutions as a family. Art museum visits can seem doubly stressful to parents of young children. However, WAM’s renewed focus on supporting family visits—especially to support preschool audiences—should put your minds at ease.

One of our new initiatives is Helmutt’s Drop-In Studio, a place for kids to unlock their imaginations and get creative. Operating during set hours, this staffed studio space in the Higgins Education Wing hosts projects related to our exhibitions and permanent collections. The studio is first-come, first-served, so that our staff educators can devote special attention to your children.

We’ve also implemented a new Stroller Tour program, which has been very popular. This group meets on the first and third Wednesday of each month, a half hour before the Museum opens—so families have devoted private time to themselves to enjoy the galleries, and each other. These tours focus on family-friendly themes and are followed by snacks in Helmutt’s Drop-In Studio, providing an opportunity for Moms, Dads, or other caregivers to socialize.

Kids get hungry, so the Museum Café offers a special children’s menu, and the Sip Cart in the Lancaster Welcome Center has quick-service snacks and lunches. You can also bring your own snacks to eat in the Welcome Center or, in nice weather, the Stoddard Courtyard. Parents can feel free to breast or bottle feed their infants anywhere in the Museum.

Are you planning a visit to WAM with your little ones? Here are some tips for making your time here enjoyable.
  1. Know before you go: Check the Museum’s hours, amenities, accessible entrances, daily programs, and exhibition schedule on our website before you head out. Plot out what is most important for you to get out of your visit.
  2. Visit for free: A WAM family membership pays for itself quickly, especially if you plan on visiting more than one time, plan on taking classes, or to plan on visiting the café or shop. Do the math, it’s worth it!
  3. Use family parking: WAM has designated parking spots for expectant mothers and families with young children. Look for the orange signage in the Salisbury and Tuckerman lots.
  4. Look for the Museum’s Touch Carts: these instructive carts teach our guests what happens to art over time when it is touched. It is a great opportunity to learn Museum rules, and to touch art material in a safe context!
  5. Let the member of your group with the shortest attention span set the length of the visit: This is often your youngest family member, but not always. Follow this person’s lead, and leave when he or she begins to look weary. You can always explore more another day!
Click here for more information on family visits to WAM

Have any suggestions for new programs and amenities to help support your family’s visit to WAM? Let us know your thoughts! Email us at katrinastacy@worcesterart.org

- Katrina Stacy, Associate Curator of Education

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