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

Thursday, December 15, 2016

New partnership brings Open Door Gallery to WAM

One of the most important priorities at the Worcester Art Museum is to increase accessibility so community members of all abilities can discover the joy of connecting with art at the Museum. I’m pleased to announce that an exciting new partnership with VSA Massachusetts, an affiliate of the Seven Hills Foundation, creates a new gallery space for artists with disabilities. Called the Open Door Gallery at the Worcester Art Museum this bright area, overlooking the Stoddard Garden Courtyard from the Higgins Education Wing, provides a meaningful opportunity for these artists to show their works, while at the same time enhancing the Museum’s offerings in the Higgins Wing.

The first exhibit, currently on view, is “Life Cycles,” an exploration of the series of changes that take place in the life of an organism. The featured works examine the nature and psychological vocabulary of this life cycle and its relationship to culture, history, tactility, material and artistic output. The exhibit is free and open to the public during regular Museum hours. Please enter through the Lancaster Welcome Center.

As part of the VSA MA/WAM partnership, participants also frequently visit the Museum galleries, where they find inspiration and connect further with the ideas and images from over 50 centuries of creative expression. Increasing accessibility for people with disabilities increases accessibility and understanding for everyone. We are proud and delighted to welcome VSA Massachusetts to the Worcester Art Museum and invite you to discover their amazing creative gifts in the Open Door Gallery at WAM.

- Adam R. Rozan, Director of Audience Engagement

Friday, December 9, 2016

WAM’s new Medieval Holidays décor is festive--and educational!

If you’re a regular visitor you WAM, you’ll notice a new spin to our annual holiday season programming. To compliment the upcoming reopening of our Medieval Galleries, we are focusing on a major institutional strength: our medieval holdings and the stories they tell. “Medieval Holidays” is a collection-centric twist on our traditional holiday programming, right down to revamped, historically accurate décor throughout the facility. The new decorations incorporate three main elements that link directly to medieval traditions: holly, ivy, and wheat.

Holly and Ivy are the plants most strongly associated with the medieval celebration of Christmastide (the holiday season between Christmas and the New Year). In pagan tradition, both holly and ivy are believed to have astonishing powers. The ceremonial placing of a benevolent plant above a doorway is an ancient practice, which is common to many cultures and time periods. This philosophy is echoed in the Museum’s upper and lower Renaissance Court, embellished with seasonal decorative elements of apples and walnuts.

Moreover, “the red-berried holly was given a masculine persona in the Middle Ages, in contrast to the black-fruited ivy, which was considered to be feminine. Holly, native to most parts of south and central Europe, was credited by the Roman natural historian Pliny with the power to protect and defend against witchcraft, lightning, and poison. Ivy was dedicated to Bacchus and was believed to prevent intoxication and confer the power to prophesy. (Maude Grieve, A Modern Herbal, 1971.)” (The Cloisters Museum and Gardens)

By the Middle Ages, holly and ivy had been thoroughly Christianized. Ivy was identified with the Virgin, and the red berries of the holly with the blood of Christ.

Wheat is included throughout our medieval décor as an allusion to the Eucharistic symbolism of the transformation of the Christ Child into the bread of the Mass. A giant sheaf of wheat stands central in the Chapter House and also on the grand Newell posts in the Renaissance Court.

Don’t miss WAM’s special holiday medieval décor, on view through January 1, 2017.

Learn more about our Medieval Holidays celebration

- Katrina Stacy, Associate Curator of Education

Friday, November 11, 2016

WAM’s 3rd Annual Gingerbread Castle Competition

This December, WAM once again continues a beloved tradition inherited from the Higgins Armory Museum – the Gingerbread Castle Competition!  A host of local bakers, professional and amateur alike, will present their confectionary masterpieces in Stephen Salisbury Hall from December 11 to 18. Come by the Museum to admire them and vote for your favorites. The awards ceremony will be held on Sunday December 18 at 3:30pm. 

Winners will be awarded the following prizes:
People’s Choice: WAM Membership and Medal
Best Youth (12 & under): WAM Youth Art Class and Medal
Best Business Partner: choice of Gift Business Partner Membership or Gift Family Membership
Best Professional: $250
Runner-up Professional: Medal
Best Amateur: $100
Runner-up Amateur: Medal

Interested in competing? We welcome castle architects of all ages and abilities. Castles will be judged in four categories; professional, amateur, Business Partner and youth. Use your imagination to interpret “castle” however you wish – the only rule is that all building materials must be edible. Deadline for submissions is November 28. 

Click here for more details or to download an application

Learn more about WAM's Medieval Holidays

- Megan Blomgren Burgess, Public Event Coordinator


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Now On View: WAM Annual Faculty Exhibition

The Higgins Education Wing will exhibit artwork created by faculty members of the Studio Class Programs department from November 4, 2016 – January 19, 2017. Our Annual Faculty Exhibition presents 38 works of art by 23 artists who currently teach and assist at the Museum in the areas of painting, mixed media, printmaking, and more. The exhibition features a wide range of visual practices, spanning many genres and media.

As working professional artists and educators who balance their own art making with teaching at WAM, the faculty exhibition allows students, the community, and the public the opportunity to experience the diversity of approaches each artist employ. WAM’s Studio Class Programs faculty is a strong and diverse group, exploring a range of traditional and contemporary mediums and themes.

View the exhibition and meet the artist at this special closing reception on Thursday, January 19, 5:30-7pm. The exhibition is free and open to the public. The Higgins Education Wing is open Sunday–Saturday, 9am-5pm.

Click here for more information about faculty and their classes.

Image: Nan Hass Feldman, Yao Women in the Autumn Fields

- Ashley Occhino, Manager of Studio Class Programs

Monday, October 24, 2016

New - Ed Emberley Curriculum Guides

This past summer, teachers from Worcester’s Jacob Hiatt Magnet School partnered with WAM to create curriculum tied to the Kahbahbloom exhibition. These curricula, which are specific to various grade standards in Kindergarten through 2nd grade, are available on the Museum’s website:

· Glad Monster, Sad Monster: A Book About Feelings 
· The Story of Paul Bunyan
· Ed Emberley's Great Thumbprint Drawing Book

Jacob Hiatt Magnet School students, staff, and families are excited to have the opportunity to engage with the work of Ed Emberley who is still alive and is a resident of Massachusetts, in intimate ways. They have been examining the prolific body of Emberley’s work in art classes, and this has allowed them to bring to life their own ideas by creating and illustrating. Ed Emberley is an artist who sees the world through the eyes of a child. He is the perfect artist for elementary art students who often see the world through lines, shapes, and forms. Through Emberley, they are able to make connections and synthesize basic elements of Art into their own reality. The trip to WAM will be the highlight for students. To see Emberley’s work up close after seeing it in their studies will be a rewarding experience.

Learn more about KAHBAHBLOOOM: The Art and Storytelling of Ed Emberley

- Jyoti Datta, Principal, Jacob Hiatt Magnet School

Monday, October 17, 2016

Helmutt on the Move!

Have you met Helmutt? Helmutt is an armor-wearing boar hound statue; his armor is based on the plate dog armor of a hunting hound of Emperor Charles V. Leonard Heinrich, who was the armorer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, made Helmutt’s armor as a gift to John Woodman Higgins in 1942. In his 74 years, Helmutt was a crowd favorite at the Higgins Armory Museum, greeting visitors and even other dogs. Helmutt has also been featured in the news many times over the years. Below are some of our favorite press clippings.

Now that Helmutt’s new home is here at WAM, he’ll continue the tradition of greeting Museum visitors of all types. He will be popping up all over the Museum visiting different works of art, especially those with other animals. See if you can find Helmutt each time you visit WAM!

Look for clues on our Facebook page

- Megan J. Blomgren Burgess, Public Events Coordinator

Friday, October 14, 2016

Winter Cover Contest Winner: Linda Spencer

Linda Spencer’s luminescent oil painting, Winter Train over Seven-Mile River, East Brookfield, appears on the cover of WAM’s Studio Art 2016/17 winter catalog. Her winning entry was selected from a number of submissions, all by current and former Studio Art students.

Spencer’s painting — a mesmerizing display of muted light and soft colors that aptly captures early New England winter — began with a brisk walk behind the Massasoit Art Guild studios in East Brookfield. The light was exceptional so she took a number of photographs and then headed to the studio to paint.

“People asked me, ‘Where is that stunning location?’ and I told them it was just out back. You don’t have to travel far to find beauty.”

Why would, Spencer, an artist and art teacher, decide to take classes at WAM’s Studio Art program? The answer is not complicated, she says. “If you work and you’re busy, you won’t paint if you don’t take a class.”

Spencer, who coincidentally lives in Spencer, taught art at the Quabbin Regional High School in Barre for 35 years. During those demanding years, she took Studio Art classes to bring fresh ideas to her classroom. At the same time, she developed her own preferences and style as an artist. And it was at WAM that she came into her own as an artist.

“I took my first plein-air painting class with Susan Swinand at WAM. I love plein-air. Now that I’m retired, I paint much more.”

Painting is restorative, engaging, challenging and, yes, even therapeutic.

“I’ve always loved the outdoors,” she says. “It’s the fresh air, the sense of being there. The wonder of looking at everything. To quickly capture what you see is quite a challenge. You have to focus so much on what you’re doing. For the time that you’re working, it’s almost like a vacation, though I’m always exhausted afterward. It’s a lot of work — taking what you see and limiting it to a small canvas.”

In art, Spencer says, “there’s no right or wrong. Art is a safe place to be. My students gained tremendous confidence that carried over into other parts of their lives. You take risks, see some successes there, and then you’re willing to take more risks, try harder, try something else.”

“Be fearless,” she says. “Don’t worry. You can always try again.”

View all of the winter cover contest entries on WAM’s Facebook page

Browse Worcester Art Museum Studio Classes

- Ashley Occhino, Manager of Studio Class Programs

Friday, October 7, 2016

Now on View: WAM Studio Class Program and Worcester Youth Center Exhibition

The Higgins Education Wing will exhibit artwork created by teen artists as a part of a multi-year collaboration between Worcester Art Museum’s Studio Class Programs and the Worcester Youth Center. This exhibition features a variety of artwork created over two years of programming by twenty-five artists; including painting, sculpture, illustration, mixed media, and photography. Led by WAM Faculty Members Jennifer Swan and Jamie Buckmaster, teens tackled tough issues through their artwork such as racism and oppression. Their artwork will be on view from October 1 – October 24.

Our studio art 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 Fall session for teens starts soon! Weekend classes being October 1st and afterschool studio classes start October 6th.

Click here for more information about upcoming classes and workshops.

- Ashley Occhino, Manager of Studio Class Programs

Monday, October 3, 2016

Third Spaces and Seating at WAM

Inspired by the Museum’s 2020 vision statement, WAM has long believed in the idea that the Museum can function as a space where the community comes together. The idea of creating public spaces—or third spaces-where people can congregate is at the center of the Museum’s identity. The idea of third space was first developed and introduced in 1989 by Ray Oldenberg is his book The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. For WAM, third spaces will always be our galleries, places that connect you with our art, spanning seven thousand years of human history, creativity, and imagination. Join us in these spaces to celebrate, talk, dream, draw, read, and write with friends, neighbors, colleagues, and even other guests you meet here.

As part of this initiative, we also continue our experimentation with seating. We began this journey with Constellation, a furniture installation by Kraud Inc., now in the Remastered Galleries; bean bags in Helmutt’s House; Thonet chairs throughout the facility; a prayer bench; and now couches, club chairs, and coffee tables in several of our European galleries. We invite you sit, linger, lounge, relax, kick back, and REST. Galleries were made for sitting, and I hope that this new furniture encourages long hours spent enjoying the artworks and community at the Museum.

- Adam Reed Rozan, Director of Audience Engagement

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Philip A. Klausmeyer, April 11, 1963 – August 25, 2016

It is with great sadness that we report on the untimely death of Worcester Art Museum Conservator and Scientist Dr. Philip A. Klausmeyer. Philip was a cherished family member, esteemed colleague, and friend. He passed away on Thursday, August 25, 2016 at the age of 53, surrounded by his loving family, after a 14 month battle with pancreatic cancer.

Philip worked at the Worcester Art Museum as both a paintings conservator and scientist while also serving as Associate Editor for Studies in Conservation, the international peer-reviewed journal for the conservation of historic and artistic works. Philip also held a research appointment at WPI (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) where he brought museum conservators together with university scientists and students to explore the application of innovative technologies to conservation research. At WPI, Philip was exposed to cutting edge technologies, and it was here that he discovered the potential for laser shearography to assess the impact of environmental conditions on artworks.

In 1998, Philip received an M.S. in painting conservation from the Winterthur/ University of Delaware Program in Conservation. He completed two summer internships at the Museum of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and fulfilled his third year internship requirement at the Worcester Art Museum (WAM). Over the next five years, he honed his conservation skills while holding several advanced fellowships at WAM, including two Samuel H. Kress awards. During this period, he also worked part time for two years as an assistant conservator at the Harvard University Art Museums, where he made significant contributions to the conservation treatment of John Singer Sargent’s Triumph of Religion murals at the Boston Public Library.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Passion for Wood

Recently Paula Artal-Isbrand, WAM’s Objects Conservator, and I welcomed to the museum two leading wood researchers, Dr. Itoh Takao (Kyoto) and Dr. Mechtild Mertz (Paris). They are conducting a comprehensive research project to identify the type of woods used for as many Chinese religious wooden sculptures as they can test. They have already tested some sculptures in Chinese and European collections as well as the ones at the Met in New York. This time on their trip to the U.S. they came to test the ones at the MFA, Harvard, Isabella Stewart Gardner, RISD, Cleveland, Princeton, Yale, and Brooklyn as well as ours at Worcester. A very intense and focused research project! We look forward to learning more about our Chinese wooden sculptures from Dr. Itoh and Dr. Mertz and were honored that WAM was able to contribute to their important study.

See more Chinese Art in our Collection Highlights

-Vivian Li, Assistant Curator of Asian Art

Image 1: Dr. Itoh and Abby Hykin, Objects Conservator at the MFA accompanying him, studying our Head of Guanyin, Yuan Dynasty, 1260–1368, wood, polychrome and gold leaf, Museum Purchase, 1932.15

Image 2: Paula (left) observing Dr. Itoh and Dr. Mertz working on our Standing Bodhisattva, Chinese, Song Dynasty, 1100–1200, carved wood, polychromed, Museum Purchase, 1954.165

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Recently opened: 'Facing the World: Modernization and Splendor in Meiji Japan'

Just last week we installed a new exciting show in the Arts of Japan gallery, Facing the World: Modernization and Splendor in Meiji Japan. During the Meiji (“enlightened rule”) period (1868 -1912) when power was restored back to the emperor from the samurai class, Japan underwent rapid modernization that established a thriving industrial sector and a powerful national army and navy. Besides dramatic domestic reforms, modernization during the Meiji period also involved presenting the nation on the international stage through the beauty of its arts. With the decline of the samurai class and its strong patronage, many artisans also increasingly turned to creating works for the growing export market. Facing the World features magnificent lacquerware that represented Japan at international expositions in Paris and San Francisco as well as prints reflecting Japan's accelerated growth at home and abroad. The show will be on view until April 16.

See more images and read more about Facing the World

- Vivian Li, Assistant Curator, Asian Art

Above: Cabinet, about 1900, lacquered wood, designed by Kishi Kokei (Japanese, 1840-1922), lacquer decoration by Kawanobe Itcho (Japanese, 1830-1910), Kawanobe Heiemon (1852-1926) and Funabashi Iwajiro (1859-after 1914), Private Collection, E.70.16.3

Accessory Box, 1912-1926, lacquered wood, Japan, Private Collection, E.70.16.1

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ask a Curator Day!

Have you ever wondered how exhibitions at the Worcester Art Museum are put together?
Are you curious about the day-to-day life of a curator?
Want to know more about an object in WAM’s collection?

Find out directly from WAM curators themselves on Ask a Curator Day! You ask, we answer. To participate, tweet your questions to @WorcesterArt TODAY, September 14, from 11am-4pm EST with the hashtag #AskACurator.

We will be gathering your questions throughout the day and members of the curatorial team will answer during WAM Curator Hour from 4-5pm. Standing by to answer your questions are…

Jon L. Seydl, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of European Art
Tweet sign-off: jls
Expertise: Medieval to 20th century European art; Ancient Greek and Roman art.

Elizabeth Athens, Assistant Curator of American Art
Tweet sign-off: ea
Expertise: 18th- and 19th-century American Art.

Justin M. Brown, Curatorial Assistant in American Art
Tweet sign-off: jmb
Expertise: Pre-20th century American painting; race and American visual culture.

Nancy Burns, Assistant Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
Tweet sign-off: nkb
Expertise: Prints and drawings after 1850; the history of photography.

Jeffrey Forgeng, Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art
Tweet sign-off: jlf
Expertise: Hand-to-hand esthetics.

Vivian Li, Assistant Curator of Asian Art
Tweet sign-off: vl
Expertise: Ancient to contemporary Asian art.

Karysa K. Norris, Curatorial Assistant
Tweet sign-off: kkn
Expertise: Wrangling curators.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Visit the Museum Library

Want to learn more about Otto Dix, the artist who painted WAM’s newest acquisition, The Pregnant Woman, and the culture of Weimar Germany that spawned the art movement of New Objectivity? If so, then you should visit the Museum library and browse the newly acquired collection of books on Dix and the movement of New Objectivity conveniently arranged on a table as soon as you enter the reading room. There is also a display of new books related to upcoming exhibitions and other new WAM acquisitions. If you would rather learn about what is happening in the art world in general, browse the library’s collection of current art magazines ranging from Art in America to the History of Photography or if you want to know what’s happening in the world of contemporary art, browse either Frieze or Flash Art. 

Since the library’s collection has been developed around the Museum’s collection of art objects, it is the primary place to come to learn more about something you found in the Museum that interests you. Just ask the librarian on duty what your interests are, and we will be glad to help you get started on your search. The library welcomes visitors of all ages and levels of interest, from a parent looking for a child’s book on Impressionism, a college student researching one of our Antioch mosaics, or a visitor wanting to learn more about Mary Cassatt. There are over 53,000 books in our collection, all devoted to art, which are in our on-line catalog and all are available for browsing. The library is free and open to the public, and offers our resources to everyone, not just the Museum staff. Our new fall hours started after Labor Day and we will now be open on Saturdays during the Museum’s open hours for the remainder of the school year.

Learn more about the Museum Library

- Deborah Smock Aframe, Librarian

Thursday, September 1, 2016

I’m coming to WAM. Where do I park?

As the Museum’s new Guest Services Manager, one of my first tasks has been to communicate Museum parking options for the thousands of people who visited WAM during Free August.  We are proud to offer free parking to our guests, but during high visitation periods, spots do fill up quickly.  I hope the following information will help you when you plan your next visit to WAM. 

Guests have three self-parking options provided by the Museum free of charge: the Lancaster Street Lot, the Salisbury Street Lot, and the Tuckerman Street Lot. The Lancaster Street Lot offers closer parking to the Lancaster Street Entrance and the Higgins Education Wing.  The Salisbury Lot is offers closer parking to the Salisbury Entrance and offers accessible parking spaces. The Tuckerman Street Lot offers closer parking to the courtyard entrance and also has accessible parking. Parking in the Museum lots are first come, first served.

In addition, free street parking is available on several streets around the Museum.  Metered spots are available one block away in the Highland Street Municipal Parking Lot. During school vacation weeks, community days, and other predictably busy times, we suggest taking public transportation or carpooling. If you will be driving, we recommend arriving earlier or later in the day for the best parking availability.

In order to make this information more accessible to you, we have included it on our website along with a parking map.

Should you have any questions regarding parking or any other issue, please dial the main number at 508-799-4406.

I hope you find this information useful. I very much look forward to welcoming you to the Worcester Art Museum soon.

Brian P. Scurio
Guest Services Manager

Monday, August 15, 2016

Summer Youth Student Exhibition

The Higgins Education Wing will exhibit artwork created by young artists as a part of the Studio Art Program’s summer classes from August 12 – September 18. 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.

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 October 1st.

Click here for more information about faculty and their classes or to register today.

Image: Student Emma Roche

- Ashley Occhino, Manager of Studio Class Programs

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Be  sure to stop by the Japanese art gallery for a last chance to see the Museum’s exquisite pair of Kano school tiger and dragon screens, which will go off view soon on August 22. Established in the 1400s and continuing into modern times, the distinguished Kano school of hereditary professional painters is the longest flourishing and influential school of painting in Japan. The Kano brothers, Kano Tan’yu and Kano Naonobu, were court painters to the shogun in Edo, or present-day Tokyo.

The two screens reflect the intimate relationship in Japan between the dragon and tiger, which are often depicted together. According to the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism that was influential in Japan, the dragon and tiger symbolize two opposite yet complementary forces (yin and yang) in the universe. While the tiger represents yin, or passivity, darkness, and the earth, the dragon represents yang, or activity, light, and the heavens.

Revealing great talent and connoisseurship of classic Chinese and Japanese ink paintings, Tan'yu depicted the dragon with fluid, confident brushwork and a great control of ink washes and tones. In contrast, Naonobu’s style was more restrained and quiet. He endowed the tiger with vitality through the play of broad and thin, light and dark, and wet and dry brushstrokes enhanced by light ink washes.

- Vivian Li, Assistant Curator, Asian Art

KANO Tan’yu (Japanese, 1602-1674) - Dragon
KANO Naonobu (Japanese, 1607-1650) - Tiger
1630–1640 Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink on paper
Overall 172.7 x 377.8 cm (68 x 148 3/4 in.)
Museum purchase, Harriet B. Bancroft Fund and partial gift of Robert H. Simmons, 1987.9, 1987.10

Monday, August 1, 2016

Hot off the presses: a book on museums and empathy

I’m excited to share with you the newly published book Fostering Empathy Through Museums, edited by Elif M. Gokcigdem and published by Rowman & Littlefield. I partnered with Jonathan Carfagno, Director of Learning and Audience Engagement, Grand Rapids Art Museum on museums, core values and the importance of empathy as a value. Our chapter looks at the role that core values, the ethics that governs your organization, can and should have in cultural organizations. By looking at many successful, audience focused organizations – primarily for-profit organizations – we were better able to identify the role and importance that values can and should play in each organization.

Here at the Worcester Art Museum, we have already begun applying these ideas, working to make sure that the Museum is both an intellectually stimulating and engaging place and also one that understands and respects the different needs of our visitors. This includes elements like the experience arriving at the Museum, where we now also have parking spaces for expecting mothers, all the way to the experience in the galleries, where new configurations of seating encourage visitors to relax, not rush.

- Adam R Rozan, Director of Audience Engagement

Thursday, July 28, 2016

What's your feedback?

The next time you visit the Museum, we hope you will notice a new feature in the Higgins Education Wing. The Feedback Wall is exactly what it sounds like. We've added this interactive space as a way to continually solicit feedback on current and upcoming projects and exhibitions, programs and museum materials. This space is different from the iPad surveys in our museum galleries because we will be asking you for your feedback on specific exhibitions, programs, tours and more. Additionally, you will be able to see what others have written about their experiences and respond.

This feedback will be used to help us continually learn about the work that is happening at the museum.

 Right now, the Feedback Wall is asking the following questions about the #Meow project:
• Why does Meow matter to you?
• What conversations grew out of your visit to Meow?
• Tell us about your cat.

If you would prefer to email your responses to these questions (or any other thoughts about Meow), please email us at meow@worcesterart.org. Additionally, you can always give us your general thoughts about the institution through our online survey. If you haven't already done so, we'd appreciate you taking the time to leave your responses.

- Adam Rozan, Director of Audience Engagement

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Study of a Female Figure

The Worcester Art Museum’s ink drawing, Study of a Female Figure (1992.55), shown above-left, was offered to the Worcester Art Museum in 1992 as a gift by David Richardson. Originally attributed to Giovanni Battista Castello (Il Bergamasco), the drawing in fact appears to be by Luca Cambiaso (Moneglia 1527 – 1585 Spain). Exemplifying Cambiaso’s distinct style, the work includes his signature use of curvilinear lines accented with wash, heavy ink application, mannerist poses, and abstraction of form. Further research indicates that the drawing served as study for a female figure in the central ceiling fresco at the Palazzo della Meridiana in Genoa (image above-right). Cambiaso’s study for the Return of Ulysses—the central fresco in the Reception Room—would be contemporary with the present study, accurately dating the drawing to circa 1560-1565.

In the mid-16th century, Admiral and Statesman Andrea Doria stabilized Genoa under his political leadership, allowing it to emerge as a major artistic center in Italy. Early transplants—including painters Perino del Vaga, Domenico Beccaufumi, and Giovanni Antonio de Pordenone—particularly influenced artists of the emerging Genoese school, of which Luca Cambiaso became the first great artist. He was a draughtsman and painter born in Moneglia, then part of the Republic of Genoa and the son of a painter and teacher, Giovanni Cambiaso. Considered the father of the Genoese school, Luca Cambiaso’s bold, unique style significantly influenced those in his circle. Cambiaso adopted the evident mannerist style of Perino del Vaga and combined it with the bold and dramatic line work of Pordenone.

The present drawing has been discussed with a number of scholars in the field, including foremost Cambiaso expert and director at the National Gallery, Jonathan Bober, and Old Master Italian drawing specialist Linda Wolk-Simon, formerly of the Morgan Library, who have both kindly confirmed the re-attribution to Cambiaso. This re-attribution to Cambiaso is significant as he is considered the founding artist of the Genoese school, which has gained increasing collector and academic interest over the last decade. Additionally, this study is a relatively rare instance of a true preparatory sketch for a single figure amidst countless drawings by the master himself and workshop pieces that served as autonomous works. As such, this piece is a real highlight of the museum’s collection.

- Oliver Joseph, MD, Curatorial Volunteer Researcher, Old Master Drawings

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pokémon GO to Worcester Art Museum!

Unless you were living under a rock (and maybe even then, too), you have heard of an incredibly popular phenomenon sweeping the gaming world this week, called Pokémon GO.

If this all seems a little confusing, a week ago I was in the same boat; luckily, it doesn’t take long to get caught up to understand and play this popular and fun game. Pokémon GO is an AR gaming interface for your phone, which means “augmented reality.” The idea is to get gamers off of the couch and send them out into real world locations to find and catch virtual Pokémon, which can be found at actual historical or landmark sites all across the globe. Moving throughout the map contained in the game, you find locations of Pokémon via the camera on your phone. Pokéstops, virtual outposts for Pokémon GO players, are found all over the place… even right here at the Worcester Art Museum. These stops help players to gain Poké Balls and other materials needed to play the game. We’re pleased as can be that the Worcester Art Museum has not only one, but TWO Pokéstops in the facility. Additionally, it is a huge benefit for Pokémon GO players that we have free Wi-Fi throughout the entire WAM building. Since the app requires either streaming data or Wi-Fi for the map aspect to function, this takes a load off of a potential surprise data suck... and cell phone bill. Here’s an insider tip, too: admission to the Worcester Art Museum will be FREE during the entire month of August, so it will be a great time to not only check out our extensive, beautiful galleries, but to capture some new Pokémon as well. Also happening in August, it was announced that players will be able to purchase a Bluetooth device (Pokémon GO Plus) that will alert them when a Pokémon is nearby, so they can quickly pull out their phones and catch it. Until then, remember that admission for WAM members and institutional members is free, so it is a good time as ever to join or use your membership.

Tips for a successful Pokémon GO visit to WAM:
• Be careful seeking Pokémon in Museum galleries. From the Pokémon GO website: “If you see a Pokémon someplace where it might not be safe to capture it (like in a construction site or on private property that you can't get to from the street), don't do it. There will always be another chance to catch that Pokémon later on!” This applies around our delicate works of art as well!
• Walking while staring at my phone is something I found myself doing while playing the game, which also can be dangerous around WAM’s works of art, staircases, and other museum guests. Be vigilant of your surroundings at all times while walking.

Pokémon Go is a free app downloadable for your Apple or Android device. If you’re sharing images of your Pokémon sightings on social media, be sure to tag your Worcester Art Museum Pokémon with #WorcesterArtMuseum!

- Katrina Stacy, Associate Curator of Education

Friday, June 24, 2016

On View: God Rested on the Seventh Day

If you have been in the early Renaissance painting gallery (Gallery 212) in the last week, you may have noticed a new guest from the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts, one of the great repositories of Russian religious art outside of Russia itself.

The work is an icon, a religious object of critical importance in Orthodox Christianity. Rather than simply representing spiritual subjects, as Christian paintings do, icons are considered direct portals to the divine. Icons capture the essence of the figure represented and they serve as a direct intercessor for the worshipper. In other words, they are instruments for establishing contact with God and remain a central element of worship in the Orthodox church.

Most icons in common use depict well-known saints, Christ, or the Virgin Mary. The work on loan, in contrast, is a rare and unusual subject: God Rested on the Seventh Day, painted in Moscow around 1550. Because the subject is unconventional, the owner was probably a priest or a highly educated lay person who used the icon for private devotion, rather than an icon used in a more public church setting. It represents the Old Testament book of Genesis 2:3: “And he blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”

We’re very grateful to the Museum of Russian Icons for sharing this work – and by extension the icon tradition – with our visitors, letting us tell a much more complete story about painting in Europe during the Renaissance.

God Rested on the Seventh Day, 1550s (restored 1700s)
Egg tempera on panel
Russia, Moscow
Lent by the Museum of Russian Icons, R2013.80

- Jon L. Seydl, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of European Art

Monday, June 20, 2016

Accessibility matters…one door at a time.

The grand re-opening of the Worcester Art Museum’s Salisbury Access Bridge made a huge impact on accessibility at the institution; however, another entryway recently and quietly received an important upgrade as well. A new push button door opener at the Stoddard Courtyard entrance (reached via the Tuckerman Street Parking lot) makes it much easier for guests to enter the building at that location – whether they have mobility challenges, are pushing a stroller, or carrying art supplies. With this welcoming feature, this entrance is now fully accessible.

We will continue to find ways to keep improving accessibility across the Museum campus.

Thank you,

Adam Rozan, Director of Audience Engagement


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How To: Cat Armor!

This is Leah the Fierce. She wanted an armor to wear for the Meow opening and asked if I could help. I had never made an armor for a leopard before, but I decided to give it a try.
The first thing I had to do was get some measurements. I did this by making paper templates and test-fitting them on Leah. By doing this, I not only knew that the parts would fit, but I would also have a template for cutting out the foam I would use to build the armor.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Research Sheds New Light on WAM’s Stained Glass Collection

Recently, a group of specialists revealed compelling new information about the Worcester Art Museum’s stained glass. This April, I had the good fortune to watch as several members of the survey, Corpus Vitrearum, inspected the WAM’s collection of stained glass. Since the 1940s, the international publication has undertaken to catalogue and study all extant stained glass from the Middle Ages. And as the Museum’s glass is currently de-installed while the medieval galleries undergo a major renovation, three members of the American committee took the opportunity to examine the panels more closely than they have been studied in decades.

After inspecting the pitted, undulating surfaces of several works of medieval glass, we came to a panel that looked slightly different from the others. The window of The Story of Potiphar’s Wife shows the Biblical story of the Egyptian official Potiphar and his adulterous wife. In this image, Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses Joseph, a slave, of making advances on her by presenting his purple robe to her husband.

Lightly touching the glass surfaces, the group observed that, although the border of leaves and flowers added to the panel in 1934 was consistently worn and pitted, the central pieces were thinner and flatter than the typical surface of blown medieval glass. Prompted to look more closely at the composition, the group observed that the painted faces of Potiphar and his wife were more nineteenth-century than medieval in style. Drawing from these clues, the group concluded that the work was likely a forgery created to be sold as a work of medieval art.

Recent WAM Updates