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

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