The Home Stretch
As the days begin to shorten and everyone returns from vacation, I am reminded of how quickly a year passes. Just five short years ago we were embarking on a mammoth renovation project to restore our historic buildings, but now the end is in sight. And in five short months we will unveil expanded special exhibition galleries with an inaugural exhibition, Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861 – 2008, and beautifully appointed galleries with an entirely new presentation of our Contemporary art collection. The countdown begins!
As with any large project, funding is ever an issue. But the outpouring of relief from the State and generous donors has been staggering and has seen us through every step of the way. Building upon the critical support the Wadsworth Atheneum has received from such sources this year, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving recently awarded us $325,000 to fund Beyond the Walls/Behind the Scenes, a multi-pronged approach to maintaining and building target audiences established by our Community Engagement Initiative through partnerships, offsite programs, and web resources.
And good news just arrived from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which awarded us the second highest award offered this year in its Museums, Libraries, and Cultural Organizations Implementation category—$400,000—for the creation of an interdisciplinary gallery with interactive technology to introduce visitors to the Cabinet of Art and Curiosities. This new conception of one of the jewels of our collection will be a highlight of the European galleries in the Morgan Memorial building, opening September 2015.
With these infusions of capital we are driving toward the finish line of the renovation and are eager to share our renewed museum with you. And although much focus is on 2015, we at the Wadsworth Atheneum want you to know we are open and have much to offer you this fall.
In October we will open our 170th MATRIX exhibition, featuring the fascinating work of Frohawk Two Feathers. Two Feathers imaginative epic of Frengland weaves quasi-history into the location of each of his shows, and this fall he puts Hartford on his map through stately portraits, battle scenes, territorial maps, and military objects. Join us October 2 for our First Thursday event, at which Two Feathers will talk about his work and perform.
Later this fall we continue our mission of offering intriguing displays of the permanent collection. Masterworks from the Permanent Collection will pair major European and Contemporary works for the first time, and our newly refreshed Impressionism galleries will present American Arts & Craft highlights from the Stephen Gray Collection alongside rarely seen pastels and prints by Mary Cassatt.
If you are looking for more than just a stroll through the galleries, our café has new chefs and a sumptuous new menu, and our shaded courtyard is a serene spot to dine al fresco. Our alternative film program features classic and international screenings for the discerning viewer in the historic Aetna Theater—a marvelous Art Deco setting for movies that cannot be found in other cinemas. For you educators preparing for the new school year, don’t forget the museum offers a robust schedule of programs and resources for you and your students.
As we hit the home stretch, those of us at the Wadsworth Atheneum are eagerly anticipating the arrival of 2015 so we can share the fruits of much labor with you. And in another five years if our freshly repainted walls could talk, we hope they would tell the story of more than America’s oldest public art museum and where we work every day; we hope they would speak of smiling faces, engaging discourse, creative expression, and visitors who cannot wait to return.
Susan L. Talbott
Director & C.E.O.