From the Director - Spring 2015

The Allen Memorial Art Museum is in the midst of a wide range of exciting projects that herald a positive and productive 2015. Our work to restore the beauty, and to enhance the usefulness, of the King Sculpture Court continues apace, with staff from ICA-Art Conservation working daily to clean the historic paintings and plasterwork in this gallery. Their work, coupled with the efforts of others who are assisting us to plan for new lighting in this area, will ensure that for future generations the King Sculpture Court stands as a fitting, and soaring, entrance to all the delights that our museum holds.

The lighting to be installed this year (replacing decades-old fixtures that were poorly adhered, did not conform to current museum standards, and were lacking in energy efficiency) not only will give AMAM staff the capability to properly light the artwork that will adorn the gallery’s walls, perimeter, and central area, but also will provide a gentle glow on the newly cleaned ceiling and clerestory, a feature envisioned by architect Cass Gilbert in 1917, but ultimately not implemented. Importantly, this new lighting will also give us the flexibility to light museum events that are often held in this, our largest space. We anticipate new lighting in our Ripin Gallery, on the museum’s second floor, this year as well, a separate but related project that will ensure suitable illumination for the many works of art—primarily light-sensitive works on paper—that this gallery features. These three projects—the ceiling and clerestory cleaning, the King Sculpture Court lighting, and the Ripin Gallery lighting—have found financial support from many generous donors, for whose gifts I, and my colleagues, feel tremendous gratitude.

Celebrating a historic work of American architecture such as is our Gilbert building is especially appropriate during this academic year, as our curators have focused broadly on the theme of “The Americas” in conceptualizing a variety of exhibitions. New this semester is the first AMAM exhibition to be organized by Kevin Greenwood, the museum’s Joan L. Danforth Assistant Curator of Asian Art. Focusing on the extensive and exceptional group of Japanese woodblock prints collected by Mary A. Ainsworth (OC 1889) during the early 20th century, A Life in Prints: Mary A. Ainsworth and the Floating World fills our Ripin Gallery with a variety of works that exemplify not only the history but also the great visual appeal of this medium. New additions of artworks to our exhibitions of Latin American and early American art will ensure that repeat visitors have fresh experiences with our important collections in these areas. Several new exhibitions, including an off-site collaboration at the Art Department’s Baron Gallery, where works by the artist collective known as assume vivid astro focus (avaf) will be installed, are sure to be both instructive and intriguing.

We were pleased to learn last fall that the museum was successful in its application for a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation to support curator Andaleeb Banta’s efforts to research and eventually publish our important collection of old master drawings, a project that will involve a collaboration with Buffalo State College for the technical analysis of some of the works. You can read in the Spring 2015 newsletter's centerfold about just a few of the very many activities that AMAM curators undertake in the larger scholarly and museum arenas. And our academic programs and education offices are flourishing, providing Oberlin students, faculty, and the general public with opportunities to engage with our outstanding collection. In the fall 2014 semester, 70 Oberlin faculty used works from the AMAM collection in their teaching, representing 34 academic disciplines. And we are especially looking forward to welcoming this spring acclaimed artists Alfredo Jaar and Edouard Duval-Carrié as part of our First Thursday series—just two of a wide range of public events scheduled this semester.

I hope that you will visit us often over the coming months, to be inspired by the museum’s exceptional collection, to follow the progress in the King Sculpture Court, and to swell the audience for one of our outstanding events. Your presence and support are what continue to inspire us.

Andria Derstine
John G. W. Cowles Director