Baltimore—The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has granted the Walters Art Museum $111,615 through a Museums for America grant to support American Visions: Engaging the Community with American Art. This 23-month project is designed to foster meaningful visitor experiences with the museum’s collection of American art, including artworks by Alfred Jacob Miller, Frederic Edwin Church and Asher B. Durand. By creating emotional and intellectual connections between audiences and art, the museum brings 18th- and 19th-century America to life. Since the Walters eliminated its admission fee in 2006, attendance has risen by 40% and participation in family programs has increased by 90%. The Walters has made it an institutional priority to respond to these growing audiences in new and thoughtful ways.
The Museums for America program supports a robust schedule of activities from August 1, 2012–June 30, 2014. These include a special exhibition and catalogue on the American painter Richard Caton Woodville; programs for school, family and adult audiences; educational materials; and a companion student exhibition. The grant will allow over 600 American artworks to be digitized and made freely accessible online.
“It may be a surprise to many people that the Walters has a rich collection of American art,” said Walters Director Gary Vikan. “This was the earliest collecting interest of founder William Walters, the contemporary art of his time. The IMLS’s support will bring this important aspect of the museum to the fore in both classrooms and on the web.”
On view at the Walters March 10–June 2, 2013, the exhibition New Eyes on America: The Genius of Richard Caton Woodville will place this noted genre painter in the art historical and social contexts of mid-19th century America and Europe. The exhibition and public programs will engage audiences with themes of American life that Woodville addressed and continue to have relevance today. A companion exhibition will engage area high school students with Woodville’s subjects of everyday life. Public programs based on the American collection and the exhibition will be offered to appeal to wide range of audiences. The grant will also support enhancements to an interactive object display tool that will be featured on the Walters’ website, and in a kiosk located in the permanent collection galleries, giving visitors a broader understanding of selected objects.
“At a time when Baltimore is considering its central role in our nation’s early history during the commemoration of the War of 1812, the American Visions project will give Walters visitors new access to great works of American art,” said Joy Heyrman, exhibition curator for News Eyes on America.
This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. American Visions is the third in a series of permanent collection-centered grants received by the Walters. The past programs were Exploring Asia: Connecting Art and Community in 2008 and Exploring the Medieval World: Connecting Art and Community in 2010.
The Walters Art Museum is located in downtown Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon Cultural District at North Charles and Centre streets. Its permanent collection includes ancient art, medieval art and manuscripts, decorative objects, Asian art, and Old Master and 19th-century paintings. Wyndham Baltimore Peabody Court is the official hotel of the Walters Art Museum.
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Richard Caton Woodville, Politics in an Oyster House, 1848, oil on fabric, Gift of C. Morgan Marshall, 1945, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (37.1994)
Asher Brown Durand, The Catskills, 1859, oil on canvas, Commissioned by William T. Walters, 1858, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (37.122)