Monday, December 21, 2009

The Museum Project Part II: Making Connections at the Peabody Essex Museum

Since the start of the school year, the Addison’s Education Department has been working with the Kindergarten Prep class at the Children’s Place, a Bright Horizons child care and early education center located on the campus of Phillips Academy, to connect an understanding of the value of museums to the cultural value of their own collections and to learn how to communicate these values to others through display and interpretation.

Click here to read Part I of The Museum Project on Blog Addison.

The students have been exploring ideas about collections and museums for the last few months, working with their families to document their own collections at home, presenting their documentation in class, reading book after book about collecting, art, artists, and museums, and documenting a visit to a museum of their choice with their families. Their incredible teachers have infused these ideas into everything they do in the classroom, from studying collections of primary and secondary colors to making collections of vocabulary words to learning about collections of books at the local library.

On December 4th, 2009, seventeen Kindergarten Prep students, twelve parents, two teachers, and the Addison’s museum educators boarded a bus to the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem to explore the museum as a group and put inspiration to use in creative ways.

In the Trash Menagerie exhibition, which presents over thirty works of art created from things most of us simply throw away, PEM’s School and Teacher Program Manager (and former Addison Education Fellow) Rebecca Hayes helped students exercise their observation and interpretation skills, consider the function and use of everyday objects, and see what incredible things can be made from recyclables.

Rebecca: What is this sculpture of a moth made of?
Students responses: Trash, a plate, a broken plate, a pot, wood (It’s from a piano! I can tell because it’s white and brown.), little wires, elastic…

(Image credit: Michelle Stitzlein, Sulphur Blue Smeck, 2005, Moth Series, piano keys, roofing metal, light fixtures, bicycle fenders and fork, china, electrical wire, lawn mower handles, and other trash, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem.)

A discussion about the moth’s antennae being made from bike handles led to a conversation about what you could create from an old bicycle, which then led to brainstorming about creating art.

Rebecca: What could we use at home to make art? What do we recycle?
- I make airplanes out of old writing.
- Juice boxes! I’m going to make a school bus!

In the adjacent art studio, students used this inspiration to cut, rip, glue, and color empty cereal boxes, egg cartons, shampoo bottles, string, and paper strips into their own art menagerie.

- A flower! Now it’s a snowflake.
- A sketch of lightning. I cut one half and now I have to cut the other half.
- A spider. We’re making it together so we can make a big one.

Students also had the opportunity to meet PEM security guard Peter, who fielded a wide range of questions, including:

- Why do you have badges?
- Do you work all night?
- So why do we have museums, anyway?

Peter, an artist himself, was quite stunned when the students said that they had been studying the work of Robert Rauschenberg – along with Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet.

These profound connections between objects in the museum and in home collections, between topics in the museum and classroom curriculum studied, and between art and ideas will push students’ curiosity immeasurably further in the coming weeks.

Stay turned for further updates as this project progresses.

Posted by

Jamie Kaplowitz
Education Fellow

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Venus Anadyomene

With the Addison’s building project nearing completion, a combination of brand new and refurbished architectural details and artworks will soon adorn the spaces. Of striking interest will be the return of Paul Manship’s marble fountain, Venus Anadyomene, in the museum’s foyer. Originally commissioned by the museum’s architect Charles Platt, Manship’s fountain has had hydrological problems since the onset. Until now that is….

Art historian Harry Rand wrote about Manship’s objective for the sculpture in the Addison Gallery of American Art 65 Years catalogue (published in 1996):

“In the Roman revision of Greek myth, Venus—goddess of love and beauty—was the child of Dione and Uranus; the latter’s severed genitals mingled with the ocean and spawned Venus from the sea foam. Manship depicted the moment when, come from the surf and for the first time on land, Venus washes the generating ocean from her hair. The Greek anadyomene means ‘born of water,’ which suggests an apt motif for a fountain.”

Apt motif indeed. Unfortunately Manship’s desire to reference this myth was never fully realized. Intended to emit flowing water down into the basin as if trickling from the goddess’ wet hair, the figurine heads instead “dripped and spattered” water onto the floor, according to a review of the museum’s grand opening in the Boston Evening Transcript on the 16th May 1931.

Despite its failure to operate properly as a fountain, the sculpture itself is one of the Addison’s treasures. It is the first artwork people spy upon entering the building and the last thing seen upon leaving. As part of the Addison 75th anniversary, the museum asked Phillips Academy alumni to comment on their favorite pieces in the collection. Jeffrey Bush (PA class of 1946) shared this adolescent experience:

“What interested me most was the stone nymph kneeling in the entrance with no clothes on. Questions kept going through my mind. I pretended not to notice that she had no clothes on. Was this what I was supposed to do? Or was I supposed to really not notice? What about the adults who walked past her? Did they think I was really not noticing? Were they really not noticing? Or were they pretending, too? Was everyone pretending? It is many years later, and I’m an adult myself, but I still have no answers to any of these questions.”

Other alumni, clearly less bashful than Mr. Bush, joked that they patted her bottom upon leaving the museum. With or without flowing water, Venus Anadyomene continues to be a signature piece in the museum’s collection.

Fellow blogger James Sousa documented the de-installation of the fountain in a blog post on the 18th of July 2008. Such careful attention to moving the piece has been equally given to its conservation. Over the past year, conservators and engineers constructed and tested complex solutions to the fountain’s engineering, its water volume and pressure, and flow-rate, among many other details. A new plumbing/filtration system was developed to pump up to 3 gallons of water per minute through a concealed piping structure that will equally distribute water into the fountain’s surrounding marble basin and allow for better control of the flow rate. This sketch provides a detailed view of the invisible plumbing system. A water treatment system will calculate the water’s pH levels, keeping them at a constant level to limit any future deterioration of the new pipes. The new system will be a closed re-circulating system with timed controls to limit the amount of water flowing over the marble and conserve water. This detailed sketch, supplied by our engineers, reveals the elaborate internal system.

On December 16th, the Venus Anadyomene is scheduled to be re-installed in the Addison’s rotunda—reconstructing Paul Manship’s original design that dates back to 1927. Until then, we anxiously await the sound of trickling water in the Addison’s rotunda—not to mention reuniting with an exquisite work of art.

The Addison Gallery of American Art is forever grateful to the ingenuity, thoughtfulness, and patience of Phil Peterson and Dick Sullivan at Peterson Engineering P.C. as well as Adam Nesbit and his team at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center.

Posted by

Jaime DeSimone
Charles H. Sawyer Curatorial Fellow

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tour of the Addison Construction Project

This hand-held video gives a glimpse of the progress to date on the Addison Gallery's renovation project. Addison Director Brian Allen led a small group of staff members on a tour that highlighted the new additions and improvements to the building.

Please click below to watch the video (Flash Player is required).

Posted by

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Monday, December 7, 2009

Construction Connections: Architecture Students Visit a Building in the Making

Even while closed, the Addison is able to help students make connections between their studies and the world around them. While the outside of the Addison has been completed and landscaped, the construction crew has moved their operations inside to work on systems and interior details. They were joined one evening in November by a Phillips Academy Architecture class intent on seeing the real-world applications of their in-class studies.

The students were led throughout the museum by Jennifer Greene, Project Manager with Shawmut Design and Construction and accompanied by a reporter and a photographer from the Phillips Academy’s student newspaper. Students were shown how renovations have doubled the museum’s storage space, how lowered gallery ceilings hide mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems, how sprinkler heads were installed in gallery ceilings while still preserving the Addison’s beloved Sol LeWitt wall drawing, and how the green roof outside the new Museum Learning Center will benefit both the environment and the museum.

Students remarked at the care that was taken in protecting and preserving the architectural details of the original museum building, from the protective covers on the floors and twists and turns of the stairwell railings to exact matching of marble to expand doorways.

While we are unable to access the works in our collection for use with classes, we are finding out that our museum building has lessons of its own to teach.

To read the article that appeared in the Phillipian about the Architecture class’s visit to the Addison, follow this link.

Posted by:

Jamie Kaplowitz
Education Fellow

Monday, October 19, 2009

Scenes from the Work Site

Construction continues at the Addison and its new addition at a feverish pace, so much so that we are unable to cover everything on our website with our weekly image post. So, to bring our readers up to date, here are some additional "scenes" from the work site. Click the images to make them larger.
The tall, green fences surrounding the site have been removed and landscaping has begun in earnest. Old walkways are being reconnected (see above, left, and bottom), pavers are being laid at the base of the Addison's steps (see above, right), and new trees and shrubbery, chosen months ago, are being planted this week before winter freezes the ground. Vegetation for the green roof atop our loading dock is being placed as I write this, and we hope to have pictures of that soon.
Inside, millwork is being installed throughout all the work spaces. The display shelving in the Museum Learning Center is now in place (see above, left). Shelving and casework are almost finished in the art library (see above right). Soon, the entirety of the Addison's art book collection will be made accessible in one place for the first time. Walls are being raised and carpet put down in the staff office spaces and, finally, trucks are able to offload at our new loading dock.
And, lastly, new restrooms throughout the Addison and the addition are near completion, with tile work inspired by the 1930s era of the original building (see above, left). Each day brings another goal in the construction process to completion, and we, the staff, continue to keep our eyes on our calendars as we count the days down to our move back and our future reopening.

Posted by

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Addison in your neighborhood

The Addison may still be closed for renovation, and our touring exhibition Coming of Age may have concluded, but selections from the Addison's collection can still be seen hanging on the walls of various museums across the country as we continue to lend our objects to other institutions' exhibitions.

Two of our Winslow Homers, Shepherdess (see left) and Beach Scene, will be on view at the Syracuse University Lubin House in New York City from October 30th through December 6th. This is the second venue of Syracuse University Art Galleries' show Winslow Homer's Empire State: Houghton Farm and Beyond which focuses on Homer’s summer visits to Houghton Farm in Mountainville, New York, and includes watercolors, oil paintings and drawings.

Also in New York, two of our Robert Frank photographs from The Americans can be seen in the final venue of Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is the final venue of a tour that started at the National Gallery in Washington, DC and travelled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art before opening in New York, where it will be on view until January 3, 2010.

And, while you are at the Met, stop in at the American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915 exhibition, where our John Sloan, Sunday, Women Drying Their Hair (see right) is on view from October 12th through January 24, 2010. The show features over one hundred American narrative paintings from a variety of lenders, and it will travel to LACMA where it will be open from February 28th through May 23, 2010.

At the Fenimore Art Museum, in Cooperstown, New York, our Washington Allston Italian Landscape is part of America's Rome: Artists in the Eternal City, 1800-1900, on view now until December 31st. And, again, in New York, you can see Black Lines and Wave, Night, two of our Georgia O'Keeffes, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction, up until January 15, 2010.

Overseas, we've lent our Sol Lewitt Wall Drawing #123, to Sol Lewitt "Seven Wall Drawings" at Magasin 3 Stockholm Konstall in Stockholm, Sweden. This was an easy loan for us to coordinate: we did not physically lend any artwork, just the right to implement the wall drawing, which was executed directly on the gallery's walls by the experts from Sol Lewitt's studio.

So until we open next year, see art from the Addison where you can!

Posted by:

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Museum Project

- What is a collection? What kinds of things do people collect – and why?
- What does a museum collect?
- Why are museums important?

Throughout the school year, the Addison’s Education Department will be working with the Kindergarten Prep class at the Children’s Place, a Bright Horizons child care and early education center located on the campus of Phillips Academy, to explore these ideas. In addition to learning about the Addison Gallery, the students and parents of Kindergarten Prep will be visiting the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, The Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology at Phillips Academy, and the Andover Historical Society, in order to connect an understanding of the value of museums to the cultural value of their own collections and to learn how to communicate these values to others through display and interpretation.

The Kindergarten Prep class started off their year with an exploration of trucks and construction. After reading books about construction and exploring photographs of the Addison’s construction site, it was time to kick off our Museum Project by visiting the Addison’s museum-in-progress. On a Friday morning in September, we ventured with Kindergarten Prep students, teachers, and parents to the Addison Gallery construction site, noticing the construction signs and a backhoe along the way.

We stood in the Addison driveway watching the workers create clouds of billowing dust from sawing new counter tops. We peered through the green fencing along the front of the museum and discussed why it was there. The students noticed that if you stood far enough back, you could see more than you could when you’re standing close, so we experimented with the views from different distances. We discussed the building materials we could see and how the newly constructed metal and glass section compares to the original brick building.

Back in the classroom, the students have turned their block area and their sand table into construction zones, complete with a fence to keep everyone safe! They will soon be sharing their own collections from home that they are documenting with their parents.

Other classes have expressed interest in joining in on the exciting and educational exploration of collections and museums – also the theme of our fall professional development workshops with teachers.

Stay tuned for updates as the classroom projects and Addison building progresses.

For more information about the Addison’s FREE education programs, click here or contact Jamie Kaplowitz at or 978-749-4037.

For more information about the Addison building project, click here.

Posted by:

Jamie Kaplowitz
Education Fellow

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Update on the Addison Expansion and Renovation

The metal scrim gives the addition its final appearance.I had the privilege to walk through the museum and work site (see left, click images to make them larger) recently and found myself stunned and amazed at how much progress had been made in the Addison's renovation and expansion.

Brickwork lining the new ramp to the loading dock is put into place.The outside of the building is coming together. Brickwork is nearly complete on all exterior surfaces, including the new truck and accessible staff entrances on the north side of the addition (see right). Chapel Avenue has been reconfigured to allow tractor-trailers to easily turn and back into our new loading dock. The front steps have been reinstalled and are now sitting on a waterproof base that should keep them well-supported for years to come. The entrance to the new accessible lift in the facade is being finished off with materials to match the existing stone and brick (see below, left). And, most importantly, the metal scrim that surrounds the glass walls of the upper part of the addition is in place. With that, and with grading around the foundation nearly complete, we can now see how the final museum and addition will look like.

The new handicapped accessible elevator in the facade is installed.  Note the front steps on the right.Inside, workers continue to run miles of wires, conduit, and pipes before the drywallers come in behind them and close up the walls. The bathrooms are being tiled. Compact storage systems, some new, some utilizing equipment we used before the renovation, are being installed in the art storage vaults (see below, right). The new super-chilled color photography storage vault has been built to protect our most fragile collections. Shelving has been delivered for the new art library space and the Museum Learning Center. Doorways have been reconfigured leading into the library, the Education offices, and the Visitor Services area, again, with materials that match the existing stone. And, in a true sign that we're nearing the end, the galleries are being painted with the colors chosen for our opening exhibition!

New compact storage systems are installed in the vaults.Just as on the exterior, glimpses of the final look of the interior are emerging from the dust and debris of construction. I felt very excited to stand in the spot where my future desk will be and get a feel for the new space I'll be working in. We can't wait until we can fill our spaces with visitors again and show off our new building. Keep watching Blog Addison for updates on the project and our reopening date!

Posted by:

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Coming of Age – Coming Home to Andover

Posted by Brian T. Allen, The Mary Stripp & R. Crosby Kemper Director

With the Addison construction project nearing its close, so, too, is the Addison’s traveling exhibition, Coming of Age, which features seventy of our greatest paintings and sculptures. The show’s “grand tour” began at the Addison in the fall of 2006 and subsequently traveled to the Meadows Museum in Dallas, the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, and the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art. The show is currently installed at its final venue, the Museum of Fine Arts in Quebec City, where it closes on September 7th. A richer tour is hard to imagine.

The show was a landmark in so many different ways – as the most visited summer show in Italy last year, the first survey show of American art in Quebec, and the United Kingdom’s first true retrospective of American art made from the mid-nineteenth century through its triumph on the international stage a century later. Coming of Age provided tremendous publicity and visibility for us while our doors in Andover were closed.

Strong reviews for Addison show in LondonOnly a few days after it opened in London, all the major London papers – the Telegraph, the Guardian, the Times, the Financial Times, the Independent (see right) – devoted lavish and positive reviews to the show, some running a full page. This was amazing given all the things happening in the London arts scene. Many of the critics seemed genuinely surprised to find so much that was new and original about American art. Only Brian Sewall, the art critic for the Evening Standard, veered from the consensus that the show was truly wonderful and a revelation. Sewall’s review was so invective-ridden that I found myself chuckling by the time I finished it. He is a notorious contrarian and I suppose he needed to tell the other critics why they were all wrong. Even a bad review has its upside, though, since the full page of illustrations brought even more people to see the show.

The opening in Venice attracted over a thousand peopleIn Venice (see left), though the show ran during the design biennial and the film festival, the audience was not strictly international tourists. The bulk of the visitorship was Italian, and the show’s biggest impact for Italian audiences came from the landscapes and seascapes, especially the Homers, the Hudson River pictures, and the American Impressionists we sent. Many Europeans feel the land and the sea tell the story of the American experience best. This reflects in part a significant difference between Americans and their cultures, which they often consider more consciously urban and more heavily touched by human history.

Italians enjoy the Addison’s treasures in VeniceAnd, I still hear stories when speaking with Addison supporters (see right) who walked into the Peggy Guggenheim Collection not realizing the Addison’s treasures had travelled there as well. They were very surprised indeed!

The show was beautifully installed in every venue. It was great to see our things installed by different curators in different ways, and each installation expressed the vision they saw in the show, different audiences, different spaces, and varying design sensibilities. When the art is great, there are infinite ways to interpret it.

The Addison show was the major summer arts event in Quebec CityI saw the show this past weekend in Quebec City (see left). When I walked toward the museum, I noticed that no more than a hundred feet from the entrance marked the spot where General Wolfe died during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759, shot moments after hearing that his British troops had routed the French. This battle signaled the defeat of France by Britain in the French and Indian War, and the collapse of the French colonial empire in North America. Inside the museum, the Addison’s objects told a story curiously relevant to the violent events that occurred on what is now a placid park. American art in the nineteenth century is often represented as an idiosyncratic interpretation of British art. This influence is a legacy of Wolfe’s victory over Montcalm in 1759 and the triumph of British culture in eighteenth and nineteenth century North America, much as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham marked a military victory of one colonial power over another. And yet, the Addison show continues to tell the story of America’s reception of the art of other nations as well. A major part of this story is the American embrace of French avant garde art starting with Impressionism in the 1890s and then leading to the very French-inspired movement of American Modernism in the 1920s and beyond. Some might say French culture seems to have gotten the last word after all.

And so the great Homers, Eakinses, Hoppers, the remarkable Pollock, Stella and O’Keeffe will soon be taken off the walls in Quebec, packed and on their way back to Andover, in time to join the other wonderful objects in the Addison’s permanent collection on view at the gallery’s public reopening celebrations next year. I am looking forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oscar Palacio + Light Work

an appropriate image for this hot and steamy AugustOne of the benefits to the museum being closed is that the Addison’s curatorial staff has had more time to pursue “outside” projects from serving as guest jurors, to presenting lectures, to writing articles for various art publications. An example of the latter is an essay in the current Light Work Annual (Contact Sheet No. 152) by curator Allison Kemmerer about new work by Oscar Palacio. Palacio was an Edward E. Elson artist-in-residence at the Addison in 2005. His new series of photographs, some of which were created while an artist-in-residence at Light Work in 2008, focuses on national monuments and historic sites and what they say—or don’t say—about American history and our national identity. In her essay, Kemmerer wrote:

“These photographs suggest that history is an ongoing dialogue between past and present, between traditional interpretations of events and the emergence of alternative perspectives, between the keepers of the eternal flame and those who wonder what other fires are burning underground, just outside the frame.”

To view other works by Palacio, check out the
photographs in the Addison's collection, like Grass Over Asphalt of 2002 [illustrated] and the artist’s website at:

Posted by Jaime DeSimone
Charles H. Sawyer Curatorial Fellow

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Accession Log

Winslow Homer's Eight Bells is accessioned into the collection in the Log.One of the projects I've taken on in my "spare time," if such a concept exists in any museum environment, is to study our Accession Log and compare it to the information in our collections database.

The Accession Log is a list that tracks the objects we have formally accepted into the collection. As each object was acquired for the museum, it was entered into the log. It exists as a stack of typewritten sheets of paper held together in a felt-covered loose-leaf binder. It has that glorious scent of age that is sweet to any Registrar's senses. It was maintained at the Addison from 1928, when we started acquiring objects for the future "Addison Gallery of Art," through 1977. After that, different methods were used to track our newly acquired objects, cumulating, nowadays, in our computerized collections database, a version of which is accessible to the public on our website.

The new and the old: computerized collection database next to the log.By comparing the log to the object records on our database, I've been happily able to rectify many of our inventory anomalies. It has also been interesting to see the changes in our collecting practices over the years. Early on, paintings and drawings by older, established American artists took precedence. As time went on, prints and photography, many by young, relatively unknown artists (at the time) became more prevalent. Nowadays, our collecting embraces all American artists and media, from oil on canvas to conceptual to digital media.

We still do maintain a paper record of our objects as they are acquired into the collection. I print out a list from the database after every Trustees Meeting, no longer requiring the loose-leaf and typewriter of old. I wonder, though, how future Registrars will be tracking their objects?

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Monday, July 27, 2009

Comings and Goings

Hello everyone! Just a quick post about the latest staff changes at the Addison:

We have recently said "good-bye" to Maggie Adler, our Director of Development. She has left the museum to pursue a Masters Degree in the History of Art at Williams. Also, our venerable custodian, Hector Rivera, has decided to retire after fifteen years of keeping the Addison at its sparkling best. We wish them both the best of luck with all their future endeavors.

Meanwhile, the Addison has said "hello" to its newest addition, my son, Scott, who was born in June. I'm pleased to say he and his mother are doing quite well, despite my colleagues' jokes that I should catalog him as a new museum acquisition!

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lorna Bieber, Artist-in-Residence

How does one be an artist-in-residence without a museum in which to reside? Artist Lorna Bieber, the Addison’s spring 2009 Edward E. Elson artist-in-residence, commuted from New York for workshops with Lawrence High School art classes during the spring semester.

Bieber reinterprets anonymous images found in books and magazines through traditional and non-traditional techniques to create complex, many-layered, mural-sized photographs.

Lorna Bieber, Branches, 200-07, 114 gelatin silver prints, 9 x 6 feet, Courtesy of the artist

Working with a humanities class and a photography class, Bieber inspired LHS students to create large-scale, multi-paneled images of their own. By gaining insight into Bieber’s creative process and having the opportunity to receive individualized critique throughout their own process, students were able to not only better understand her work, but were able to expand the boundaries of their own work.

With the use of a scanner/photocopier, students enlarged, shrunk, layered, and combined their own photographs and those taken by others to create their own unique photographic installations. They considered various formats and image juxtapositions, using both Bieber, their teachers David Meehan and John Travlos, and their peers as sounding boards for ideas. Some composed works from multiple paper printouts, while others used transparencies and computer screens.

The students’ work was hung in places of prominence throughout Lawrence High School, in order to further inspire students, teachers, and visitors.

The goal of the Edward E. Elson Artist-in-Residence Program at the Addison Gallery of American Art is to create meaningful interactions between artists and students. Since its inception, the program has brought together thousands of students and more than fifty acclaimed artists, including Robert Frank, Trisha Brown, Abelardo Morell, Wendy Ewald, Dawoud Bey, Richard Shaw, William Wegman, Lee Mingwei, Kerry James Marshall, and Sue Williams.

For more information about the Addison’s Edward E. Elson artist-in-residence program, click here.

Posted by:

Jamie Kaplowitz
Education Fellow

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Update on the Addison Expansion and Renovation

Despite the dreary New England weather, construction on the Addison's addition and renovation continues on its blisteringly fast pace.

Folks driving by the museum on Main Street can now see that the glass curtain walls have been installed on the addition. (See left: click images to make them bigger.) In time, the windows will be covered by a screen of metal mesh that will serve to shade the building and provide a modern architectural design against the museum's neoclassical facade. The windows look in on the future Museum Learning Center on the first level and the new staff office area on the upper level.

The interiors of these spaces have been coming together as well. (See right: the future Museum Learning Center. Click here for the rendering of what the space will eventually look like.) With all the forms and scaffolding removed, the deep, waffle-style coffered ceilings are exposed and the gorgeous views looking out over Phillips Academy's great lawn and the future green roof garden are unhindered. Walls are going up in these spaces to create meeting rooms, offices, and storage areas. We're finally able to walk through the physical spaces that we've only been able to visualize in our minds by looking at plans on paper.

The museum's front steps are being reinstalled with improved, water-proof support underneath. (See left.) Wiring and piping throughout the original building and the addition continues. And the loading dock, the part of the buildling I've been looking forward to the most, is near completion.

Lastly, we are now hoping to reopen sometime in late April 2010. Keep an eye on the building and here for the latest on the project, and we hope to see you here visiting the museum soon!

James M. Sousa
Associate Registrar for Collections and Archives

Monday, June 22, 2009

David Ireland (1930–2009)

All of us here at the Addison are deeply saddened by the recent loss of David Ireland, a key figure in the conceptual art movement and a much admired member of the Addison’s extended family. Over the past few decades, the museum was privileged to have a long and productive relationship with David. In addition to acquiring several of his artworks, we hosted his retrospective (organized by the Oakland Museum of Art) in 2004. This was an amazing show that surveyed thirty years of David’s work and included about 80 sculptures, drawings, photographs, prints, sculptures and large-scale installations. The exhibition captured Ireland’s unique vision and adventurous and creative spirit.

This same spirit and vision is embodied and lives on in the Addison’s Edward E. Elson artist-in-residence apartment. Invited in 1992 by the museum’s then director, Jock Reynolds, to create a new visiting artist’s apartment in the attic of historic Abbot Hall, Ireland collaborated with architects Henry Moss of Bruner/Cott Associates and master craftsman John Sirois to create an enigmatic, provocative—and truly magical space. Working his strange alchemy, Ireland along with the help of this skilled team, transformed everyday materials into art. To date the apartment has hosted an impressive roster of visiting artists including the likes of Dawoud Bey, Wendy Ewald, Jim Hodges, William Wegman, and Sue Williams to name a few. The apartment was generously supported by Abbot Academy alumna Ann M. Hatch.

Below are some archival photographs of Ireland at work and scans of his drawings related to the apartment's furnishings.

Today the Abbot Hall Artist Apartment is currently “activated,” as the artist would have said, by a handful of Addison staff who are using the space for temporary offices while the museum is closed. Each day we report to work, climb the zigzagging bamboo stairs, carefully dodging the many exposed timber beams, as we navigate to our desks that are nestled in various corners throughout. Like Ireland, who lived at 500 Capp Street, an 1886 Victorian that he purchased in 1975, and was once described by a writer as an “environmental-sculpture-in-progress,” the Addison team has the privilege of “living” inside a work of art. An accessioned object in the Addison’s collection, the Abbot Hall Artist Apartment is both an artwork and a window into an extraordinarily idiosyncratic artist’s mind.

The dining room upon completion and now occupied by staff:

The living room:

Coincidentally or part of some weird universal synchronicity, 8th graders in Andover are currently working on the following assignment:

To Kill a Mockingbird – Point of View Sculpture/Writing Project

“I have this notion, that art occurs in the process of life itself, and you don’t have to go outside of the context of your own life. It’s all there, and you just tap into it. You have to make yourself available to possibilities.” –David Ireland

"First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—”


“—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (Atticus, p. 30)

“Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.” (Scout, p. 279)

This assignment is designed to be a marriage of theme and concept. Using the theme of “walking in someone else’s shoes,” select a character from the book to be. Use your chosen character’s point of view to find the “art that occurs in the process of life itself.” Create a sculpture using ordinary objects in such a way as to make the viewer think and see things differently. Include a written piece in your finished product. Select the genre most fitting to your concept, character and the theme.

Today, tomorrow and many days to come, the Addison staff, visiting artists, and museum visitors will walk in the lasting footprints left behind by David Ireland in the Abbot Hall Artist Apartment.

Posted by Allison Kemmerer, Curator of Photography and of Contemporary Art, and Jaime DeSimone, Charles H. Sawyer Curatorial Fellow.