On April 20, 2011, the Museum paid tribute to Billy and Millie Hulsey, whose personal and philanthropic contributions have enhanced the Museum’s impact on the cultural community of Birmingham and have helped set the stage for the next 60 years of success. We asked them to tell us a little about themselves and what the Museum means to them.
When did your passion for art/the Museum begin?
Billy – I first got interested in the Museum when I got out of college and went to work for my father and my uncle in the mortgage banking business. Our offices were decorated with beautiful paintings that made it a pleasant environment for the people to work in who were associated with our company.
Millie – Although my parents had been involved with the Museum as members of the Asian Art Society, my interest began when I took my first art history course as a junior in college. From then until graduation I signed up for as many courses as my schedule would allow.
How and when did you get involved in the Museum?
Billy – After spending time at the Museum over the years my first official involvement was when Bill Spencer invited me to serve on the board. Needless to say I was flattered and honored to have this opportunity. Since that time I have continued to serve on the board and to be a small part of the governance of this great institution.
Millie – In the late sixties I was a docent at BMA.
How have you been involved with the Museum’s growing permanent collection?
Billy – Several years ago our director, Gail Andrews, persuaded us to purchase a Edgar Degas bronze sculpture which has become a part of the European art collection. More recently we acquired and donated a Rembrandt Peale painting entitled Portrait of Miss Pratt.
What is one of the most important aspects our Museum offers Birmingham?
Billy -In my opinion, our Museum is a treasure of the city of Birmingham. It is one of the finest regional museums in the country and our city and state are fortunate to have such a distinguished institution in our city. Our museum not only provides the citizens of our community an opportunity to enjoy a great cultural experience , but also is a major attraction for visitors to our city.
Millie – Our museum offers an amazing educational opportunity to our community; I do think that is one of the most important aspects.
What is one of your favorite moments, stories or experiences with the Museum?
Billy – I think perhaps my favorite memory of the museum is the night that a group of supporters of the museum gave the Gilbert Stuart portrait of John Jones of Frankley in honor of Gail Andrews’s 30 years of service to the Museum. It was especially meaningful because we knew how much Gail loved and admired Gilbert Stuart paintings and we also knew that it would be a meaningful gift to the permanent collection of the museum.
Millie – Being at the art auctions in New York must be one of my favorite experiences, also walking into a gallery in New York and seeing for the first time the Robert Duncanson painting that now hangs in our American Gallery. That was a thrill. Belonging to a support group has been a great experience for us, and I would recommend doing so to anyone who has any interest in learning and being involved in the museum.