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Slideshows

What’s In Store?: 5 Favorite Fair Trade Items

A question I’m often asked in the store is what our “fair trade” items are, what this term means, and what it means when you purchase one. Fair trade is a social movement whose stated goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions and to promote sustainability. Members of the movement advocate the payment of higher prices to exporters, as well as higher social and environmental standards.

Next time you’re in the Museum Store, take a look at our fair trade items. A few of my favorites are in the slideshow below:

Yellow Floral Bowl ($56) // Intricately hand painted in brilliant jewel-tone colors, these lively floral ceramic bowls includes the signature of the artisan who created it on the front for a truly personal touch. 
Handmade in West Bank, Fairtrade. Shimmering Rainbow Necklace ($22) // Multicolored sequins sparkle on this lightweight necklace. Silver-tone chain clasp. Handmade in India. Fair Trade. Wire Birdie Set ($24) // Set of 3 metal birdies. Each bird is wire wrapped with a different technique, for plenty of unique pattern, texture, and personality. Owl Thumb Piano ($32) // A hand-painted owl adorns the base of this wooden thumb piano. "A hoot" to play all kinds of tunes. Fair Trade, Handmade in Indonesia Cat and Mouse Set ($24) // A moment of confrontation or reconciliation? Either way, this petite cat and mouse set is adorable. Carved from natural soapstone to a smooth finish. Fair Trade, Handmade in Kenya.
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Yellow Floral Bowl ($56) // Intricately hand painted in brilliant jewel-tone colors, these lively floral ceramic bowls includes the signature of the artisan who created it on the front for a truly personal touch. Handmade in West Bank, Fairtrade.

To shop and see what else is in store, visit the Museum Store website.

News Slideshows

Curator’s Choice: August Anniversaries

The Birmingham of this moment is an incredible place. The food is wonderful, our educational and cultural institutions have strong relationships with the civic- and business-sectors, and the people are forward-thinking, open, and engaged in the daily conversations and efforts that over time, build a city and region into that incredible ethos one calls ‘home’. Yet, in the midst of such fruitfulness, such fullness, I am reminded that it is imperative to reflect on the consistent links between our current moment and our region’s history. I am learning that to solely focus on the present denies the struggles that brought us to our current moment. I am reminded — as I learn the BMA’s collection — Birmingham’s story is a nation’s story: one rooted in the people who fought; who fled; who died; who remained; and objects that hold such narratives.

Today, August 28, is the 60th anniversary of Emmett Till’s death and the 52nd anniversary of the March on Washington. On Saturday, August 29, the nation will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the devastation to New Orleans and other communities along the Gulf Coast due to Hurricane Katrina.

The BMA staff is aware of these anniversaries and their significance to our region. We are discussing them as we walk through the galleries and engage our visitors in conversations that give new insight to our collections. The visual and performing arts have always given context to a nation’s memory and desire for change, often propelling the dialogues that mandate justice. Art is where necessity and values meet. The BMA is invested in the continued renaissance of Birmingham and our collections and programming serve as catalysts for rigorous engagement between people and art across geographical space and time; between our current moment and our shared past; between our exciting present and our ever-hopeful desire for greater sociocultural and economic justice for all persons in the future.

Please know that our doors are always open, our admission is always free, and we hope, should you find yourself in downtown Birmingham, that you come inside and spend this significant weekend of reflection with our collections.

Third floor, So Close to Heaven Exhibition // The broad cultural significance of the life and teachings of the Buddha (also known as Siddhartha Gautauma, or Sakyamuni) call my attention to the increasing need for reflection and contemplation in contemporary life. The majority of the texts regarding Sakyamuni’s youth chronicle how chance encounters with the elderly, the chronically-ill, a decaying corpse, and a religious hermit inspired him to renounce his privileged-life and work toward cultivating compassion and humility. This gilded copper from Tibet shows Sakyamuni performing the Earth-Touching Mudra with his right hand, a gesture symbolizing the moment just before Sakyamuni attains enlightenment and becomes the Buddha. The work celebrates new beginnings, triumph over remarkable odds, and the ability to construct an ethic of compassion for all living beings. Second floor, Bohorfoush Gallery // One particular work in our exhibition “Black Like Who?” is a lithograph by famed US artist Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012) entitled "The Torture of Mothers" (1970), which proves particularly poignant in the wake of these anniversaries. A graphic artist and a sculptor, Catlett spent the majority of her adult life in México, studying and teaching at the famed Taller de Gráfica Popular with Francisco Mora and the Escuela Nacional de Pintura, Escultura y Grabado with José Ruiz and Francisco Zúñiga. Her work juxtaposes a mother’s profile silhouette with an image of a young man who has fallen victim to the extrajudicial violence of a mob. On a historic level, the work negotiates the history of graphic treatments of black bodies in popular culture. On a personal level, "The Torture of Mothers" reminds the viewer that the love, strength, and fear parents feel for their children goes beyond race and socioeconomic class to strike at the very heart of human longing, pride, and desire. Second floor, modern art hallway, photograph installation // The events of 1963 in Birmingham—and the photography of those events that circulated in print and television—created an international outcry that necessitated the US Government’s intervention Rowland Scherman (who moved to Birmingham in the late-1970s for a while) was contracted by periodicals such as Time, Life, and Playboy to document these events, yet he is best known for his portraits (in those same magazines) of notable personalities. Like many musicians of the era who blended the rhythms of gospel, blues, and folk into a precursor to rock, Bob Dylan told the story of current events through a musical lyricism that transcended race. In this image, with eyes closed, harmonica attached about his neck, mouth open as if he is in the middle of a verse, Rowland Scherman captures the musical icon at the very moment of his ascension into legend. Dylan’s recording sessions for the album that would eventually become The "Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan" (1963) included a protest song entitled “The Ballad of Emmet Till.” The story goes that the first premiere of the song at a radio station in Chicago inspired so much anger and pain that Dylan decided not to release the track until 1972 on his Broadside Ballads-Vol. 6. Third floor, Wedgwood galleries // The medallion that William Hackwood and Josiah Wedgwood produced for the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade became a significant symbol in the anti-slavery campaigns of the British Empire in the late-eighteenth century. On August 28, 1833, slavery was abolished in the British Empire and the crouching black figure, shown in profile with shackled wrists, took on greater importance as the precursor to a wave of anti-slavery visual and material culture that circulated in the United States in the years leading up to the Civil War. However, the second medallion, cast in 1959, reminds me that the fight for human rights is an ongoing task—one in which victory and success must further galvanize appropriate commemoration efforts and renewed efforts in the fight for the dignity of other marginalized communities. For example,  the full-measure of freedom and citizenship under the law for Americans of African descent was not fully-realized until 100 years after the Civil War with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1968, respectively, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Second floor modern art hallway, photography installation // The Black Panther party burst upon the American consciousness in May of 1967 when Bobby Seale and twenty-nine other women and men marched upon the California State Capitol in Sacramento—dressed in black and armed with guns. This performance of strength electrified a generation of black youth toward local initiatives of civic engagement and the integration of black scholars, artists, and politicians into the Western canon. Stephen Shames chronicled the Panthers’ initiatives both in California and around the nation, countering popular narratives of the Panthers’ love of violence and the denigration of white Americans with both posed and impromptu images of the Panthers in thoughtful contemplation, peaceful engagement, and images of black youth performing community service.
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Second floor, modern art hallway, photograph installation // The events of 1963 in Birmingham—and the photography of those events that circulated in print and television—created an international outcry that necessitated the US Government’s intervention Rowland Scherman (who moved to Birmingham in the late-1970s for a while) was contracted by periodicals such as Time, Life, and Playboy to document these events, yet he is best known for his portraits (in those same magazines) of notable personalities. Like many musicians of the era who blended the rhythms of gospel, blues, and folk into a precursor to rock, Bob Dylan told the story of current events through a musical lyricism that transcended race. In this image, with eyes closed, harmonica attached about his neck, mouth open as if he is in the middle of a verse, Rowland Scherman captures the musical icon at the very moment of his ascension into legend. Dylan’s recording sessions for the album that would eventually become The "Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan" (1963) included a protest song entitled “The Ballad of Emmet Till.” The story goes that the first premiere of the song at a radio station in Chicago inspired so much anger and pain that Dylan decided not to release the track until 1972 on his Broadside Ballads-Vol. 6.

Mobile Tours

Heart Gallery Alabama smartguide feature

Patrick, Angel & Austin. Photographed by Hannah Stinson.

Patrick, Angel & Austin. Photographed by Hannah Stinson.

The Museum recently added 30 new stops to its smartguide in conjunction with the opening of the Heart Gallery Alabama 10th-Anniversary Exhibition. The Heart Gallery Alabama smartguide feature, available for FREE here, complements any visit to the exhibition.

The Heart Gallery Alabama smartguide feature includes:

  • An overview of the exhibition
  • High-resolution images of each child and sibling group featured in the exhibition
  • More information about each child and sibling group featured in the exhibition
  • Introductory videos for children and sibling groups featured in the exhibition

The Heart Gallery Alabama smartguide feature, accessed for FREE here, is optimized for tablets, smartphones, and other web-enabled devices. Visitors without their own devices may check out an iPad for FREE from the Museum; FREE WiFi is also available throughout the Museum. Headphones are also available in the Museum Store for visitors who would like to access audio content in the exhibition.

Using your web-enabled smart device, click here to get started.

Interviews Staff Updates

Meet the New Curator: Horace Ballard

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 11.57.16 AMThe Museum is thrilled to welcome Horace Ballard as our new Curator of Education. A former museum educator at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Ballard’s extensive experience in art, culture, and visitor engagement make him well equipped to connect the Birmingham community with the art on our walls. Learn more about his background and plans for the future below:

Birmingham Museum of Art: You have worked at a number of cultural institutions, including the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Yale University Art Museum, and the Haffrenreffer Museum of Anthropology, among others. How and when did your interest in art and culture begin?

Horace Ballard: My interest in the performing arts began when I was very young. As a toddler, I had trouble walking and would often fall and hurt myself when wearing shoes. The pediatrician recommended that my parents enroll me in gymnastics and ballet classes when I was three years old. I loved it so much that by the age of six, I was taking voice, piano, ballet, tap, and theatre classes. We moved around every four to five years due to my parents’ careers and the arts were a way of making friends and getting acclimated to new locations.

The visual arts were also a significant part of my family and childhood. I have two uncles who are painters; an uncle who was a window dresser/art designer for department stores in New York City; an aunt who is a sculptor; and a cousin who specializes in architectural photography in Washington, D.C. During my first month of college, I answered a newspaper ad for an intern with a preschool art-making camp at the local museum on weekends. I took the job as an easy way to make pizza money but grew to love it so much that I began seeking out sustained opportunities to guide, curate, and teach in front of works of art. By my second-year of college, I began giving architectural tours of the Lawn at the University of Virginia and Monticello while taking courses in American art, modern architecture, and aesthetic theory. My first job out of undergrad was as a full-time guide in the Education/Interpretation department at Monticello and, nine years later, here I am!

BMA: What is your favorite part about being a museum educator?

HB: I am often asked why I consistently choose to work in museum education when I am trained to be a collections curator of nineteenth- and twentieth-century American art, with especial knowledge of early-modern photography. My answer is simple: “Works of art ask questions, and I want to be there when an audience answers those questions and then, in turn, asks new questions about artistic process, material, and display.” I really love facilitating the construction of “moments” that allow an individual or group to sit quietly or debate passionately in front of a work of art. Museum education is an ever-debated, ever-misunderstood, ever-changing field with historic ties to political movements, the history of philosophical inquiry, and contemporary notions of socioeconomic justice. I love inviting viewers to enter into a relationship with an object that proves as ever changing and profound as our lived experience.

BMA: You recently finished your dissertation, entitled Man-made: Photography and the Re-construction of Beauty in America, 1850-1900. What interests you about this topic?

HB: The effects of the Civil War on medical care, politics, labor, economics, and innovations in transportation and communication are well known and well documented. What seemed missing from the historical record was a definitive understanding of the ways in which the sectarian conflict affected “norms” of gender-performance and beauty for American men. My project reads images by Alexander Gardner, Thomas Eakins, William Bell, and Fred Holland Day in an attempt to argue that masculinity was culturally “re-constructed” by photography after the war.

BMA: During your time in the Education Department at RISD, you began a monthly series called “Ways of Looking: One Hour/One Work,” in which visitors spend an hour looking carefully at and discussing one work of art with the help of a museum educator. What programs do you hope to initiate at the BMA?

HB: Museum programming and new civic initiatives work best, I think, after one knows the collection and the flow of information at an institution. My first few months will be spent learning, listening, and galvanizing the Education team — docents and staff — around a set of shared goals and objectives. From this work will arise areas of focus, i.e., the innovative use of resources and space, interpretive goals for the collections, or concentrated engagement with specific communities within our broader region, for which new initiatives can be created.

BMA: You have spent many years further north in Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. What are you looking forward to most about life down South?

HB: Rich one-on-one conversations over great food!

News Staff Updates

BMA Welcomes New Curator of Education

Horace PRThe Birmingham Museum of Art announces the appointment of Horace D. Ballard, Jr. as the new Curator of Education. Ballard joins the Museum most recently from his position as an educator at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). He began his duties at the Museum on August 10.

“We are thrilled to welcome Mr. Ballard to Birmingham as the Museum’s new Curator of Education. His extensive academic training and broad experience in the cultural sector make him an ideal leader at Birmingham Museum of Art, at a time when we are exploring what it means to be a truly community responsive museum for our city,” says Gail Andrews, R. Hugh Daniel Director of the Birmingham Museum of Art. “Horace has a transcendent gift of making meaningful connections between people and art, and I look forward to see his dynamic vision for our education initiatives unfold as he settles into his new role.”

As the Curator of Education, Ballard will oversee the development, implementation, and management of the museum’s wide-ranging education programs including gallery interpretation, studio classes, public programs, docent training, community engagement, arts camp, teacher and school services, and volunteer recruitment. In 2014 alone, the Birmingham Museum of Art presented nearly 1,100 educational opportunities to the public.

At RISD, Ballard worked at the Museum of Art where he taught courses, developed programs, and facilitated community engagement for the Continuing Education Department and School & Teacher Programs division. He focused on the Museum’s K-12 audience, coordinating tours for students and professional development opportunities for teachers. During that time, he served as a graduate lecturer at Brown University and a graduate collections manager at the Haffrenreffer Museum of Anthropology in Rhode Island. Additionally, Ballard has acted as a consultant and curator of American art for the last ten years. Past experience also includes public relations, marketing, and development for several other leading cultural institutions, such as the Monticello/Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Yale University Art Gallery.

Ballard recently finished writing his dissertation on nineteenth-century American photography at Brown University. In addition to the awarding of his Ph.D. by the end of the year, Horace holds an A.M. in American Civilization and Public Humanities from Brown University; an M.A. in Religion from Yale Divinity School; a B.A. in American Studies, and a B.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Virginia. Ballard has contributed to numerous publications on various subjects ranging from race and religion to American and contemporary art. He lectures regularly at museums and universities across the country.

His appointment is the latest in a series of curatorial hires for the Birmingham Museum of Art which includes the additions of Robert Schindler as the Curator of European Art in 2013 and Wassan Al-Khudhairi as the Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art in 2014.

News

Artist Profile: 5 Things To Know About Hale Woodruff

Image from the High Museum of Art

Image from the High Museum of Art

Since June, hundreds of people from all over the city, state, and region have visited the BMA’s summer exhibition Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College to view the stunning and massive murals. Commissioned by Talladega College in 1938, the vibrant murals, recognized as the first representations of the Amistad mutiny in the twentieth century, hung in Talladega’s Savery Library before going on a national tour.

The paintings have earned great renown, but have you learned about the man behind the murals? Here are five things to know about the artist Hale Woodruff:

  1. Woodruff was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee but began his art training in the Midwest at the age of twenty.
    Though Woodruff achieved success early on with his landscape paintings at the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, the School’s traditional approach frustrated Woodruff. After three years at the Herron School, he decided to continue his studies at the Art Institute of Chicago but returned to Indianapolis shortly thereafter. There, he served as membership secretary of the local YMCA, where he was introduced to the ideas of a number of black leaders and activists.
  2. In 1927, using earnings from his previous awards and with the help of donations, Woodruff traveled to Paris, France, where he studied the styles of Old Masters and European modernists.
    Woodruff did not gravitate towards the modernist style, but he adopted many distinctively Post-Impressionist and Cubist techniques. In fact, several of his works from his time in France strongly resemble those of Cézanne.
  3. Hale Woodruff’s style changed direction upon his return to the American South, which he described as “[his] country.”
    When Woodruff returned to the States, he settled in Atlanta, where he began teaching in the new art department at Atlanta University. When he was creating his own work, Woodruff began to move away from the Post-Impressionist style he adopted in France in favor of more conventional techniques. Also, though he had portrayed African Americans in some of his paintings before, Woodruff shifted his focus to black communities in Atlanta, specifically. His depictions proved powerful displays of the poverty that plagued many of those areas, and he would continue to deal with black subjects and themes throughout his career.
  4. Diego Riviera, known for his public murals, greatly influenced Woodruff’s own works.
    During his trip to Mexico in 1936 to work with the famous muralist, Woodruff began to incorporate Riviera’s storytelling approach into his own work. Furthermore, though Woodruff never utilized Riviera’s fresco technique completely, he would use many fresco-like methods in his later paintings.
  5. When Talladega College President Buell Gallagher assigned Woodruff the task of depicting the Amistad mutiny, Woodruff was unfamiliar with the event, whose history was largely forgotten during the era of Reconstruction.
    After learning from Riviera the importance of storytelling, Woodruff, determined to shed light on “racial injustice, past and present,” embraced the topic. He traveled to New Haven, Connecticut, the site of the Africans’ trial. Informed by this research and influenced by the styles of Cézanne and Picasso, he embarked on creating the famous murals on display at the BMA today.

Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College is open to the public through September 6 with free admission. Do not miss the opportunity to welcome these incredible works back to their home state!

Sources:
Heydt, Stephanie Mayer. “Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College.” Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College. Ed. Linda Merrill. Atlanta: High Museum of Art, 2012. 26-97. Print.

http://www.artsbma.org/5-reasons-you-cant-miss-rising-up-hale-woodruffs-murals-at-talladega-college/

http://www.artsbma.org/exhibition/rising-up-hale-woodruffs-murals-at-talladega-college/

News Slideshows

Happy Birthday, Andy Warhol!

Happy birthday to artist Andy Warhol, born on August 6, 1928. Did you know that the famous contemporary artist has strong ties to the Birmingham Museum of Art?

In fact, in 1979, he was commissioned to paint a series of portraits of Charles Ireland, the first president and later chairman of the board of Birmingham’s Vulcan Materials Company and a long-time, generous supporter of the BMA. Later that year, Warhol visited the Museum to present his portrait of Mr. Ireland. Aside from greeting Birmingham locals, many of whom eagerly awaited his autograph on their tomato soup cans, Warhol was able to browse the BMA’s permanent collection. He picked out J.G. Brown’s Three for Five as his favorite piece, explaining that “I always like the biggest painting in any room, so I like this one best.”

Beyond the Museum’s walls, the artist got a taste of the local food scene when he was treated to a barbecue lunch during his interview for The Birmingham News. Satisfied with his sandwich, Warhol commented, “It’s very good…No, we can’t get good barbecue in New York.”

Take a look at some photos from Warhol’s visit to the BMA in 1979 below:

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Sources:

http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2012/06/warhol_exhibition_at_birmingha.html

http://www.artsbma.org/pieces/portrait-of-charles-ireland/