Friends of American Art

The Friends of American Art was founded in 2007 and actively supports the Museum by developing and expanding its American art collection. The group provides educational programs and travel opportunities to its members. Events include lectures by leading authorities and visits to auctions, galleries, and noted public and private collections. At the Friends’ annual dinner, members vote on a major acquisition for the Museum’s collection of American art.

$500 per member
$250 per junior member (under 40)

For more information or to join, please contact Graham Boettcher, PhD, William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art, at or 205.297.8048.

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Lunch and Learn
Wednesday, May 17
12-1pm // BMA Members Room
The Art of Dixie: Celebrating the art of Alabama

Art & Celebrity Event
Wednesday, May 17
6pm // BMA Steiner Auditorium

The Birmingham Museum of Art invites you to a special evening celebrating Heather McPherson’s new book, Art and Celebrity in the Age of Reynolds and Siddons (Penn State University Press, 2017). The book transports you to late eighteenth-century London where modern celebrity culture emerged, from artists’ studios, to the Royal Academy exhibitions, to the stages of Drury Lane and Covent Garden.

UAB Professor of Art History, Heather McPherson, Ph.D., will give a special lecture in the Museum’s Steiner Auditorium followed by a book signing and reception.

Friends of American Art Trip to Richmond and Charlottesville, Virginia
June 19-23

Photo Finish 2017: An Event Honoring the Legacy of the Photo Guild
Thursday, June 1
6-8pm // BMA Cafe

Together we will vote to acquire a work of photography for the Museum’s collection.

Trip to Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas with the Friends of American Art and European Art Society
October 19 — 22, 2017


Lunch and Learn
Tuesday, February 14
12-1pm // BMA Members Room
Please join us for a special Valentine’s Day Lunch and Learn as we explore the art of love in the BMA’s American art collection

Friends of American Art Annual Dinner
Wednesday, February 22

Day trip to Huntsville
Wednesday, August 24
Tour the Huntsville Museum of Art’s special exhibition An American Romantic: The Art of Luigi Lucioni, visit private collections, and more

Lunch and Learn
Wednesday, September 7
12-1pm // BMA Members Room // Body Image: Photography and the Human Form
Dr. Graham C. Boettcher, Deputy Director and Curator of American Art, will examine the longstanding artistic fascination with the human body, which has been no less prevalent since the advent of photography. Boettcher will discuss the work of Thomas Eakins, George Platt Lynes, Robert Mapplethorpe, Nan Goldin, Sally Mann, and Jen Davis, among many others

The Friends go to Colorado
September 12-16, 2016

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In September, the Friends of American Art charted new territory on an inaugural group trip to Colorado. They kicked off their week with dinner at Rioja, a Mediterranean hotspot that helped put Denver’s fine dining scene on the map. At the Denver Art Museum the following morning, the Friends viewed over one hundred paintings with curators Dr. Gwen Chanzit and Angelica Daneo while touring two special exhibitions: Women of Abstract Expressionism and Rhythm and Roots: Dance in American Art. They covered even more ground that afternoon with a private visit to the Anschutz Collection at the American Museum of Western Art, which surveys the art of the American West from the early 19th century through the age of industrialization.

The next day, the group toured the Petrie Institute of Western American Art with Director Thomas Smith, lunched at the historic Brown Palace Hotel, and visited the home of Titanic survivor Margaret “The Unsinkable Molly” Brown. That evening, they celebrated their time in Denver and the birthday of traveler Elberta Reid, at Panzano–a cozy Italian restaurant on the ground floor of the Monaco Denver, the Friends’ hotel of choice.

The next morning, the Friends traveled through the scenic Rockies on their way to Steamboat Springs, just in time to see the shimmering, golden foliage of the aspen trees. Gallery owners Bill and Maggie Rey welcomed them for a pit-stop in Vail, where they toured the Claggett-Rey Gallery, enjoyed lunch, and shopped before the final leg of their journey. That evening, Friends of American Art members Karen and Joel Piassick hosted a Cowboy Cookout at their home in Steamboat Springs, surrounded by Friends, an amazing collection of Western American art, and unforgettable views of the Colorado landscape.

Lunch and Learn with Indian Cultural Society
Wednesday, October 12
12-1pm // BMA Members Room
Dr. Graham C. Boettcher, Deputy Director and Curator of American Art, will give a talk on Lockwood de Forest–an American painter, interior designer and furniture designer. A key figure in the Aesthetic Movement, he introduced the East Indian craft revival to Gilded Age America

Lunch and Learn
Wednesday, November 9
12-1pm // BMA Members Room
BMA Docent and Tour Coordinator, Angela May will explore the history and intersections of body art in America and Southeast Asia

Annual Chenoweth Lecture
Wednesday, November 16
The BMA’s Executive Director Gail Andrews will reflect on her tenure of 40 years at the BMA. She will share some of its history and the role she played in helping shape it, as well as what the future may hold for our institution.

Past Events

Joint Voting Event with Collectors Circle
Thursday, June 23
6:00 PM // BMA Café

Together the Friends and Collectors Circle will vote on a new acquisition for the permanent collection of photography.

Lunch and Learn
Wednesday, May 4
12:00-1:00PM // BMA Members Room

The BMA’s Chief Conservator Margaret Burnham will give a talk on aspects of conservation.

FoAA Trip to Pittsburgh
Monday, April 25—Friday, April 29

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Friends of American Art go to Pittsburgh
April 25-29, 2016
by Curatorial Assistant Bethany McClellan

The Friends spent a week exploring the “Birmingham of the North,” a city whose industrial beginnings resemble our own. It began with a group dinner against a backdrop of old Pennsylvania rail lines on the patio of Eleven Contemporary Kitchen. The group was joined by The Andy Warhol Museum’s Director, Eric Shiner, who led a private tour of the Warhol’s permanent collection the following morning.

The program changed gears that afternoon with a visit to the Frick Art and Historical Center, where they toured the Frick family’s 19th-century home, a stunning example of Victorian architecture and interior design, filled with important paintings and decorative arts. After a full day, the Friends spent a relaxing evening at the Duquesne Club, a private social club with a collection of over 200 paintings.

The following day was spent exploring the Carnegie Museum of Art, where curators Rachel Delphia and Lulu Lippincott gave an outstanding overview tour of the collection and building highlights, including the Grand Staircase and mural by John White Alexander. After the Carnegie, the Friends visited the home of Dr. Michael and Lilli Nieland, collectors of 19th-century American figurative bronzes.

The last Museum visit—to the newly redesigned Westmoreland Museum of American Art—won the hearts of the group. Chief Curator Barbara Jones and Director and CEO Judith O’Toole led private tours of the collection, which includes works by Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and Winslow Homer. A trip to Pittsburgh wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to Fallingwater—an architectural feat by America’s most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. The Friends celebrated a successful trip over dinner atop Mt. Washington, with breathtaking views of the city and rivers below.

Private Collection Visit
Saturday, March 19

Don’t miss this very special visit and tour of a stunning collection of Ashcan School art.

The Art of American Still Life
Wednesday, January 13th 2016

6PM: Cocktails
6:45PM: Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life, Dr. Mark D. Mitchell,  The Holcombe T. Green Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, Yale University ArtGallery
7:30PM: Dinner
Voting on a new acquisition will take place over dinner.

Lunch and Learn
December 16, 2015
12:00 – 1:00 PM

BMA Members Roomll

A Feast for the Eyes: Gastronomy and American Art
Dr. Graham C. Boettcher
Chief Curator and The William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art

With the holidays approaching—a time when many Americans eat, drink, and make merry—please join Dr. Boettcher as he presents a visual smorgasbord, tracing the vibrant and sometimes humorous relationship of American art with food and drink.

Friends of American Art 
in New York City!
Monday, November 16–Friday, November 20, 2015

Annual Chenoweth Lecture
November 5, 2015
7:00-8:00 PM
Birmingham Museum of Art, Steiner Auditorium

Join us for the annual Chenoweth Lecture as Carter Foster, Curator of Drawing at the Whitney Museum of American Art, discuss the Whitney’s new home, a Renzo Piano-designed building in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.

Annual Hiden Lecture
October 21, 2015
6:00-7:00 PM
Birmingham Museum of Art, Steiner Auditorium

Mathematics, Magic, and Mid-Century

In conjunction with Design Week Birmingham, the Museum welcomes Natalie Chanin, founder of Alabama Chanin, a Florence, Alabama-based fashion and lifestyle company, for a lecture on mid-century modern design.

Lunch and Learn
October 20, 2015vase
12:00-1:00 PM
Birmingham Museum of Art, Steiner Auditorium

From Streamliners to the Space Age:
Transportation, Technology and Mid-Century Modern Design
Dr. Graham C. Boettcher
Chief Curator and The William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art

In this lavishly illustrated talk presented in conjunction with Design Week Birmingham, Dr. Boettcher will explore how the development of streamlined locomotives, airplanes, jetliners, and rockets, among other technological advances, profoundly shaped the “look” of American household goods during the mid 20th century.

Art & Conversation
October 1, 2015
10:30-11:30 AM
Birmingham Museum of Art, Steiner Auditorium

Black Like Who?: Exploring Race and Representation. Exhibition co-curator Graham C. Boettcher discusses Black Like Who?, an exhibition which considers a variety of historical and contemporary works by white and black artists, and examines how they communicate both the motives and beliefs of the artists, as well as the racial attitudes of their time.

$10 Museum Members // $15 Nonmembers

Curator of American Art Dr. Graham Boettcher with Friend of American Art Mr. Hubert Goings enjoying Colonial Williamsburg

Friends of American Art Trip to Norfolk & Williamsburg, VA
August 31—September 4, 2015

On August 31, the Friends of American Art traveled to Virginia, where they stayed in downtown Norfolk, within steps of the Chrysler Museum of Art and a lively culinary scene. That evening, the group enjoyed a welcome dinner of traditional coastal cuisine at award-winning Todd Jurich’s Bistro.

Tuesday’s program began with an unforgettable tour of a private collection in a home designed by architect Robert Stern, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture. To create visual interest, American modern masterworks were paired with studio glass objects similar in form and color. The home’s architectural beauty and sweeping views of the James River enhanced the experience. The afternoon was spent enjoying the Chrysler Museum of Art’s temporary exhibition The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, a finalist for the 2015 Global Fine Art Awards, as well as curator-led tours of the permanent collections of American art and studio glass. The Friends concluded the day with private farm-to-table dinner at Chartreuse Bistro, a modern European eatery located in downtown Norfolk’s historic district.

On Wednesday, the group visited Colonial Williamsburg, where they toured A Rich and Varied Culture: the Material World of the Early South, an exhibition of aesthetically diverse furniture, ceramics, metals, and archaeological artifacts of the 18th century. Following a visit to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, they enjoyed lunch at a reconstructed 18th-century tavern. Before departing for Norfolk, the Friends made an unexpected trip to Europe—to view an exhibition of 17th- and 18th-century Florentine painting at the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William and Mary.

Thursday began with a visit to a superb private collection of early American Modern painting and studio glass, followed by a trip the Hermitage Museum & Gardens, a 42-room Arts and Crafts mansion constructed between 1908 and 1936, with extraordinary woodwork by Karl von Rydingsvard, who designed and carved the furnishings for Birmingham’s Theodore Swann House.  The trip concluded with a sumptuous seafood dinner at Norfolk Seafood Company, where the Friends recounted highlights of the trip and celebrated a very special birthday, with Graham Boettcher serenading the birthday boy with a command-performance of “Copacabana” in German.

SieglerSpecial Lecture with Paper Conservator
June 17, 2015
12:00 PM
Birmingham Museum of Art Members Room

The BMA welcomes Dr. Sheila Siegler, DIC, FIIC, MAIC, who is currently a freelance paper conservator, lecturer, and science consultant. This is an event for members of BMA support groups only.

In her talk, Dr. Siegler will discuss what paper is and how it’s made; what deteriorates paper (light, humidity, insects, humans, and more); how to stop deterioration; and how to care for your collection at home, especially photographs.

Attendees are also encouraged to bring 1-2 works on paper from your personal collections. Dr. Siegler will comment on the condition of your works, as well as recommend treatments. Lunch will not be served at the event; however, we encourage you to meet your friends before or after the event for lunch in Oscar’s Café.

Private Collection Tour with Emerging Collectors
May 17, 2015
3-4:30 PM

Tour a conceptually-driven collection of drawings, paintings, and sculptures, featuring notable artists such as Tara Donovan, Ivan Navarro, Andy Warhol and Keith Sonnier, among many others.

 Friends of American Art Trip to St. Louis
April 13—17, 2015

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Meet Me in St. Louis

On April 13, the Friends of American Art were off to St. Louis, where they stayed at the historic Chase Park Plaza, and enjoyed a lively welcome dinner at Herbie’s Vintage ’72, a longtime favorite of Central West End residents.

The program began Tuesday at the Missouri History Museum with curator-led tours of the exhibits The 1904 World’s Fair: Looking Back at Looking Forward and The Louisiana Purchase: Making St. Louis, Remaking America. After lunch in the Museum’s café, the group was treated a rare glimpse of a major private collection of American Regionalist art, with masterworks by Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, among others. Tuesday afternoon was spent at the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum with a curator-led tour of the permanent collection, as well as the special exhibition George Caleb Bingham and his Prints of American Frontier Life: A Mirror of National Growth and Change. Later, the Friends dined at the membership bar and restaurant “Blood & Sand,” where the St. Louis Art Museum’s Deputy Director Jason Busch was their guest of honor.

Wednesday began with a journey to the top of the Gateway Arch, where the group experienced unforgettable views of downtown St. Louis and the Mississippi River. After a leisurely stroll through Citygarden, an urban park and sculpture garden, the group lunched at “Death in the Afternoon,” a small, creative eatery in the midst of the park. After lunch, the Friends were given a sneak preview of the newly renovated Pulitzer Arts Foundation, and then toured two of St. Louis’ most formidable personal collections: one focusing on American paintings from 1910 to 1940, encompassing Regionalism, Social Realism, and Magic Realism; and another concentrating on contemporary German and American art.

Thursday was spent at the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM), where—during a breakfast hosted by director Brent Benjamin—the Friends heard him discuss SLAM’s recent expansion. After breakfast, curators from each department led tours of the permanent collection and special exhibitions, including Navigating the West: George Caleb Bingham and the River and Thomas Cole’s Voyage of Life. A farewell dinner was held at Scape, an American bistro less than a block from the hotel, where the group was honored to be joined by SLAM’s Curator of American Art Dr. Melissa Wolfe.

Lunch and Learn

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

12:00-1:00 PM

Birmingham Museum of Art Member’s Room

Because photography is so often used for documentary and evidentiary purposes, it is not difficult to see why some consider it to be more truthful than other artistic mediums. However, as Susan Sonntag observed, “Photographs, which fiddle with the scale of the world, themselves get reduced, blown up, cropped, retouched, doctored, tricked out.”

Join Curator of American Art, Dr. Graham Boettcher, on a strange and whimsical jaunt through the history of trick photography, including images of mammoth creatures and things, and spirit and fairy photographs. Seeing is not always believing!

Friends of American Art and Sankofa Society Trip to Atlanta

On March 25th, Friends of American Art were accompanied by the Sankofa Society on a day-trip to the High Museum of Art in Alargetlanta. There, they met Dr. Brett Abbott, High Museum Curator of Photography and Head of Collections, who gave the group a personal tour of the exhibition Gordon Parks: Segregation Story. This exhibition showcases more than forty color photographs by trailblazing African American artist Gordon Parks, many on view for the first time.

The group enjoyed lunch at Table 1280, followed by an afternoon tour of the exhibition Dox Thrash: An American Journey with High Museum Curator of American Art, Dr. Stephanie HeydtThis exhibition presents 43 works on paper by 20th century artist Dox Thrash. His works offer not only one man’s observations but also a broad view of the larger cultural and political environment facing African Americans at the dawn of the Civil Rights Era.

The group also walked through A Painter’s Profile: The High Celebrates Romare Bearden and Imagining New Worlds: Wilfredo Lam, Jose Parla, and Fahamu Pecou with BMA Curators Dr. Graham Boettcher, Dr. Emily Hanna, and PhD Candidate and Mellon Fellow for African American Art, Kelli Morgan.

Lunch and Learn

Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014
12:00 PM
Birmingham Museum of Art Members’ Room 

Walking Through a Winter Wonderland: Snow, Ice and Paint

Lunch and Learn
Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014
12:00 PM
Birmingham Museum of Art Members’ Room 

Land of the Pilgrims’ Pride: The Colonial Revival in American Art

Lunch & Learn
Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014
12:00 PM
Birmingham Museum of Art Members’ Room

Friends of American Art / Photography Guild Lunch and Learn

Photographic Masters of the Yosemite Valley, from Carleton E. Watkins to Ansel Adams