Year in Review
The mission of the Birmingham Museum of Art is to spark the creativity, imagination, and liveliness of Birmingham by connecting all its citizens to the experience, meaning, and joy of art.
View This Year’s Stats
Museum attendance grew again this year, and we proudly offered free admission to 124,039 visitors as we work to ensure that people from all backgrounds have access to high-quality art experiences.
As the only global collection in Alabama, the BMA is central to the cultural vibrancy of our community. Our continued success is the result of a supportive community, a membership base of more than 2,756 households, and a volunteer program of nearly 200 individuals who provided a combined total of 7,516 volunteer hours to the Museum.
As research continues to prove that art builds empathy and enhances cognitive thinking, the Birmingham Museum of Art provided 30,080 children with high-quality art experiences both in and outside the Museum walls.
A combination of 26,467 paintings, sculptures, jewelry, costumes, and videos comprise the Museum’s collection of art from around the world which spans from ancient to modern times and includes Asian, European, American, African, Pre-Columbian, and Native American Art.
Family Festival Attendance
The BMA hosts quarterly heritage festivals, which are designed to bring diverse communities together to share in one another’s heritage. 5,928 visitors came out this year to celebrate cultures and traditions from different parts of the world including India and Latin America.
Over the 2018–2019 school year, the BMA provided 9,332 contact hours to 519 students across 21 fourth-grade classes in 8 schools without a dedicated visual arts program. Each residency included up to 25 classroom hours working with trained teaching artists on a long-term project and a field trip to the BMA, all free of cost to the schools.
The BMA’s dynamic Studio School classes taught 2,391 emerging artists to sculpt, paint, draw, and sketch, using art from our exhibitions and collection as inspiration for a wide range of art classes.
Tours, Programs, Services, and Workshops
Education is at the core of what we do and this year, the BMA offered 644 tours, programs, services, and workshops free of charge to members of the Birmingham community.
30 teenagers participated in our Teen BMA program which encourages young creatives to get engaged with the Museum at an early age and empowers them to create opportunities for other young people to get involved in the arts.
Children Visited Bart’s ArtVenture
Our interactive family gallery, Bart’s ArtVenture, welcomed 14,407 children. This colorful and dynamic space introduces children to art concepts and the BMA’s collection through hands-on learning, special exhibitions, and art making projects.
In partnership with Better Basics, BMA staff provided 10 weeks of after-school art instruction at C. J. Donald and Robinson Elementary Schools.
We believe that art can promote healing, and we proudly served 144 patients from Children’s Hospital who participated in our gallery tours and studio art making workshops.
Letter from Leadership
Providing you, our supporters, with an annual report detailing the past fiscal year’s operations is an important way we can demonstrate our commitment to transparency, accountability, and the responsible stewardship of the assets with which we have been entrusted. Additionally, it gives us an opportunity to show the exciting ways in which our collections continue to grow, securing our place as the state’s largest and most comprehensive art museum, as well as an institution of regional and national distinction. Finally, the annual report provides us with an additional opportunity to acknowledge our loyal and generous donors who have been the lifeblood of this institution for nearly 70 years.
From July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, we welcomed 124,039 visitors, an increase of nearly 3,000 people over the previous fiscal year. This increase in attendance was spurred by popular and innovative exhibitions and programs. Perhaps our most popular perennial programs are our Family Festivals, made possible through the generosity of Medical Properties Trust. This year, 5,928 visitors turned out for Family Festivals celebrating diverse cultures from throughout the globe including India and Latin America.
The 2018 – 2019 fiscal year continued to be one of transitions. In late October 2018, we welcomed Hallie Ringle as our new Hugh Kaul Curator of Contemporary. Hallie joined the BMA after five years at New York’s Studio Museum in Harlem, where she served first as a senior curatorial assistant and then as assistant curator, managing the institution’s artist residency program. Hallie’s first exhibition for the BMA—the colorful and innovative Barbie: Dreaming of a Female Future—opened just after the start of the current fiscal year, and has received widespread acclaim from our visitors and the media. On May 30, 2019, we celebrated the distinguished career of beloved exhibition designer Terry Beckham, who retired after 34 years at the Birmingham Museum of Art. Terry’s creativity and eye for color made our temporary exhibitions and permanent collection galleries some of the most striking anywhere. Those of you who know Terry are likely aware of his passion for The Beatles and anything related to the exploration of outer space. It was only fitting that his tenure at the BMA be celebrated with a Beatles-themed party (complete with blow-up yellow submarines) and the acquisition of a work from Robert Rauschenberg’s “Stoned Moon” series, inspired by the launch of Apollo 11.
During the past fiscal year, our collections increased by 186 works of art, comprising nearly every medium. Among these acquisitions, we are particularly proud of works that enable us to broaden the narrative scope of our collection, telling new stories and giving a fuller and more accurate picture of both the past and present through the visual arts. In this regard, Juriaan van Streek’s canvas Still Life with Male Figure–depicting a richly dressed black man standing behind a sumptuously laid table–is particularly significant as it speaks to the presence of people from Africa or of African descent in the 17th-century Netherlands. Depictions of people of color from this period and place are rare; this important example–made possible through the generosity of BMA Board Chair Emerita Margaret Livington–enables us to make visible people and histories that have otherwise been erased. We are similarly pleased to expand our collection in meaningful ways with an intentional focus on acquiring work by contemporary Native American artists, an initiative funded by a generous bequest by longtime docent Clyde W. Oyster. One recent acquisition is a striking blue basket by Shan Goshorn, a member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. The basket is woven in the traditional Cherokee water pattern using paper weaving strips embellished with written text drawn from Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chair David Archimbault’s speech to the United Nations in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline on his nation’s reservation. Another important contemporary acquisition is Dejygea (1970), a large, bold and colorful abstract painting by Mavis Pusey (1928 – 2019) inspired by the urban built environment of New York City. The painting appeared in Pusey’s first major group exhibition, “Contemporary Black Artists in America,” mounted by New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art in 1971. A rising star, Pusey’s ascendency was halted by a number of converging circumstances, not the least of which was the overwhelming discrimination that women and people of color faced in the art world at that time. The painting will form the centerpiece of the first major retrospective of Pusey’s work, which we will co-organize with the Studio Museum in Harlem, and present at the BMA in early 2021.
We are grateful to the Museum’s many supporters–individuals, corporations, foundations, and government entities–for their generosity, which enables us to provide meaningful experiences to our community. While our donors are too numerous to acknowledge in the space of this letter, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the City of Birmingham. The Birmingham Museum of Art has been a department of the city since it was established in 1951. In the years since, the city’s support has never waned and today, at $3.5 million per year, accounts for approximately half of our annual operating budget. The city has also provided critical support for deferred maintenance and building improvements, most recently allocating funds for a wheelchair lift in our main lobby. Our single greatest fundraiser each year is our annual Museum Ball. On Saturday, May 4, 2019, the Museum hosted its 64th ball, “Pop in the City,” chaired by Lindsey and John Lacey and Courtney and Bryson Stephens, which raised over $421,000 in critical support for our education department.
As the philosopher and author Albert Camus once remarked, “Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.” Your steadfast commitment to this institution not only permits us to ably serve our community now, but also serves as an investment in the future, ensuring the growth and prosperity of one of our leading cultural assets. Thank you for your support. We look forward to seeing you at the BMA in the new year.