Clarification on UIMA/Figge Relationship

An article in Wednesday's Quad City Times mistakenly characterized the UIMA's relationship with the Figge Art Museum. Here, Figge Art Museum Executive Director Sean O'Harrow responds:

Inaccuracies in recent press reports have led to confusion about the relationship between the (Figge) and the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA). I would like to take this opportunity to clarify.

As clearly outlined in the signed Letter of Intent and the subsequent signed contract between the two institutions, the relationship between the Figge and the UIMA is temporary. From the Letter of Intent: “The University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) and the Figge Art Museum (Figge) agree on a temporary arrangement (time to be determined) that will include exhibiting and storing the UIMA’s collection at the Figge in Davenport, Iowa."

We are all working toward the day that the UIMA has a new museum to serve the population of the University of Iowa, Iowa City and the State of Iowa. In the interim, the Figge staff is hard at work — arranging our exhibition and storage spaces, moving our exhibitions and our work schedules — to accommodate the exhibition and storage of the UIMA collection. We see this as a tremendous opportunity to not only help the UIMA in the current crisis, but also to develop our relationship with a fellow Iowa art museum. The storage and display of the UIMA’s collection in Davenport will be temporary, but we hope that the relationships we develop with the UIMA staff will last far into the future.

Sean O’Harrow
Executive Director
Figge Art Museum
225 W. 2nd St. Davenport, IA


The Figge

This review by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gives some background on the Figge Art Museum, the soon-to-be home-away-from-home for the UIMA collection.

-- Maggie Anderson
UIMA Marketing and Media Manager

The Move in the News

The UI Museum of Art made news last week with the announcement that its collection will be temporarily housed in the Figge Art Museum in Davenport beginning as soon as April. With no permanent facility, the Figge will make a good "home away from home" for the UIMA collection, UIMA Director Pamela White told the Gazette.

"It’s amazing and probably unique in the country in many ways to be able to go to another museum and say ‘look, we know you’re in trouble, we have space,’" Sean O’Harrow, Figge’s executive director, told CorridorBuzz.com. “We have the highest-quality storage and display space probably in the country.”

And over at the Quad City Times, Alma Gaul writes extensively about the upcoming move, calling it "the most stunning development in the Figge's 3 1/2-year history" and noting that the arrival of the UIMA's more than 12,000-piece collection will triple the number of works at the downtown Davenport museum.

We'll have more news about the upcoming show at the Figge here later this week, so make sure you check back!

-- Maggie Anderson
UIMA Marketing and Media Manager

Bone up on your Gopnik

If you've ever enjoyed a museum, had an idea about how they could improve, or wondered why museums are the way they are, I guarantee you will enjoy New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik's lecture on Feb. 5.

For some background, you might want to check out Gopnik's essay "The Mindful Museum." This article, which discusses the past and future essence of a "museum," seems incredibly prescient now, as non-profits and museums face an ever-increasing crunch in this dire economy. And, for the UIMA, it's particularly applicable -- this is the perfect time to start a dialogue about the big picture of what a musuem actually *is* as we move toward a long-term solution for our own museum.

If you like what you hear in "The Mindful Museum," I'd encourage you to check out Gopnik's best-selling book, Paris to the Moon. I read it for a class -- Paris and the Art of Urban Life, taught by John Beldon Scott and Jack Johnson -- and I loved it. (In fact, I'm almost embarassed to loan my copy to anyone, as I have such ridiculous notes in the margins!)

Or, go online to newyorker.com to read some of Gopnik's work for that publication.

Hope to see you on Feb. 5 -- remember, 7:30 p.m. at the University Athletic Club, 1360 Melrose Ave., Iowa City.

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-- Maggie Anderson
UIMA Marketing and Media Manager


Esteemed journalist Adam Gopnik to give UI Museum of Art’s 2009 Bette Spriestersbach Distinguished Lecture

Adam Gopnik, an award-winning journalist and regular contributor to The New Yorker, will present the UI Museum of Art’s annual Bette Spriestersbach Distinguished Lecture at 7:30 p.m on Thursday, Feb. 5. The lecture will take place at the University Athletic Club, 1360 Melrose Ave.

A contributor to The New Yorker since 1986, Gopnik has written extensively about modern life and culture with wit, eloquence, and insight. He became the magazine’s art critic in 1987 and during his tenure at the magazine, he has written fiction and humor pieces, book reviews, profiles, reporting pieces, and more than a hundred stories for “The Talk of the Town” and “Comment.”

An author of four books, he is best known for his funny and touching stories about how people live, including the best-selling Paris to the Moon (2000), a collection of essays he wrote for The New Yorker during his five-year residence in Paris with his family. Gopnik's most recent book, Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York (2006), collects and expands his essays about life in New York and raising two children there. It includes the essays “Bumping Into Mr. Ravioli,” about his daughter’s imaginary friend, and “Last of the Metrozoids,” about the life of Kirk Varnedoe and the year before his death, in 2003.

Gopnik’s work writing about the arts corresponds with the purpose of the Spriestersbach Lecture, which was established to bring nationally recognized speakers to inform the community about topics related to the arts and museums.

“As a non-fiction author and in many of The New Yorker writings, Adam Gopnik has dealt with the museum experience in an engaging and profound way,” said Dale Fisher, UI Museum of Art director of education.

The lecture will be titled “The Mindful Museum,” based on an article Gopnik wrote for the Canadian magazine The Walrus. In the article, Gopnik examines how museums have transformed over time. Beginning with an idea from the 19th century of museums as “mausoleums,” secluded places where artifacts were contemplated in silent solitude, Gopnik analyzes how contemporary museums have changed since then. He discusses the shift in the 1950s when museums were seen as an educational tool, and looks forward toward what some museums are on the verge of becoming—the dreaded museum as “mall,” over-merchandised and overcrowded. To Gopnik, however, the present-day museum is still transforming and has the potential to become what he hopes will be a thoughtful, conversation-stimulating place about the objects it contains.

The article addresses issues that many museums, including the UIMA, are currently facing.

“Museums often have a dual identity,” Fisher said. “They function not only as a social marketplace, but also as a place where people come to reflect on the artwork, something that requires a quiet atmosphere that is free from distraction. Museums have to figure out how to balance the two and serve both purposes.”

Gopnik’s work for The New Yorker has won both the National Magazine Award for Essay and the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting. He has broadcasted regularly for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and wrote the article on American culture for the last two editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. His next book, Angels & Ages, a look at the birth of the modern era through the lives Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, is due in early 2009.

The annual Spriestersbach Lecture at the Museum of Art honors the late Bette R. Spriestersbach, a museum docent and a former program associate in the Child Health Specialty Clinics in the UI Hospital School who died in 2004. She was the wife of former UI vice president Duane C. Spriestersbach, who endowed the lecture in 1992 through a gift to the University of Iowa Foundation.

The UI Museum of Art was evacuated from its building in June because of the flood. Many exhibitions and events slated to be held at the UIMA have been moved to alternate venues. For more information on the UI Museum of Art and the latest schedule information, visit www.uiowa.edu/uima.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Maggie Anderson, Museum of Art, 319-335-1731, margaret-anderson@uiowa.edu; Peter Alexander, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0072 (cell), 319-541-2846 (office), peter-alexander@uiowa.edu. Writer: Claire Lekwa

UIMA collection to return to home state

An intra-state alliance will soon bring the University of Iowa Museum of Art's (UIMA) collection back to Iowa.

The Figge Art Museum, Iowa's oldest art museum, has offered the UIMA significant space for display and storage of its permanent collection, Museum of Art-organized exhibitions and traveling shows in its three-year-old, state-of-the-art museum building in Davenport, Iowa

"The Figge Art Museum is honored to partner with the University of Iowa Museum of Art," said Figge Director Sean O'Harrow. "Having the UIMA at the Figge will allow Iowa residents and tourists to visit the banks of the Mississippi and appreciate two great collections from two great institutions. The Figge is looking forward to hosting our new friends and celebrating art in Eastern Iowa."

With the exception of a selection of nearly 250 works of art that returned to campus in October, the UIMA collection has been in storage in Chicago since its evacuation during the June 2008 flood. Access to that facility for students, faculty and staff has been limited, and public access was unavailable.

Having the UIMA collection at the Figge, located an hour from the UI campus at 225 West Second St. in downtown Davenport, offers a chance for the public to reengage with the UIMA collection, said Pamela White, interim director for the UIMA.

"This collaboration with the Figge marks a ground-breaking step in getting Iowa's art back in Iowa," White said. "It will allow the UIMA space to exhibit, preserve and store its collection as plans are made for the future of the UI Museum of Art."

"We are delighted that the Figge has so generously offered space in its museum to house a portion of the University of Iowa's collection," said UI President Sally Mason. "We, of course, look forward to the day when we can bring the collection home to the university. But, until then, it makes sense that these treasures be on display for the public to view, and especially in one of Iowa's most beautiful riverfront art museums."

The UIMA staff is currently working to finalize plans to install a special exhibition of UIMA masterworks, including the museum's famous Jackson Pollock "Mural," for public viewing at the Figge in April. The UIMA anticipates this show will travel to the Des Moines Art Center (DMAC) in fall 2009 and tour nationally beginning in 2010.

All University of Iowa students, faculty, staff and UI Museum of Art donors will receive free admission to the Figge during regular hours.

Along with gallery space, the Figge has re-organized its storage facilities in order to be able to offer the UIMA a significant amount of storage space -- enough to house most of the UIMA collection, allowing the university's Museum of Art staff access to the collection in order to curate exhibitions, make loans to other institutions, perform general maintenance, and carry out other normal museum functions. Office space will also be allocated to some of the university staff for their museum work.

Nearly 250 prints, photographs and drawings from the Museum of Art's permanent collection are already on campus and available for view in the UI Libraries Special Collections by appointment. For more information visit http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2008/october/100908artworks.html.

In addition, the university is working with its fine arts insurance company, Lloyds of London, to find appropriate on-campus venues for the parts of the UIMA permanent collection and special exhibitions.

The UI Museum of Art offices have been relocated to the Studio Arts Building, 1840 SA, Iowa City, IA 52242. For up-to-date museum information visit http://www.uiowa.edu/uima or the UIMA blog, "Art Matters," at http://uima.blogspot.com, or call 319-335-1725.

The Figge Art Museum, located in Davenport, Iowa, is an encyclopedic art museum with over 4,000 works of art, ranging from the 16th century to the present, and is best known for its extensive collection of Haitian, Colonial Mexican and Midwestern art, particularly pieces by Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, Marvin Cone and Grant Wood, including the only self-portrait Wood ever painted.

The Figge Art Museum is the re-named successor to the Davenport Museum of Art, which was opened in 1925 as one of the first municipal art galleries in the United States. The new building was designed by Stirling Prize-winning British architect David Chipperfield.

For more information visit http://www.figgeartmuseum.org. For UI arts information and calendar updates visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to http://list.uiowa.edu/archives/acr-news.html, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

To request images for publication contact Maggie Anderson, 319-335-1739, margaret-anderson@uiowa.edu.

Photos are available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uinews/

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Maggie Anderson, Museum of Art, 319-335-1731, margaret-anderson@uiowa.edu; Steve Parrott, University Relations, 319-335-0552, steven-parrott@uiowa.edu; Dan McNeil, Figge Art Museum, 563-326-7804, ext. 2047; dmcneil@figgeartmuseum.org


Updated UIMA giving site

The UI Foundation has updated its web pages for giving to the UIMA. Make sure you check out this profile of UIMA Curatorial Assistant Nathan Popp. He's got a really wonderful story -- from museum security guard to art history graduate student!

-- Maggie Anderson, UIMA Marketing and Media Manager

Icky nominations out -- VOTE for the UIMA!

The annual Cultural Corridor Innovative Excellence Awards, AKA the "Ickys," are coming up on Jan. 26, and the nominations are out. The UI Museum of Art is up for awards in "Visual Arts Programming" for VOOM PORTRAITS Robert Wilson, the record-breaking contemporary art exhibition of high-definition video portraits housed at the Museum about a year ago. (Click here to read past blog entries on VOOM.) And our lecture by guest artist Daniel Heyman, whose work is on display at the Old Capitol Museum, is up for the "Reaching Out Collaborative Award," which goes to an organization that partners with non-ICCA members for an event.

If you're a voting body, keep us in mind!

-- Maggie Anderson, UIMA Marketing and Media Manager

Flood recovery news

I'm guessing we can all agree on at least one thing about 2008 -- it was a year of challenges, and it feels rather good to turn the page to 2009!

In the spirit of reflection, I thought I'd give you a run down on some of the things the Museum of Art has to look forward to this year.

As you know, the UI Museum of Art will not be returning to our former flood-prone home on the banks of the Iowa River. With Lloyds of London, which insures the UIMA's collection, the Museum is evaluating potential temporary exhibition spaces around campus. For each possible venue, the Museum's staff has created proposals for security and climate control and prepared an emergency plan. Progress has been favorable, but no plans are yet certain. The UI Museum of Art does hope to open the exhibition Two Turntables and a Microphone: Hip-hop Contexts featuring Harry Allen's Part of the Permanent Record: Photos From the Previous Century on March 28 in the Iowa Memorial Union's Black Box Theater, located on the third floor of the building. We'll be posting updates on this blog as we learn more.

Other spaces under consideration for display of the UIMA permanent collection (African works, paintings, etc.) include the Iowa Memorial Union's R. Wayne Richey Ballroom, also located on the third floor, and a gallery at the Levitt Center for University Advancement.

The UIMA is also considering other ways to ensure its collection reaches out to the people of Iowa, including touring some works of art (such as Jackson Pollock's Mural) to other Iowa locations.

Other museums across the state are also starting to recover. The Des Moines Register's Erin Jordan gives an update on some plans for Cedar Rapids and Iowa City museums, including the UI Museum of Art. Here, the Gazette runs a more general update on flood-effected non-profits. And the National Trust Historic Site runs a blog entry that includes a link to the Gazette article on the UIMA's art rescue, as well as links to other flood-effected historic sites, such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois and the Galveston Historical Foundation.

As we strive to maintain high-quality arts programming and recover from the 2008 flood, your help -- whether it be financial or through participation -- is essential. You can easily make a donation in any amount online -- all amounts are greatly appreciated! -- or sign up to volunteer. But most of all, we want to hear from you. What are we doing right? What needs improvement? What ideas do you have for the future? Drop us a line at uima@uiowa.edu, or e-mail me direct at margaret-anderson@uiowa.edu. Or call -- 319.335.1727. Or start a discussion by posting a comment on the blog. We're always happy to hear from you.

Happy New Year!
Maggie Anderson
UIMA Marketing and Media Manager