1997 Cross-Country Tour of Museums

by Jill Berarducci

 
 
At the end of February, John Hazeltine and Jill Berarducci (father and daughter team) set out on a marathon cross-country tour on behalf of the upcoming John and Barbara Hazeltine Museum of American Art, HMAA. To aid in planning, John and Jill met with representatives of art museums from Pittsburgh to Tucson. The 12-day driving excursion was informative and memorable.
 
The tour's purpose was also to promote advocacy of traditional American art and to make networking contacts. Jill and John explained how HMAA is the first on-line museum that will specialize in traditional American art with resources such as articles, exhibit and event listings, research, a book store, unidentified works of art and of course, virtual presentations of paintings and sculptures. Since this type of museum is new to the art and museum community, the team set off to learn viewpoints, gain feedback, obtain new ideas and establish relationships.
 
From Jill's diary...

Pittsburgh...Feb. 25

 
Our trip began in Pittsburgh, at the Carnegie Institute. The architecture and grand scale of the museums was an impressive sight, a "smaller Smithsonian." We met with Robert Gengewere, Chief Editor of "Carnegie Magazine," professor and scholar. We discussed community education using multimedia opportunities such as CD-ROM's, screen savers, internet and on-line resources. The Carnegie has a professional web presence and first-class magazine edited by Mr. Gengewere. Further multimedia developments are currently being explored. We look forward to hearing about his upcoming accomplishments.
 
After our meeting, we received a splendid guided tour where we enjoyed the extensive and exquisite Library, the Gems and Minerals Museum, the Natural History Museum (incredible original dinosaur bones!), Carnegie Music Hall, and finally the many exhibits within the Museum of Art. Mr. Gengewere's history of the Carnegie Museum and Andrew Carnegie as a philanthropist was extensive and informative.
 

Indianapolis...Feb. 26

 
From Pittsburgh, we visited the Indianapolis Museum of Art where we met with Bret Waller, Director. In our meeting with Mr. Waller, a common concern was established that other museum directors mentioned in upcoming meetings. The concern was that being on the web will not generate sufficient direct income to cover the online presentation expenses, or that indirect income will be hard to measure through having an on-line presence. We discussed how Web presentations enable people from remote areas to view the collections. We appreciated the time spent with Mr. Waller, and enjoyed the extensive exhibits.
 
The Indianapolis Museum of Art had a substantial representation of American art and a first-class French Impressionist exhibit. The museum published "The Passage," a luxurious catalogue that traces the progress of a generation of Hoosier artists who studied together at the Royal Academy of Painting in Munich in the 1880s and returned to the United States to achieve national prominence as Indiana landscape painters. The book is listed in TFAOI's "Books, CD ROM's and Videos" section.
 

St. Louis... Feb. 27

 
Our next meeting was at the St. Louis Museum of Art with Kay Porter, Director of Community Relations and marketing evangelist! This enjoyable two and a half-hour meeting was held in the museum restaurant, which was featuring Italian cuisine, an extension of the Italian exhibit taking place through March. Due to extensive research and testing, Ms. Porter had excellent knowledge upon which to help management and curators base decisions on marketing the museum to many niches. Although the museum is creating a web presence, interactive media has been developed in Ms. Porter's department and is being explored for further uses.
 

Tulsa...Feb. 28

From St Louis, we traveled through Missouri and on to Oklahoma to the Gilcrease Museum and the Philbrook Museum of Art, both located in Tulsa.
 
Once we reached Tulsa, our first visit was at the Gilcrease Museum - unique to all the museums we visited because of the breadth of the collection - over 300,000 objects. Impressed by this comprehensive collection of art of the American West, we visited paintings and bronze sculptures by Thomas Moran, Frederic Remington, Charles Russell and George Catlin. We had a wonderful lunch at the museum where we looked out at the rolling hills from the restaurant's windows. We met with Brooks Joyner , Director of the Museum and Ken Busby, Assistant to the Director.
 
Like many museums, the Gilcrease is receiving numerous requests throughout Tulsa to host their Web site and to assist in its production. Due to the distance to major transportation hubs form the Gilcrease, the museum is looking beyond their immediate community for traffic to their institution. Those who have created a site know there are additional costs not obvious in the beginning plans for the project. If the decision is to go forth with an online presence, sponsorships or partnerships can be negotiated within the community to ultimately produce and manage the site. With this in mind, they are taking the Web seriously.
 
Our next visit, at the Philbrook Museum of Art, led us the the estate of the Waite Phillips family, now a beautiful, privately funded museum that was once the home of Waite Phillips, independent oilier and brother of Frank Phillips, oil industry entrepreneur of Phillips 66 gas stations. Built in 1926 - 1927, the family moved into the home in 1927 and stayed until 1938. At that time they formed a board of trustees and became a museum in 1939. The museum now has contributions from Samuel Kress' Italian Renaissance collection as well as a collection of American Renaissance, French, American Indian and African artists. We met with David Singleton, Deputy Director, who offered his view on the operations, new processes and systems from a private museum's perspective.
 
 

Oklahoma City...Mar. 2

We enjoyed our stay in Tulsa and were amazed at the growth of the suburbs. Tulsa's newly developed areas mirrored our neighborhoods in California. Onward, we were off to a brief tour of the National Cowboy Hall Of Fame in Oklahoma City where we admired the "Frederic Remington American Artist" exhibition. We also viewed collections of major works by Charles Russell, Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt and William R. Leigh. From the Cowboy Hall of Fame, we were "On the Road Again" (appropriate contribution to Willie Nelson).
 

Santa Fe...Mar. 2

 
Driving through the flat lands of Texas and New Mexico, we started to long for the rolling hills of the Ozark Mountains we previously dismissed as being only bumps in the landscape. Our stay in Santa Fe was scheduled over the weekend so we didn't plan any meetings.
The beautiful blue sky and snow covering the sidewalks of Santa Fe created a beautiful contrast against the adobe walls throughout the town. On our "day off," we visited several galleries and the Santa Fe Art Museum. We tried to lay low but found on many occasions it hard to resist our temptation to network. While in town, we stayed at El Paradero en Santa Fe, a restored Spanish farmhouse (505/988-1177, innkeeper Thom Allen), and had dinner twice at the Cantina at La Casa Sena where we listened to Broadway hits sung by the talented waiter and waitress staff. To follow-up, conduct numerous meetings and enjoy more of Santa Fe, John and his wife, Barbara, will be back in May.
 

Albuquerque...Mar. 3

 
From Santa Fe, we drove a short distance to meet with Jim Moore, Director of the Albuquerque Museum of Art. As we walked into Jim's office, we were thrilled to see the TFAOI web site on his monitor! Jim was web savvy due to many hours of research using the Internet. We had lunch with Jim at La Placita, a historic restaurant on the Plaza in Old Town Albuquerque - the sopapillas and flavorful dishes are hard to come by any where else in the country.
 
The galleries at the Albuquerque Museum of Art include Native American artifacts, Albuquerque art and history (currently exhibiting "Common Ground: Art in New Mexico from the Museum's permanent collection), Western American art and a sculpture garden (presently featuring "Zones of Experience: the Art of Larry Bell"). The unique nature of New Mexico is presented throughout the museum.
 
Our favorite lodging place for the trip was at the Hacienda Antigua, a 200-year-old Albuquerque landmark (800/201-2986). The owners, Ann Dunlop and Melinda Moffitt, were gracious in their hospitality and had excellent taste in decor and ambiance.
 
On our drive to Arizona, we took our time taking in the Native American culture. We stopped at Acoma, a preserved historic adobe and stone village on top of a mesa overlooking the surrounding valley. The history and culture is interesting and the picturesque views are unique to anywhere in the world.
 

Phoenix...Mar. 5

 
Once we arrived in Phoenix, we met with Jim Ballinger, Director at the Phoenix Museum of Art. This museum recently opened a new wing, adding 65,000 square feet of gallery space, theaters, audio-visual centers and special learning places for children. It will provide new galleries to display many more of the 13,000 works of art which a space shortage prevented showing. Touring the museum, we enjoyed beautiful American landscape and figurative paintings in the American and Western Art Galleries.
 
Mr. Ballinger brought several important issues to the table and made us aware of his standpoint from a non-technical perspective. We learned how new systems, programs and development have the potential to lead the museum astray from its mission to the community. Mr. Ballinger's concerns were well taken. We enjoyed our meeting with Mr. Ballinger; we learned new angles and had a fine lunch in the Museum's restaurant.
 

Scottsdale...Mar. 5

 
From the Phoenix Museum of Art, we went to the Fleischer Museum in Scottsdale. This private museum opened in 1990. During our visit, the "East Meets West, American Impressionism" exhibit was on display. This created an enjoyable comparison between Connecticut and California Impressionist artists. The attractive building that displays the art complements the nature of the collection. At the Fleischer we briefly met with the museum's founder, Morton Fleischer.
 

Tucson...Mar. 6

 
The last leg of this Cross-Country Networking Tour brought us to Tucson. After traveling for ten days, we were grateful for the hospitality from family friends, Jim and Grace Murphy. During our visit, we met with Robert Yassin, Director of the Tucson Museum of Art. After two and a half hours of in-depth conversation, we left the museum with new excellent insights. We were delighted to discuss several issues, one being that it is very important, with the rise of online technology, to reinforce that online displays of art should not and do not replace the experience of being in the presence of original work of art. Children of the future should not be led to believe that by seeing art on their computer screen, the art is real and a replacement for experiencing the original work. We enjoyed all asepect of this meeting and look forward to future conversations with Mr. Yassin.
 

Home...Mar. 7

 
We are appreciative of everyone we met with. We learned an incredible amount by listening to their anecdotes, points of view and visiting their fine facilities. For anyone planning to soon visit the United States, we earnestly encourage them to visit these museums.

 


This page was originally published in 1997 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 10/28/11

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