Vir­ginia Mu­seum re­launch­ing ‘Art­mo­bile’

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT - BY MARY LEE CLARK

Jef­frey Al­li­son was six years old when his aunt picked him up from his home and told him they were go­ing to an art mu­seum. Be­ing from a small town in south­west Vir­ginia, Al­li­son thought he was in for a long trip. He said he was sur­prised when his aunt drove only 20 min­utes.

“We got out of the car and I had the most amaz­ing — lit­tle six-year-old eyes got big — ex­pe­ri­ence go­ing on the Vir­ginia Mu­seum Art­mo­bile,’’ Al­li­son said. “Then years later, win­ning two fel­low­ships, and now I’m here help­ing to restart the pro­gram.’’

Al­li­son is now the Vir­ginia Mu­seum of Fine Art’s Paul Mel­lon Col­lec­tion Ed­u­ca­tor and man­ager of statewide pro­grams and ex­hi­bi­tions.

He is work­ing to bring back the Art­mo­bile, the VMFA mo­bile mu­seum that toured the state from 1953 to 1994 and in­spired him as a child.

“It is not just a mo­bile room with art­works hang­ing in it,’’ Al­li­son said. “It’s the ex­pe­ri­ence of com­ing and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing real works of art in your com­mu­nity that you don’t nec­es­sar­ily have ac­cess to.’’

Set to launch in the fall of 2018, the new Art­mo­bile, called “VMFA on the Road,’’ will take the ba­sic con­cept of the old Art­mo­bile and up­date it with mod­ern tech­nol­ogy.

“It won’t be the old Art­mo­bile be­cause the old Art­mo­bile was es­sen­tially a mov­ing ex­hibit. It was works from the col­lec­tion put on a truck and driven around,’’ said Michael Taylor, chief cu­ra­tor and deputy di­rec­tor for art and education. “That was re­ally ground­break­ing in the 1950s and 1960s, but what we’re plan­ning is re­ally some­thing — it’s Art­mo­bile 2.0.’’

Ex­hibit de­sign firms Riggs Ward and Ex­plus will cre­ate a mo­bile ex­hibit that is also a mo­bile class­room. “VMFA on the Road’’ will fea­ture an in­ter­ac­tive learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with staff ed­u­ca­tors, dis­tance learn­ing and vir­tual re­al­ity tours of ex­hibits at the VMFA. “VMFA on the Road’’ will bring a taste of the full ex­pe­ri­ence of go­ing to the mu­seum in Rich­mond.

Ex­hibits will change every 18 months start­ing with a show­case of works by the par­tic­i­pants in the VMFA’s Fel­low­ship pro­gram, which pro­vides fund­ing for the vis­ual arts and art his­tory in Vir­ginia. And, when the fel­lows are avail­able, they will come speak to “VMFA on the Road’’ vis­i­tors.

The orig­i­nal Art­mo­bile pro­gram was the brain­child of Les­lie Cheek Jr., an ar­chi­tect and di­rec­tor of the VMFA from 1948 to 1968, to ad­dress the lack of ex­hibit spa­ces in the state.

David S. Hud­son, a for­mer VMFA spokesman, de­scribed the Art­mo­bile in the 1966 Art Jour­nal as a way “the Vir­ginia Mu­seum can bring top-notch ex­hi­bi­tions to col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties in the state that find it dif­fi­cult to ac­quire their own rep­re­sen­ta­tive col­lec­tions of art.’’

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