Picking Up the Slack
According to a survey conducted by the Business Committee for the Arts, business support for arts organizations in the United States reached an estimated $875 million in 1994. That figure represents a significant jump from the $518 million figure of the previous survey, which reflected business support for the year 1991. The survey also described a strong shift toward spending in the area of arts education and performing-arts centers at what the article termed “the expense of museums and conventional theaters.” (The New York Times, October 12, 1995, p. B-1.)
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Virtual Museum Visits
In an article entitled “Armchair Museum-Goer,” The Washington Post (Sunday, October 29, 1995) examines the National Gallery of Art’s new Micro Gallery, a virtual collection of 1,700 works from the N.G.A. where “you can cruise Monet’s brushwork at a range close enough to set off a museum alarm.” Built at a cost of $1.5 million (a gift from the American Express Company) plus $250,000 in renovation funds appropriated by Congress, “instant gratification is everything at the Micro Gallery, where you’ll never have to wait to ask a question, settle for a stupid answer or crane your neck to see past a gaggle of visitors draped in Acoustiguides.”
“But,” the article continues, “questions dangle over this costly enterprise: Will any of it — the expensive hardware, software and amusingly retrograde decor — actually contribute to a museum visitor’s enjoyment of art? More important, will it change the way we look at art? Or is this — like cafes and mall-size gift shops — just one more gimmick to keep crowds pouring in, whether they see any art or not?”
“Some maintain that all of these devices — from the Micro Gallery’s virtual museum to home CD-ROMs — provide nothing but an ersatz art experience, and one that endangers the true experience of looking at art. Kent Lydecker, associate director for education at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, disagrees, challenging what he calls this “naive adherence to the notion that the gallery visit is sacred.” “We’ve had art books for years, and they’ve only stimulated interest in looking at original objects,” Lydecker says. “All this computer activity,” he points out, “is just another aspect of educational publishing.”
In Good Taste
A visit to a museum is a great way to nourish the soul. But after several hours in the galleries, your body needs nourishment, too …” begins an article appearing in the October, 1995, issue of Bon Appetit magazine. The article continues by suggesting some “top spots in some top museums in both the United States and Europe.” They include:
Atlanta. Swan Coach House Restaurant at the Atlanta History Center. “The specialty is the chicken salad in puff pastry shells paired with slices of creamy frozen fruit salad … and don’t miss the French Silk Swan dessert, made of meringue, chocolate mousse, whipped cream and pastry.”
Boston. The Gardner Cafe in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, “…an intimate spot serving artful food like forest mushrooms with polenta; grilled chicken marinated in mustard, rosemary, garlic, and ginger; and an omelet filled with Boursin cheese.”
London. The Blue Print Cafe in the Design Museum. “Among the international dishes are hot spiced mussels with coconut and coriander, and roast pheasant with lentils, pancetta, and braised garlic.”
Los Angeles. Patinette at the Museum of Contemporary Art. “this neat spot attracts a mixed crowd for peppered roast beef sandwiches with potatoes and caramelized onions, crispy com salad with cilantro and rock shrimp, and more.”
New York. Sette Moma in (where else) the Museum of Modem Art. “. . . you might even spot an earnest curator or two romancing potential big donors over veal ravioli with wild mushroom sauce or pistachio créme brûllée.”
Paris. Le Restaurant in the Musée d’Orsay. “Intriguing food like an avocado-and-mango salad, duck breast with five-pepper sauce and crisp potato pancake is prepared here … .”
Don’t Believe The Artist!
Sister Wendy Beckett, the nun who made the highly successful art appreciation series for the BBC, said, “If an artist tells us what he painted, don’t believe him; look at the work for yourself and decide.”
An I.M.S. Grant for the Waikiki Aquarium The Waikiki Aquarium, in Honolulu, X Hawaii, has been awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum Services supporting the costs of operating the Aquarium’s Blue Water Marine Laboratory, which provides hands-on at sea oceanography lessons for more than 3,000 school children each year.
Reaching Visitors with Disabilities The Taft Museum, in Cincinnati, OH, has developed and published a set of outreach tours and a workbook for visitors with disabilities.
“With the advent of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the museum initiated a plan to educate staff and docents in creating tours that would appeal to persons with visual, audio, and developmental disabilities, emphasizing the introduction of the visual arts into their lives. The outgrowth of these tours was a workbook. Please Touch. The workbook is a comprehensive guide to touring visitors with disabilities, and was so successful with the Taft volunteers that we believe it would also be useful to other museums and historic sites.”
Handbooks can be ordered by contacting Jaye Yorio, in the Taft Museum Education Department, at (513) 241-0343, or writing to:
The Taft Museum, 316 Pike Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-4293.
Cost for the handbook is $5.00, plus Postage
“For Your Consideration,” The Docent Educator 5.3 (Spring 1996): 14-15.