February 7, 2018

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription


In this issue:

Mom-and-pop art supply shop stands test of time
The Story Behind Northern India’s Breathtaking, Disappearing Frescoes
Trump asked to borrow a Van Gogh painting for the White House. He was offered a golden toilet instead
Shimmery bacteria plus a canvas equals art, briefly
Newly Discovered Mesolithic Crayon Is Among World’s Oldest
Art therapy provides an outlet for medical school stress
LOUVRE DISPLAYS ART LOOTED BY NAZIS, HOPES TO FIND OWNERS
As Museum Attendance Declines, One Institute Argues Audience Engagement Is on the Rise

 

 

 

 

Mom-and-pop art supply shop stands test of time

Given their spacing and cohesiveness, it is fairly easy to overlook a house or two driving southwest down Washington Avenue. Being built as close together as they are, the buildings pass as quickly as they appear — though one stands out as Waco’s primary stop for fine art supplies.

The only indication that the house is a business, rather than merely a home, is a large sign in the front yard reading “MC Art Supplies.” Their shop serves as one of many mom-and-pops in Waco that have stood the test of time.

MC Art Supplies has been operating for over 50 years out of the home-turned-business at 2025 Washington Ave. When MC’s existence was threatened by retiring owners Rose and Clyde Bush, current owners Aaron and Jessica Williams were living out of an Airstream travel trailer in Waco. On their third wedding anniversary, Aaron and Jessica signed the papers to their new home in the back of an art supply store, embarking on an adventure they expected in the least.

“I never would have in a million years thought I would be owning a retail business like this, and here we are,” Aaron said. “I love it, though. I wake up and walk 10 feet that way, and I’m at work.”

Having lived with his wife in a small trailer for three years, the transition into the store was no problem. “Not everyone would do it, but this is totally enough for us,” Aaron said about living in the back of the shop. Compared to the Airstream trailer, “This feels like the Taj Mahal.”

Aaron said his and Jessica’s differing talents and abilities compliment one another’s, making for an ideal partnership both in business and in life.

“I love her so much,” he said. “She’s a good mix of left and right brain. She’s definitely the brains and the beauty behind the operation.”

As for himself, Aaron accredited his social and entrepreneurial personality to his contributions to the business. “I like to make the connections and be that person that people can pop in and say ‘hi’ to,” he said.

As a business owner, Aaron said his priority is to ensure customers feel at home, which is exactly what he said sets them apart as a store.

“People can walk in and feel comfortable, like we’re not just trying to up-sell them or anything,” he said.

Aaron also said they make the shopping experience less overwhelming by offering an assortment of products in a smaller space.

“Hobby Lobby and Michaels — they carry a lot of the stuff we do too — but if you go there, you probably won’t find everything you’re looking for right off the bat,” Aaron said. “We’d like to be that go-to spot that they can say, ‘Oh, everything you need is over there’.”

In addition to providing supplies for the professional artists living in Waco, MC operates in conjunction with Baylor’s art department. When art students need supplies at the beginning of the semester, they make their way down Washington Avenue toward the tiny white home, where Aaron and Jessica have spent hours assembling packages of supplies for each studio class and instructor. The packages include everything students will need throughout the semester.

This, Aaron said, not only benefits himself and Jessica as business owners, but the students as well; MC functions as a reliable resource should students need anything for their classes.

“If a student needs something for class, they should never feel hesitant to reach out to us,” he said, adding that he is passionate about helping artists in general.

“I just love the clientele. Even though I don’t call myself an artist in that way, I really care about like their process and like what they put into it,” he said. “It’s just interesting to contribute to that side of happiness.”

Waco junior Mack Williams first heard about MC through the art department. As a fine arts major, she quickly developed a relationship with the former owners.

When Mack heard the owners were retiring and likely closing, she reached out to her brother Aaron and his wife Jessica with the information.

“I thought it would be special for them because they’re already a couple, they’re very entrepreneurial, they’re staying in Waco,” she said.

Even though Aaron has a degree in music and Jessica in marketing, to Mack, they were a great fit for the store because of their enthusiasm and passion for their city.

“Aaron is really passionate about Waco,” she said. “His contribution to the art scene will be special.”

This is exactly what Aaron said he hopes for himself and his wife. With Waco growing in all directions, Aaron said they are excited to be right in the midst of it.

“We really jumped in at the right place at the right time,” he said. “Of course there’s bigger cities that have more to offer, but I very much am happy to be [in Waco]. It’s not just a fad. I’ve been here, and I love this place. There’s a lot of charm that people don’t realize.” Baylor Lariat

 

The Story Behind Northern India’s Breathtaking, Disappearing Frescoes
The Shekhawati region covers almost 5,000 square miles and hosts an estimated 2,000 frescoed buildings built from the 17th to the early 20th century.

MANDAWA, INDIA: Some artistic wonders have been unearthed as buried treasures. Others are hidden in plain sight. India’s Shekhawati province is in the northeastern Rajasthani desert and more than seven hours by car from Delhi. The region covers almost 5,000 square miles and hosts an estimated 2,000 frescoed buildings built from the 17th to the early 20th century. Many of them are abandoned and most are breathtakingly beautiful. Arguably the world’s largest collection of outdoor painting, Shekhawati is a treasure trove of startling architecture and adornment.

Driving through Indian agricultural towns, you can spy these buildings, called “havelis,” through the dust. Decorated with historic frescos, many are in a state of gentle but inexorable disintegration. The owners — almost all of the havelis are privately owned — have either abandoned the properties or rented them out to local people.

The Shekhawati region sits strategically in the middle of what was once the major trade caravan or “Silk Road” between modern-day India, Pakistan, China, and beyond. Over several centuries local merchants became rich in the trade and transport of opium, cotton, and spices. These communities became collectively known as “Marwari,” referring to the wily traders who brought commercial savvy and great wealth to the district. As a public show of their success, the Marwari commissioned ostentatious homes — the more elaborate the haveli, the richer and more prestigious its owner. As overland trade routes shifted to the seaports of Mumbai and Calcutta, the traders followed, moving their families, but maintaining and continuing to commission frescos for their Shekhawati havelis. Think of it as the Hamptons of Rajasthan.

Havelis were almost always built in the same basic form: two-storied with two to four inner courtyards, all in rectangular layout. Each courtyard and the rooms surrounding it were used for specific purposes; the first was always for men and their public business dealings. As one entered deeper, the rooms and courtyards became more intimate, used for various family purposes.

The frescos that adorn these buildings are a triumph of artistic expression and of the luck of climate, materials, and isolation. The dry heat of the desert and the use of 100% natural pigments in the plaster have proved surprisingly archival. The colors have remained rich and vibrant, although the interior exposures are much better preserved than the exteriors. The oldest of the frescos are painted using ochre, red and white lead, cinnabar, indigo, lapis, copper carbonate, Indian yellow (made from cow’s urine), lamp black, lime white, red stone powder, and saffron orange. The result is a vivid palate, augmented in some of the interior rooms by 22-karat-gold leafing. Later frescos incorporated synthetic pigments imported from Europe.

I visited the two main towns of the region, Mandawa and Nawalgarh, where there is a large concentration of havelis, but they are everywhere in the surrounding region. A few havelis have been preserved as small museums, where for a few rupees one can freely wander around the rooms and explore the labyrinth of courtyards, stairways, and balconies. The Haveli Heritage Trust in Nawalgarh is one of the best known and organized. Many havelis stand largely empty or barely used, but some are still inhabited.

In Mandawa I visited a haveli rented to a local family. After passing through a courtyard, I was ushered into the family bedroom. I looked up to find the entire room — walls and ceiling — painted with a mythological love story and gilded in 22-karat gold leaf. There was no electricity in the building, but the sunlight streaming through unglazed windows gave the room a brilliant glow.

For the most part the frescos tell glorious tales of the gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. Mythological armies march across ceilings, goddesses perch on the walls, and elephants dance in the corners. Ganesha, the Hindu god associated closely with money and wealth, is honored many times over. Border motifs tend to use either decorative designs common to the era, or portray local flora and fauna, which give us a catalogue of the region’s natural history. Many display great playfulness, portraying the patron of the house and his family delighting in the interplay of two-dimensional painting and three-dimensional architecture.

In the more recent havelis (dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries) we see the appearance of trains, hot-air balloons, and white people. The English colonizers make their appearance in the frescos as awkward figures. There is a sly political statement embedded in these funny, stiff depictions of the British, set against the elegance of the Indian gods and goddesses. The English are wearing way too much clothing for the heat of the Rajasthan desert; they stare with empty expressions at one another. One could argue that the painters were merely recording what they saw, but as one often finds in the art made under oppression, the painters and their patrons were likely proclaiming their views of the colonizers.

While remarkably intact for their age, these national treasures are being lost over time to neglect and reckless modernization. Local guides say there is an effort afoot to put this region on the UNESCO list of heritage sites, a complex and unlikely prospect given the havelis’ private ownership and their vast geographical span. (Hyperallergic reached out to UNESCO for comment, but received no response.) The Shekhawati frescos are off the well-worn Indian tourist path and difficult to get to, but you should see them if you can. They won’t last forever. Hyperallergic

 

Trump asked to borrow a Van Gogh painting for the White House. He was offered a golden toilet instead.

The emailed response from the Guggenheim's chief curator to the White House was polite but firm: the museum could not accommodate a request to "borrow" a painting by Vincent Van Gogh for President Donald and Melania Trump's private living quarters.

Instead, wrote the curator, Nancy Spector, another piece was available, one that was nothing like "Landscape with Snow," the lovely 1888 Van Gogh rendering of a man in a black hat walking along a path in Arles with his dog.

The curator's alternative: an 18-karat, fully functioning, solid gold toilet - an interactive work entitled "America" that critics have described as pointed satire aimed at the excess of wealth in this country.

For a year, the Guggenheim had exhibited "America" - the creation of contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan — in a public restroom on the museum's fifth floor for visitors to use.

But the exhibit was over and the toilet was available "should the President and First Lady have any interest in installing it in the White House," Spector wrote in an email obtained by the Washington Post.

The artist "would like to offer it to the White House for a long-term loan," wrote Spector, who has been critical of Trump. "It is, of course, extremely valuable and somewhat fragile, but we would provide all the instructions for its installation and care."

Sara Eaton, a Guggenheim spokeswoman, confirmed that Spector wrote the email last Sept. 15 to Donna Hayashi Smith of the White House's Office of the Curator. Spector, who has worked in various capacities at the museum for 29 years, was unavailable to talk about her offer, Eaton said.

The White House did not respond to inquiries about the matter.

Cattelan, reached by phone in New York, referred questions about the toilet to the Guggenheim, saying with a chuckle, "It's a very delicate subject." Asked to explain the meaning of his creation and why he offered it to the Trumps, he said, "What's the point of our life? Everything seems absurd until we die and then it makes sense."

He declined to reveal the cost of the gold it took to create "America," though it has been estimated to have been more than $1 million.

"I don't want to be rude, I have to go," the artist said, before hanging up.

It is common for presidents and first ladies to borrow major works of art to decorate the Oval Office, the first family's residence and various rooms at the White House. The Smithsonian loaned the Kennedys a Eugene Delacroix painting entitled "The Smoker." The Obamas preferred abstract art, choosing works by Mark Rothko and Jasper Johns.

On the face of it, President Trump might appreciate an artist's rendering of a gilded toilet, given his well-documented history of installing gold-plated fixtures in his residences, properties and even his airplane. But the president is also a well-known germophobe, and it's an open question whether he would accept a previously used toilet, 18-karat or otherwise.

Cattelan's "America" caused something of a sensation after the Guggenheim unveiled it in 2016 and more than a few headlines.

"WE'RE NO. 1! (And No. 2)" was the New York Post's front page offering, the huge lettering over a photograph of the toilet. The tabloid's coverage included a reporter's first-person account ("I Rode the Guggenheim's Golden Throne") and a photograph of that reporter seated on the toilet (reading his own newspaper, naturally).

The museum posted a uniformed security guard outside the bathroom to monitor the "more than 100,000 people" who waited "patiently in line for the opportunity to commune with art and with nature," Spector wrote in a Guggenheim blog post last year. Every 15 minutes or so, a crew would arrive with specially chosen wipes to clean the gold.

Cattelan, 57, is well-known in the art world for his satirical and provocative creations, including a sculpture depicting Pope John Paul II lying on the ground after being hit by a meteorite. Another was a child-sized sculpture of an adult Hitler, kneeling. The artist's works have sold for millions of dollars.

Cattelan has resisted interpreting his work, telling interviewers he would leave that to his audience. He conceived of the gold toilet prior to Trump's candidacy for president, though he has acknowledged that he may have been influenced by the mogul's almost unavoidable place in American culture.

"It was probably in the air," he told a Guggenheim blogger in 2016 as "America" went on display.

Cattelan has also suggested that he had in mind the wealth that permeates aspects of society, describing the golden toilet "as one-percent art for the ninety-nine percent." "Whatever you eat, a two-hundred-dollar lunch or a two-dollar hot dog, the results are the same, toilet-wise," he has said.

Cattelan is not the first artist to immortalize a bathroom fixture. In 1917, Marcel Duchamp, the French Dada-ist, unveiled "Fountain," a porcelain urinal that was rejected when he initially submitted it for exhibition. A replica is owned by the Tate galleries in London.

At the Guggenheim, when Cattelan raised the notion of a gold toilet in mid-2015, Spector, the curator, embraced the idea and got approval from the museum's director, Richard Armstrong. Asked if Armstrong supported the curator's offer of the toilet to the White House, the Guggenheim's spokeswoman replied, "We have nothing further to add."

The curator, in blog posts and on social media, has made plain her political leanings.

"This must be the first day of our revolution to take back our beloved country from hatred, racism and intolerance," Spector wrote on Instagram a day after Trump's 2016 election. Her post was accompanied by a Robert Mapplethorpe photo of a frayed American flag.

"Don't mourn, organize," the curator wrote.

Last August, as the Cattelan's "America" was approaching its final weeks, Spector wrote on the Guggenheim blog that Trump had "resonated so loudly" during the sculpture's time at the museum. She described his term as having been "marked by scandal and defined by the deliberate rollback of countless civil liberties, in addition to climate change denial that puts our planet in peril."

A month later, the curator crafted her response to the White House's request for Van Gogh's "Landscape with Snow." She explained that the painting — "prohibited from travel except for the rarest of occasions" — was on its way to be exhibited at the Guggenheim's museum in Bilbao, Spain, and then it would return to New York "for the foreseeable future."

"Fortuitously," Spector wrote, Cattelan's "America" was available after having been "installed in one of our public restrooms for all to use in a wonderful act of generosity."

She included with the email a photograph of the toilet "for your reference."

"We are sorry not to be able to accommodate your original request," the curator concluded, "but remain hopeful that this special offer may be of interest." Chicago Tribune

 

Shimmery bacteria plus a canvas equals art, briefly

You could do worse than bioluminescent bacteria. Should you be in the market for a loyal friend or modest co-worker: Bioluminescent bacteria will never fake a sick day, flake out or decline to show up. They always arrive on time, champing at the bit, never overstaying their welcome, and they will not steal your lunch from the break room: They are not those kind of bacteria. Bioluminescent bacteria generate a chemical reaction that creates light in 1,500 known aquatic species — at least, the kind of bioluminescent bacteria that Hunter Cole hangs out with, the kind found in Pacific rockfish.

The other day, Cole, a biologist at Loyola University, roused her sleeping bioluminescent friends, swirling a beaker full, giving them oxygen. A moment later, the sloshing liquid cast off a ghostly oceanic glow. Bioluminescent bacteria always remember to look good.

uch choice. They live and die for the art that Cole makes with them, painting with live bacteria the way other artists use, well, paint. On Saturday, at ARC Gallery in Bucktown, for the conclusion of an exhibit of photographs of her work, Cole will show live bacterial drawings. Which doesn’t mean anthropomorphized microorganisms wearing funny hats or something. Cole paints elegant hieroglyphic-like abstractions using live bacteria. She slathers bioluminescent bacteria across Mardi Gras-like headdresses and the skeletal latticework of old hoop skirts, then photographs nude models wearing the costumes. She shoots wedding portraits, lit by only an otherworldly bacterial phosphorous blue-green.

Her bioluminescent bacteria never second-guess.

But they do set their own clocks. Without a hand to slosh them around, they take about 12 hours to reveal themselves on a canvas, then glow for two weeks, only to run out of nutrients, gradually lose their luster and die. Somewhere in there, however, you get an artwork, one calling attention to decay and mortality, to the beauty of the natural world.

This is called BioArt.

If art helps us to better understand what it means to be alive, you might say the intention of BioArt is to help us understand what it means to be alive at a cellular level — at a moment when technology has complicated that meaning. It doesn’t necessarily mean art about science. “BioArt is a new art form predicated on something unprecedented in the history of art: the manipulation or creation of life,” said Eduardo Kac, a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and pioneering bio artist. And yet science itself “does not resonate with me any more than other sectors of culture. Is painting chemistry? Not in the hands of Kandinsky. If I work with a medium, it becomes an art medium.” Last year, Kac, along with a handful of other bio artists, posted an online manifesto for the emerging world of BioArt, a litany of parameters, including a rule that BioArt must use some form of biomaterial (cells, DNA) to be considered genuine BioArt.

As with many art manifestoes, dabblers were separated from the rigorous, the serious art from the kitsch. And also like many art manifestoes for an emerging form, it sounds prematurely constricting. BioArt, as a genre, is roughly 20 years old. Cole herself, despite being a leading practitioner of bioluminescent art, does not always use overt biomaterial in art. She teaches genetics labs and an art-and-science class at Loyola; she has a Ph.D. in genetics. She thinks of BioArt as art that’s rooted, somewhat, in the imagery of the natural world. And unlike many bio artists, she is a trained scientist, though she refers to herself as “not a scientist making art, but an artist working in science.”

She said science is the vehicle and art is the motivation.

Or is that vice versa?

On a wall of her office in the Quinlan Life Sciences Building on Loyola’s lakeside campus, there is a painting she created (with ordinary oil-based paints) that shows a smiling monkey and ethereal female figure before a volcanic orange wave and deep red backdrop. Could be a ’60s freakout, or an Adult Swim dream sequence. “Oh,” she said, “that’s about malaria. You can also see in it chloroquine, this inexpensive treatment for malaria that malaria is now resistant to. The background is really the life cycle of the malaria parasite, and there is a red blood cell and sickle cells and a female figure is pregnant because women who are pregnant the first time are at special risk for malaria.”

And the monkey?

“I just liked it.”

And this other one, reminiscent of the Chicago Imagists, or a Hello Kitty fever dream?

“Well, that there is chloroplast, like a part of a plant cell, and this is a mitochondrion, and it’s thought that both might have evolved through endosymbiosis, so now you’re probably wondering what is endosymbiosis? The point of it is, well, you have prokaryotic cells with no internal compartments, then new cells evolved with internal compartments, so it’s thought prokaryotic cells engulfed one another — I guess just I wanted it to be fun.”

Fun — like the paintings on the wall of the third-flood atrium at Quinlan, part of a series of 14 works from Cole that the school bought and installed two years ago, some of which are outlines in bright LED lights, revealing a dense wilderness of squiggles and kidney beans and female forms and bunny rabbits and Matisse-like cut-out abstraction?

“That’s oil on canvas,” she said, standing before the wall, “and what you see there are infectious agents and nerve cells and invasive Great Lake species like zebra mussels and spiny water fleas and Eurasian watermilfoils. The dots are microarrays that detect DNA and protein expression. The rabbits — they’re not science-related. This is not me illustrating science. This is me showing science through an art. And those are sperm.”

A student seated beneath the wall removed his headphones, looked over his shoulder, shrugged, returned the headphones to his ears and continued studying, unimpressed.

Though science and art tend to be regarded as philosophical polar caps, for the past dozen years, among the most popular classes at Loyola has been Cole’s Biology Through Art course, which teaches ecological concepts, cell structure, molecular biology — all through art assignments. Cole asks students to write music based on DNA sequences, to create interpretative pieces centered on their relationship to protozoa. To an extent, its key lesson is that science and art have more in common than we assume — though science is associated with linear thinking and art with imagination, both are rooted in open-ended professions, defined by its creativity, building off of precedents.

“I think we can agree that creativity is simply an ability to put together ideas,” said Joe Davis, a biologist and artist at both Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, as well as a key figure in the BioArt movement. “Artists have always been interested in the secrets of life, because artists, like scientists, are interested in those qualities of vitality that function to distinguish life and death. It’s an old thing. Environmental art of the ’60s and ’70s set the stage, advances in molecular biology reinforced it — now you get art that exploits these powerful new tools for poetic purposes, for the reasons typically associated with artists.”

Is he an artist or a scientist?

“I let everyone else argue that.”

Likewise, Cole’s office alone suggests an academic with no easy description: Easels stacked beside thick volumes on plant biology, tubes of paint beneath science journals. She’s from San Francisco, studied plant genetics at the University of California, Berkeley, received her Ph.D. in genetics from University of Wisconsin-Madison. “But I didn’t start doing art in a serious way until the late ’90s, when experiments I was doing weren’t working out,” she said. “Which happens in science, but I was feeling despondent. My dad offered me a trip to Paris. There, I saw paintings I had only seen in books, and I guess I was inspired, and because of what was already in me, a kind of biomorphic style just started to spill out.” Her first paintings, which hang on her office walls, are colorful figurative abstractions — presuming the Blob was her model.

She arrived at the dawn of BioArt, and “was considered an early, necessary starter in all this,” Davis remembers, “because understand, she came at art from the perspective of the sciences, not from an art-speak background — she spoke a different vocabulary.”

She steadily made a name for herself, creating art works about human cloning, HIV, reproduction, radioactivity. “People would assume it was a protest of radioactivity and misinterpret, but I was using radioactivity in lab experiments, so I wanted to say there are positive aspects to biotechnology — really, it was kind of the opposite of protest art.”

She picked up on bioluminescent art after watching a professor in Wisconsin draw a heart in bacteria for his wife, as a Valentine’s Day gift. “Which spoke to me, because, artwise, there was just so much there. The work would glow and then die over time, you couldn’t exactly see what you were creating unless you looked at the piece in a certain way, and ironically, one of the purposes of some bioluminescence is to attract a mate.”

She explained this in a basement lab at Loyola, hunched over a petri dish filled with a clear, gelatinous agar, the Jell-O-ish canvas that doubles as an all-you-can-eat buffet for her bacteria. She drew light, firm lines into a wobbling surface, careful not to push hard.

“You don’t want to gouge the agar,” she said.

It looked more like doodling on a foggy window with a finger than making art. It looked delicate and sure, and also like nothing — at least not for about 12 more hours, until the bacteria would glow as they might at the bottom of an ocean. Here, instead, for a brief time, they lived for art. Chicago Tribune

 

Newly Discovered Mesolithic Crayon Is Among World’s Oldest
Archaeologists discovered a 10,000-year-old elongated piece of ochre with a sharpened end in Britain.

Archaeologists at the University of York say they may have found one of the earliest examples of a crayon: a 10,000-year-old elongated piece of ochre with a sharpened end. The tool was found near an ancient lake in North Yorkshire, a landscape with a rich Mesolithic archaeological record. Its finding might help archaeologists better understand how prehistoric hunter-gatherers worked with pigments.

Just 22mm long and 7mm wide, the object’s surface has grooves and surfaces, as the scientists note in their study, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. These lines are possible traces of someone using the object against granular surfaces, which would yield red marks. Its sharpened end also suggests that the piece was used as a kind of drawing or coloring tool. The archaeologists likewise found a small ochre pebble with deep striations, which they believe was used to harvest red pigment powder.

“Color was a very significant part of hunter-gatherer life and ochre gives you a very vibrant red color,” Dr. Andy Needham, the lead author of the study, said in a press release. “It is very important in the Mesolithic period and seems to be used in a number of ways.”

The object, which the team described as “fragile and powdery,” also sustained three nick marks on its ends from the excavation process, which fortuitously enabled them to examine its internal structure. Unlike its surface, the object’s interior is bright red, strengthening the argument that people once wore down one end to produce eye-catching pigment. It’s likely that this ancient crayon was even used to make art.

“The pebble and crayon were located in an area already rich in art,” Needham said. “It is possible there could have been an artistic use for these objects, perhaps for coloring animal skins or for use in decorative artwork.” Hyperallergic

 

Art therapy provides an outlet for medical school stress

Art therapy isn’t just for patients. It can also be helpful to medical professionals and students, helping them to cope with stress and trauma.

Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine instructor Lisa Ennis has incorporated art therapy into a Foundations of Medicine class that first-year students at the college take. Ennis lectures on the topic and encourages students to use art as an outlet to help their future patients and themselves.

Ennis’s lessons on art therapy aren’t some granola, touchy-feely kumbayaism – studies show that art activities can greatly benefit patients processing emotions related to injury and illness and help medical professionals handle their own feelings regarding the pain and suffering they encounter in their work.

A recent study cited by Ennis found that high cortisol levels – which can be linked to diminished learning and memory function, lower immune system response, and several other problems – were reduced significantly after art therapy activities.

“There’s science behind this,” Ennis said.

Max Jabaay is an ACOM student who recently participated in art therapy activities led by Ennis. Jabaay said he never realized he was burned out until he took the Foundations of Medicine course. Jabaay said working as a firefighter and in an ER in Chicago before starting his studies at ACOM had caused him to suppress emotions related to the pain and damage he encountered in his work.

He continued to use this coping mechanism in medical school, but ultimately found it unhealthy. Jabaay said art activities gave him a better way to process the impact of his work. Jabaay recently completed a set of scrubs inscribed with short poems he wrote about his work.

Patrick Abler, another ACOM student, said he enjoyed Ennis’s lessons, as they allowed him to tap into skills other than the ones he’s developing in medical school.

“I have an art background,” he said. “Art is a great destresser, it’s very therapeutic.”

Giving students something to focus on other than medical school studies helps refresh them, Ennis said.

“It utilizes a part of the brain different than the part they’re using to study,” she said. “It gives them a break.” Dothan Eagle

 

LOUVRE DISPLAYS ART LOOTED BY NAZIS, HOPES TO FIND OWNERS

PARIS: The Louvre Museum is putting 31 paintings on permanent display in an effort to find the rightful owners of those and other works of art looted by Nazis during World War II.

The Paris museum opened two showrooms last month to display the paintings, which are among thousands of works of art looted by German forces in France between 1940 and 1945.

More than 45,000 objects have been handed back to their rightful owners since the war, but more than 2,000 remain unclaimed, including 296 paintings stored at the Louvre.

"These paintings don't belong to us. Museums often looked like predators in the past, but our goal is to return them," Sebastien Allard, the head of the paintings department at the Louvre, told The Associated Press in an interview on Tuesday.

"The large majority of the retrieved artworks have been plundered from Jewish families during World War II. Beneficiaries can see these artworks, declare that these artworks belong to them, and officially ask for their return."

The paintings in the new showrooms are from various artists of different eras and horizons, including a remarkable landscape from Theodore Rousseau, "La Source du Lizon."

Other more famous looted works had already been on display in the museum, but visitors did not necessarily know they had been stolen by the Nazis. In museums, pieces of art retrieved by the French authorities are identified with the label "MNR," French initials for National Museums Recovery.

"We needed to draw attention further to the matter and raise public awareness," said Allard. "We thought it was important to highlight the specific case of these works, which are not listed on our inventories."

The Louvre initiative is the latest effort by French authorities to find heirs of families who lost their artwork. A working group set up by the Culture Ministry is in charge of tracing back the origins of the art and identifying owners. But it's a long and laborious task: only some 50 pieces have been returned since 1951.

"People who come forward need, for instance, to establish the proof that the artwork belonged to their grandfather," Allard said. "They need to find old family pictures and payment slips, or gather testimonies. It can take years."

In addition to the display of art in several museums across the country, French authorities have also designed an MNR catalog , which is available online and can help owners identify their items without traveling to the Louvre. The complete list is known under the name of Rose Valland, a French curator who risked her life keeping notes on all the art the Nazis stole during the war. WSB Radio

 

As Museum Attendance Declines, One Institute Argues Audience Engagement Is on the Rise
The National Center for Arts Research, which was created in 2012 by the Meadows School of the Arts and the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, says museums “have the highest average number of touch points, both in-person and total.”

In a response to an earlier article regarding the reported general decline in the number of visitors to art museums, the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) responded with a comment that intriguingly complicates this situation. They wrote:

In our Edition 3 Report, we found Art Museums had the highest community engagement, whether or not virtual participation was taken into account. They engage about half of their total touch points in-person and half virtually. In absolute terms, compared to other sectors they have the highest average number of touch points, both in-person and total.

The NCAR is an organization created in 2012 by the Meadows School of the Arts and the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. Jennifer Armstrong, their associate director, conveyed their aims to me. She says that NCAR seeks “to act as a catalyst for the transformation and sustainability of the national arts and cultural community.” They affirm that with this goal in mind they look to provide understanding of arts attendance and patronage; how management, audience attendance, and patronage affect each other; and the general fiscal trends and stability of the industry. In developing their Edition 3 report, published in December 2015 with data collected from 3,115 organizations during 2010–2013, they relied on several data sources. Among these sources are DataArts’ Cultural Data Profile (CDP), Theatre Communications Group’s annual fiscal and attendance survey, the Census Bureau, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.

Their Edition 3 report concludes that although in real numbers audiences may be declining, art museums are engaging people in more ways than in-person visiting. They claim to create a more holistic view of engagement by looking at how art museums interact with members of their communities in terms of participating in digitally transmitted programs, volunteering, using the museum as a classroom, donating objects, and employing staffs. The report also breaks down “in-person” touch points which excludes virtual engagement with digital programming. Armstrong states that they do count an aggregate of touch points per organization, realizing that some people will have only one point of contact, that is, touch point, and others will have many (for example being a visitor, donor, and volunteer).

This methodology does strike me as more useful in determining the cultural reach and significance of arts organizations than merely counting visitors, because on the face of it, a museum can be meaningful to me in the other ways stated above — and perhaps in particular for primary- and secondary-school-age children who have grown up with electronic devices as interfaces for experience. In fact, according to NCAR, art museums engage about half of their total touch points in-person and half virtually. Armstrong relates that “virtual attendance” statistics arrive via organizations reporting to the CDP and include attendance facilitated through media, such as viewers, listeners, readers, and online attendees to online performances or events. This then comports with industry wide efforts to digitize more resources for visitors and expand the menu of media choices within art museums.

At the same time, it is crucial to note that the data given by NCAR only indicates frequency, that is, the number of touch points, but this data does not indicate the duration, depth or quality of engagement. Indeed, this is why organizations such as the Visitor Studies Group and Visitor Studies Association exist: to provide an apparatus and forum for scholarly research on what visitors experience in a museum or similar venue, and how this experience can be broadened, deepened, and replicated. The idea of touch points is an innovative way of thinking about how museums impact our lives, even when we are not visiting them.

And then, in the final analysis is the crucial question pertaining to the value of virtual attendance when considered in comparison with in-person visiting. I have long argued and continue to contend that one of the key functions of the public museum is to make private experience available to public appraisal and consideration. The space of the civic is precisely the space constituted by museums (and similar institutions) that can bring publics together to generate useful friction: bumping up against ideas and encounters that can abrade away our intellectual certainty, making it possible to be receptive to new knowledge. The world of virtual, electronic exploration tends to consist of insular, solipsistic encounters that do not equip us to live in a world full of other people. If the museum is to survive, I hold that it has to find ways to bring people together, even if these ways sometimes yield to discomfort and difficult conversations. Engagement needs to be thought of as opportunities for growth. Hyperallergic

 

 

 

 

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