Sixty-five years after the launch of its original Artmobile, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will once again bring traveling art exhibitions and educational offerings to audiences across the Commonwealth with VMFA on the Road: An Artmobile for the 21st Century. This state-of-the-art mobile museum and education studio makes its public debut on Oct. 30, 2018, in Fredericksburg at Hurkamp Park, 500 William Street.
The launch begins at 11 a.m. with Gov. Ralph Northam and VMFA Director Alex Nyerges providing remarks on the landmark occasion. After a ribbon-cutting ceremony, attendees will be invited to board the new Artmobile to view the inaugural exhibition, How Far Can Creativity Take You? VMFA Fellowship Artists, whichexplores the history and impact of VMFA’s fellowship program, the largest of its kind in the United States.
Food trucks and a band playing live music will be on hand during the launch event in Hurkamp Park. Guests can make a paper lantern with Kendra Wadsworth, a VMFA statewide artist and fellowship winner. VMFA on the Road will be open until 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 30. Tours will be limited to school groups from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, with public tours being offered on Friday, Nov. 3, from 7 to 9 p.m. during Fredericksburg’s First Friday. The Fredericksburg visit is organized in partnership with the Fredericksburg Area Museum.
The Artmobile Yesterday and Today
Beginning in 1953 the original Artmobile program brought art exhibitions and educational programs to colleges, schools, and community organizations across Virginia for 40 years, reaching 2.5 million people. For many Virginians, this unique art-museum-on-wheels was their first encounter with VMFA. Since then, museums around the country and throughout the world have created their own mobile museum experiences.
VMFA discontinued its Artmobile program in the early 1990s. As part of its 2015-20 strategic plan, and a renewed commitment to statewide outreach, museum leadership began exploring ways to bring this beloved program back. When the Commonwealth offered VMFA an 18-wheel tractor-trailer that includes 640 feet of display space, the museum began working with exhibition design firms Riggs Ward Design of Richmond and Explus Inc. in Sterling to design and fabricate a new and improved version of the Artmobile, equipped with cutting edge technology for 21st-century visitors.
“As a statewide art museum we are charged not only with welcoming visitors to our Richmond campus, but also with bringing art and educational programs to all corners of the Commonwealth,” says VMFA Director Alex Nyerges. “VMFA on the Road will allow us to significantly extend our reach so that every Virginian will have access to authentic works of art and arts-based educational programming regardless of their location or economic status. It is our hope that VMFA on the Road will transform lives and communities through the creative power of art.”
VMFA currently serves nearly 500,000 people beyond its Richmond campus each year through lectures, artist workshops, teacher trainings and traveling exhibitions hosted by more than 1,000 Statewide Partners, including schools, community centers, colleges and universities, libraries, hospitals and museums around the state. WithVMFA on the Road and Lettie Pate Evans Distance Learning Program (Evans 360°), the museum’s new digital outreach initiative, VMFA hopes to reach more than 1 million Virginians each year.
The Exhibition: How Far Can Creativity Take You? VMFA Fellowship Artists
VMFA on the Road’s inaugural exhibition explores the history and legacy of VMFA’s Statewide Fellowship Program with How Far Can Creativity Take You? VMFA Fellowship Artists. Since the program was established in 1940, VMFA has awarded more than $5 million to more than 1,300 undergraduate, graduate and professional artists, and graduate level art historians, all of whom were residents of the Commonwealth when they applied. Each year, up to 30 artists and art historians receive more than $162,000 in support.
How Far Can Creativity Take You? VMFA Fellowship Artists uses the work of former fellowship artists to examine how different mediums and techniques are used to create unique works of art. Featured artists include painters Cy Twombly and Benjamin Wigfall; photographers Sally Mann and Emmet Gowin; printmakers Dennis Winston and Ann Chenoweth; and television writer and director Vince Gilligan, among other Virginians.
Jeffrey Allison, VMFA manager of statewide programs and exhibitions, notes there will be original works of art on display, such as Wigfall’s painting, Chimneys. “We wouldn’t have resurrected the Artmobile, if we didn’t plan on including works from the museum collection as part of the program,” he says. “It’s what drew people to the Artmobile in the past, and it will always be the major attraction.”
The exhibition is divided into three sections, beginning with an introduction to VMFA and its unique history of serving the Commonwealth of Virginia. This history includes highlights of the statewide program as well as the history of the fellowship program, including video footage and historic images. An interactive digital map shows the location of where each VMFA fellow lives, or is from, and visitors can push additional buttons to uncover more information about the artist.
The second space is a gallery presenting works of art by fellowship winners along with in-depth video interviews with the artists, VMFA curators and educators. VMFA on the Road also includes a modular studio that can be used for interactive hands-on creativity. Visitors can participate in a collaborative project to be completed over the course of the tour and also create their own take-home projects.
In addition to bringing the museum experience to those outside Richmond, VMFA on the Road will include 21st-century digital components. From interactives featuring newly digitized collection images to classroom resources from the online Learn Portal, the mobile museum will be fully integrated with VMFA’s broader digital outreach efforts. In preparation for the mobile museum’s arrival, local secondary schools can also participate in the new Evans 360° program, which enables students to interact in real time with a VMFA educator broadcasting live from the museum’s galleries.
Two VMFA on the Road educators will staff the truck, with a separate driver transporting them from town to town. Like their Artmobile colleagues from the past, the educators and driver will set up the truck, greet our visitors, conduct tours, offer activities on-site and also work with local Statewide Partners to give lectures at community venues as well as hands-on workshops in schools and art studios.
VMFA on the Road will visit Hurkamp Park from Oct. 30 through Nov. 2. Its next scheduled stop is Nov. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m. in Lorton for the Workhouse Arts Center’s 10th anniversary. For details on the Artmobile’s schedule, visit vmfa.museum/on-the-road. The anticipated tour schedule consists of a combination of visits to K-12 schools, short residencies at community partners such as Boys and Girls Clubs, stops at community colleges and four-year institutions, visits to Museum Level Partners, and participation in large festivals and fairs throughout the state.
The initial 16-month tour will place special emphasis on reaching communities in Southwest, Southern, and Central Virginia, in addition to venues in all 21 of the Commonwealth’s planning districts. A VMFA on the Roadresidency will typically last three days.
In addition to the Commonwealth of Virginia, VMFA on the Road has received generous support from the following donors: The Council of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, William and Mary Greve Foundation, Inc., Francena T. Harrison Foundation Trust, Mr. and Mrs. William T. Miller, Dr. and Mrs. Harry A. Wellons, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Haywood Blakemore, James Hixon, Mr. and Mrs. Peter I. C. Knowles II, Wall Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. John W. West III, WestRock Foundation, Capital Bank, The Reverend Doctor Vienna Cobb Anderson, Louise B. Cochrane Foundation, Cooke Foundation, Ralph R. Crosby, Jr., Jeanann Gray Dunlap Foundation, Anne and Gus Edwards, Mr. and Mrs. David R. Frediani, Margaret R. Freeman, Mary Mills Freeman, Norfolk Southern Corporation, Joanne B. Robinson, and The Bob and Anna Lou Schaberg Fund at the Virginia Nonprofit Housing Coalition.
(via the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Rendering of VMFA on the Road by Riggs Ward.)