Winning with Art History

By: Andrew McGivern, curator of exhibitions on August 10th, 2011

Last March, I blogged about the Woodson Art Museum’s Art History 101 program. It is designed to appeal to adults who wish to learn more about the broader subject of art. The program is presented in the evening on the first Thursday of every month and repeated over the lunch hour two weeks later. It’s tied to a family hands-on activity in an adjoining space that highlights the artwork and techniques of the artist featured in the Art History 101 presentation.

Last week, I examined the life and artwork of American sculptor Alexander “Sandy” Calder. Calder, whose father and grandfather were prominent American sculptors, is best known for his colorful mobile and stabile sculptures.

Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1976
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

I’ve always enjoyed Calder’s work, and one of my favorites is his seventy-foot red-and-black mobile hanging in the atrium of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington. It’s a majestic sculpture that moves freely with the breeze.

In my lectures, I like to combine images with video. With Calder, I was able to capture archival footage of the artist from the 1950s showing a performance of his circus, or Cirque Calder, in Paris. Calder began making small circus figures of wire and other materials shortly after moving to Paris in the late 1920s; he gave these performances at social events in Paris and New York.
My recent audience consisted mainly of art enthusiasts, including Museum docents. At this lecture I also was honored to have my 92-year-old mother-in-law in attendance. She listened to my presentation and later told me she thought I did a really good job. Our visitor Services desk staff member told me that others who attended the lecture also were complimentary.

Receiving positive feedback makes the time and effort put forth to prepare a program rewarding. I have to say that I enjoy having an opportunity to study and learn about a variety of artists, and that’s a win-win situation for everyone.

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