Sep 19, 2018
Arts Council, The Fralin Museum of Art

This Arts Council-funded Project is entitled Georgia O’Keeffe at UVA and Beyond.  The project was proposed by Matthew McLendon, Director and Chief Curator of The Fralin Museum.

On 19 October 2018, The Fralin Museum of Art will open the exhibition Georgia O’Keeffe at UVA and Beyond [working title]. In partnership with Elizabeth Hutton Turner, University Professor, we are currently building and exhibition with the suite of watercolors produced by Georgia O’Keeffe 1912-14 (now in the collection of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum), while she was in residence at the University, as a foundation for inquiry into one of the few understudied moments in O’Keeffe’s storied career. To our knowledge, this will be the first time the works have been seen in Charlottesville since they were painted.

Able to study art in the summers at UVA, O’Keeffe was under the tutelage of Alon Bement and, through Bement, she was introduced to the teachings of Arthur Wesley Dow, an influential professor at the Pratt Institute, Art Students League of New York, and Teachers College at Columbia University. Dow encouraged students to incorporate personal expression in their renderings of the natural world through the formal aspects of line, form and color.

Professor Turner feels it is during her time in Charlottesville that O’Keeffe found the core of the practice that would sustain her throughout her career. To that end, we are supplementing the Charlottesville works with a few key works that demonstrate the continuation of her interests, particularly the way in which she used line to incise and define space, as well as the confluence of line, form, and color that came to define her work.

The exhibition will consist of 13 watercolor sketches that O’Keeffe made on Grounds, including views of the Rotunda as well as 7 additional watercolors, pencil sketches, and oil paintings made during her time in Virginia (all on loan from the O’Keeffe Museum). In addition to these Virginia works, two later paintings are being included to make clear how the early works she created in Virginia unquestionably influenced her oeuvre for years to come. Pattern of Leaves, 1923, from The Phillips Collection, demonstrates her use of line beautifully, as well provides a further link to O’Keeffe’s initial interest in and continued use of UVA Professor William A. Lambeth’s book on trees. New York – Night (Madison Avenue), 1926, from the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg (verbal agreement) will demonstrate the mature use of the abstract line to define space. Together, the works comprising this focus exhibition will provide a clear narrative demonstrating the importance of her summer studies at UVA to the development of a singular voice in American art.

Professor Turner will be incorporating the exhibition in a graduate seminar exploring the importance of place in O’Keeffe’s practice. The exhibition will be an important part of her graduate seminar which aims to explore and connect the origins of O’Keeffe’s intellectual and aesthetic path of inquiry to her summers in Charlottesville while a student and then an instructor at UVA. While this type of deeply contextual research has been conducted in other locations in O’Keeffe’s life, Charlottesville remains to be fully explored by scholars. At the beginning of the twentieth century, O’Keeffe was one of the few college educated artists. Charlottesville is where O’Keeffe began her college career. Here is where she was first introduced to a formal, aesthetic and spiritual practice that would lead to her greatest artistic inventions. Our exhibition, our inquiry means to highlight the metaphysics of higher education—the process of awakening that brings a person to know about themselves and to know and express an understanding of the world. Students will research her actions, images and pattern of observations in order to create a more complete context for our understanding of O’Keeffe’s education, research and earliest artistic inventions. Much as there have been new studies on Lake George and Texas since the opening of the O’Keeffe archive at the Beinecke Library, in conjunction with our exhibition, we are planning to inaugurate a new program of research on O’Keeffe’s summers and continued connections with Charlottesville.

Georgia O’Keeffe at UVA and Beyond will be on view simultaneously with exhibitions of selections from the Heywood and Cynthia Fralin Collection, works of Native American Art from the Museum’s permanent collection, and prints by Ethiopian-American artist Julie Mehretu, as a season that celebrates American art and investigates what that term means today.

The Fralin now regularly serves 40 Departments across the University and over 2,000 students as part of organized class visits. As well as Professor Tuner’s graduate seminar discussed above, this exhibition will be used to spark creativity and innovation among a wide range of UVA students. Our yearlong class, University Museums Internship Course (12 students in the course), will use the exhibition as a model for creating their own exhibition, to open the following April. Our student docent corps of over 60 students will have the opportunity to lead tours and engage visitors in discussion of O’Keeffe and her legacy.

The UVA student experience will be further enhanced when they visit The Fralin with their classes as a result of interdepartmental outreach and collaboration. There are several departments that frequently integrate exhibitions into coursework including Art History, Studio Art, History, Arts Administration, English, Media Studies, Dance, Liberal Arts Studies, and marketing and entrepreneurship courses within the McIntire School of Commerce. We also will use the exhibition in our Clinician’s Eye workshops, a partnership with the School of Medicine that trains students in visual analysis to improve diagnostic abilities.

As our region’s largest educational museum, we serve both the University community and citizens of Southeastern Virginia. Our programs are built around our guiding principle of art as an enriching experience that builds visual literacy. This exhibition will bring works by significant artists of the mid- twentieth century to the University and Charlottesville, some for the first time.

O’Keeffe at UVA and Beyond will be on view during our largest community education program, Writer’s Eye. Entering its 32nd year, Writer’s Eye is a creative writing competition for third grade through adults, which serves an audience of more than 4,000 students from Charlottesville and twelve surrounding counties, with tours led by student and community docents. In addition, at the in August, we will hold the Teacher’s pARTy, to familiarize K-12 educators with the exhibition.

We expect to impact a broad range of visitors through all of our University/community programs, such as Clinician’s Eye workshops and “Looking Inward” meditative art tours, as well as community programs such as Writer’s Eye, Eyes on Art (our program for Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers), Family Art Jams (parent/child art program), Fun for the Young (our pre-K program), Babies and Toddlers in Artland (tours for parents and their infants and toddlers)and our partnership with Arc of the Piedmont. Many of our programs serve individuals in under-served groups, who will have the opportunity to view and study work of the highest quality locally; the impact of which would be significant. From October 2017-January 2018 [this exhibition’s same time period] we welcomed over 9,000 total visitors to The Fralin and anticipate the same number of visitors, if not more.

Georgia O’Keeffe at UVA and Beyond will elevate the University of Virginia and shine a strong spotlight upon the Museum. It will open dialogue on this celebrated female artist and her connection with our University and Charlottesville.

For the first time, it will set the table for deeper discussions on O’Keeffe’s education as an artist and the impact that our University had upon it.

Because of the stature and high level of recognition that O’Keeffe holds, the exhibition lends itself well to public relations and we are confident that we will be able to leverage her name and stature into top press throughout the region, state, and nationally.

Starting in April, Blue Water Communications, the firm who handles national PR for The Fralin, will begin pitching the exhibition to national media outlets. In our first year working with Blue Water, we have had major placements in the Wall Street Journal, The Art Newspaper, Forbes, and Blouin Artinfo. We will be intensifying exhibition promotion outside of our region, focusing on target audiences in New York, Washington DC, and other metropolitan areas.

Our primary goal for this exhibition is to employ the art as a teaching vehicle and to further scholarship on Georgia O’Keeffe’s accomplishments as a visual artist.

Secondarily, we aim to measure the press coverage that we receive for this exhibition and believe that it will have a profound effect.

We will also measure the performance and determine the success of the exhibition through several avenues, including:
• Museum, lecture, and program attendance
• Number of University classes/student groups utilizing the exhibition
• Evaluation forms given to teachers during Writer’s Eye
• Family Art JAM, Fun for the Young, and Looking Inward evaluations
• Enhanced Social media engagement
• Press related to the exhibition
• Anecdotal evaluations are solicited with each major program in the form of quotes

Photo: Georgia O’Keeffe shown in photographs taken in Charlottesville in 1915 by Rufus Holsinger

The Arts Council provides advocacy, advice, and support in the Arts at the University of Virginia. It strives to develop and strengthen the bonds of interest and participation among the Arts Departments, their associated programs,  and their alumni and friends; to advocate on their behalf; to advise and assist with communications; and to help raise funds in support of academic programs, facilities, and special events. Among its multitude of arts advocacy efforts, the Council awards annual Arts Council Grants. These grants have, and continue to play an instrumental role in a number of  residencies, workshops, project and research-based endeavors proposed across Arts Grounds annually. This series of articles will highlight each funded project and serve to inform the UVA community of their unique timelines, progress and outcome reports.

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