The Mint Museum Awarded Two National Endowment for the Arts Grants

Funds will help support traveling exhibition of Romare Bearden works and Family Gallery resources

The Mint Museum has received two National Endowment for the Arts grants in the fiscal year 2010 funding cycle: a $100,000 American Masterpieces: Visual Arts Touring Grant and a $30,000 Access to Artistic Excellence Grant.

“The Museum is delighted to be awarded these generous grants, which will allow the public to more fully engage with our artworks, their themes and the traditions in which they were created,” said Kathleen Jameson, incoming Executive Director.  “The NEA has provided another extraordinary opportunity for the Mint to share its resources, and the timing of these grants is critical as we move forward with an expansion initiative, which will include new opportunities to showcase our Romare Bearden collection.”

The American Masterpieces: Visual Arts Touring Grant will support an exhibition entitled Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections, which will include approximately 75 works of art that span the career of this internationally renowned Charlotte-born artist (1911-1988). This is one of only five American Masterpieces Grants that were awarded to museums nationwide in the current funding cycle.

The exhibition and subsequent national tour will underscore not only Bearden’s artistic mastery, particularly in the technique of collage, but also his development of narrative and thematic explorations of his native South. Collages, paintings, watercolors and prints will be assembled from the holdings of the Mint (which holds the largest public collection of Bearden’s work) as well as other private and public collections. The exhibition, which will open on the centennial of Bearden’s birth, will examine how the South served as a source of inspiration throughout his career. This key theme has never before been explored in any previous exhibition or writings on the artist. Southern Recollections will include large thematic groupings which incorporate many works that refer to Bearden’s childhood home in rural Mecklenburg County.

The exhibition will debut next year at the new Mint Museum Uptown, which will open on October 1, 2010. After its run there (September 2, 2011-January 1, 2012), it is slated to be presented at two other venues.

The Access to Artistic Excellence grant will support key interactive components of the Mint Museum Uptown’s Family Gallery, as well as hands-on materials that will carry families from this unique space into the permanent collection galleries on two upper floors. The Family Gallery will provide an introduction to the collections through creative, collaborative play in a hands-on setting.

NEA funding will support the design and fabrication of two of five zones in the Family Gallery: Memories of Mecklenburg House, a three-dimensional play house based on a collage by Romare Bearden, and Imagination Station, a studio/exhibition zone stocked with art materials for drop-in art-making. Grant funds will also support the development, production and assessment of Gallery Connections, a set of materials to be utilized by families in the permanent collection galleries.

The narrative quality, powerful aesthetics and themes of community make Bearden’s work a natural for the Family Gallery. The museum tested a model of the Bearden house during Art Under Construction, an exhibition of prototypes presented in 2009 at ImaginOn and funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The house, which will be refurbished for use in the Family Gallery, drew enthusiastic responses from children who easily engaged in this make-believe and self-directed environment.

Although the Mint offers frequent classes, camps and family days, the Imagination Station zone will provide families with a creative hands-on opportunity anytime during regular museum hours. Gallery Connections will provide comfortable entry points for parents and children to continue their conversations in the more formal gallery spaces.

The NEA awarded 50 Access to Artistic Excellence Grants to museums across the country.