Monday, November 15, 2010

Opening Festivities for Art of the Native Americans: The Thaw Collection, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

By: Eva Fognell, Curator of the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art

Fenimore Art Museum’s traveling exhibition, Art of the Native Americans: The Thaw Collection, opened at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) on October 24, 2010. Eva was there to celebrate and train teachers and docents. Here’s here recap of the opening events.

From teacher’s education programming and docent training to the opening day event this was one of the most inspiring, impressive and fun series of events I have been part of in a museum setting. The audiences at the MIA were wonderful, energetic, very interested and very grateful that they had a chance to see the magnificent collection. It was a successful, well-executed, and exciting weekend and the MIA had certainly put an extraordinary amount of their resources behind our exhibit.

On Thursday October 21st the museum hosted a 4-hour program for K-12 teachers. Four hundred thirty seven teachers were registered for the program that focused upon the exhibition and its themes. The museum had developed an extensive curriculum guide available on CD as well as on-line for in-class teaching. The teachers were also toured through the galleries. The teachers were asked to rank their experience that day and an overwhelming majority rated their visit to the exhibit as the best part of the program.

Thursday evening was also the MIA’s 3rd Thursday event when the museum is open from 5-9 pm. Live rock music bands, art making, dancers and performers were everywhere. The museum was very busy with people of all ages, including teenagers and 20- and 30-somethings. The gallery was open to members and there was a large audience in the gallery all evening long.

On both Friday and Saturday Joe Horse Capture (the MIA’s Associate Curator of Native American Art) and I conducted training sessions for museum docents. Over the two days at least 80 people participated in our tours. Their enthusiasm was truly amazing. Many had spent considerable time familiarizing themselves with the objects in the exhibition prior to the training sessions.

Representatives from the Twin City Press (St Paul), Star Tribune (Minneapolis), as well as NPR and St. Paul Magazine toured the exhibit on Friday. They all asked in-depth questions and were very impressed by the exhibition. This was later reflected in the superlative reviews that appeared in the Sunday editions of their respective papers:

On the last day, Sunday, a brunch event for 150 invited guests officially opened the exhibit. Later I presented a lecture, Masterworks in Native American Art. Throughout the day there was a museum-wide celebration featuring free art activities, story time, music and entertainment.

Photos by Eva Fognell and Joe Horse Capture

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