Coming to a theater near you!

$1 million donation adds American Art exhibit to the Muscarelle

Written by

|

March 14, 2016

11:57 PM

Since 1990, the Muscarelle Museum of Art has been home to temporary exhibits of art from around the globe. Thanks to a $1 million donation by Patty Owens ’62 and Carroll Owens ’62 via The Owens Foundation, the museum will soon add a permanent gallery dedicated to American art.

The donation helps the museum reach its For the Bold campaign goal of $60 million, and the expansion plans were approved by the College of William and Mary’s Board of Visitors during its last meeting. The Owenses have donated often to their alma mater, including to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and the Alumni House. They also funded the Botetourt and Monroe statues on either side of the Sir Christopher Wren Building.

“What inspired us as far as this is concerned, is the fact that the Muscarelle, as part of their For the Bold initiative, has an objective to enlarge the museum and we had an opportunity to help,” Carroll Owens said.

In the early 2000s, the pair created a three-year challenge grant to keep the museum open when budget cuts threatened to close its doors for good. The couple, both of them art history majors, met on campus during their sophomore year. Patty Owens has served on the museum’s board for 15 years and has spent the 42 years as a docent for the National Gallery of Art.

“For many, many years the most important work we’ve had in our collection is an original flower by Georgia O’Keeffe,” Spike said. “We are constantly asked why it isn’t on view. If we had a dedicated American Gallery, it would be out.”

“[Art] has been a long time interest,” Patty Owens said. “We wanted this to go to an American art gallery since that’s our collection — 18th, 19th and early 20th century American.”

The Owenses have been curating their own collection of American art for years, which includes work by Robert Henri, Edward Potthast and Thomas Cole. Fourteen of the pieces of the Owens’ collection are on loan to the museum and have been exhibited multiple times, the most recent being last year according to Assistant Director and Chief Curator John Spike. Some of their pieces will be shown in the permanent exhibition as well as some the College owns, including an original by Georgia O’Keeffe donated by the Rockefeller family.

“For many, many years the most important work we’ve had in our collection is an original flower by Georgia O’Keeffe,” Spike said. “We are constantly asked why it isn’t on view. If we had a dedicated American Gallery, it would be out.”

The Muscarelle currently has four galleries, which hold temporary exhibits from around the world and at any given time, Spike said the museum has about 95 percent of its own art in storage.

With temporary showings the museum can attract larger audiences — which is what the Leonardo Da Vinci and Matilda of Canossa exhibits did last spring, bringing in 60,000 visitors, according to Spike. New temporary galleries are also planned with the expansion, which would allow the museum to continue hosting other exhibits while the permanent galleries would always display some art from its own vault.

“Here in Williamsburg it’s natural that we should have and show some of our colonial pieces to our visitors, and because we are so short of space, our permanent collection is rarely up,” Spike said.

“This gallery will contain a history of the College, and therefore it will be the place to exhibit part of our collection of early American paintings, portraits, decorative arts and furniture all thing of interest to the historic patrimony of the College from the beginning forward,” Museum Director Aaron De Groft ’88 said.

The museum has also received a pledge from Dixie Wolf, a Williamsburg resident and wife of former university Rector Henry Wolf ’64, to create a separate gallery specifically for art related to the history of the College. The gallery will also house some American art.

“This gallery will contain a history of the College, and therefore it will be the place to exhibit part of our collection of early American paintings, portraits, decorative arts and furniture all thing of interest to the historic patrimony of the College from the beginning forward,” Museum Director Aaron De Groft ’88 said.

Patty Owens said that she hopes the Owens Gallery of American Art will be a home for some of the College’s most exceptional pieces to always be shown — including the O’Keeffe, her favorite.

Share This Article

Related News

SANE nurse now available at Williamsburg hospital 24/7
A curricular change of pace: College shifts focus to interdisciplinary learning
Board of Vistors hears preview of data science minor

About Author

Amanda Williams

Senior Staff Writer Amanda Williams '16 is an economics major from Denver, Colorado. She has previously been Chief Staff Writer, News Editor and Chief Copy Editor.