By: Kaitlin Davis
The art scene here in Morgantown, West Virginia, opened its arms this past August to the Morgantown Art Museum, which offers a live experience and various educational programs for individuals around the area.
According to Bernie Schultz, a professor of art history here at West Virginia University (WVU) since 1997, the museum offers a live experience for students as well as individuals around the community.
“There is something about that live experience. Part of that something is really about this capacity for empathy…that you’re responding to the team, they are responding to you, you have people around you that are excited, that are cheering with you, and all of that.” -Schultz
Schultz’s students are now able to go to the art museum for the first time and are able to experience art first hand. Schultz reported that 98 percent of students have never been to an art museum, but yet they understand the difference between looking at a real object and the interaction individuals have with each art piece in the museum.
The Morgantown Art Museum not only offers a live experience, but also offers various educational programs that the community can take part in. Art Up Close is one of the museum’s most popular educational programs, according to Joyce Ice, the director of the museum. This free program occurs on a monthly basis and is open free of charge to the public.
During this free program, a member from either the School of Art and Design at WVU or from another department, selects one art piece to discuss in regards to their academic speciality. Faculty with specialities in English, history, women and gender studies, geology and law have all taken part in the program, according to Ice.
“We really want to make this a cross-disciplinary space for learning…We want the art museum to be a place where people feel welcome that they can come for a stimulating encounter with the art, but also kind of a respite, a place where you can kind of distress and enjoy the art and kind of step out of the busyness that we have everyday.” -Ice
The museum offers another program called the Inaugural Exhibition: Visual Conversations: Looking and Listening, which explores the connection among the works from the permanent collection in the museum. According to the museum’s website, the pieces in this exhibition were chosen for their individual expression in addition to their dialogues with one another.
Also, the museum has an education center that offers various services to the community. There are museum offices for staff and a grand hall that can be used for educational programs.
“The art museum at WVU is very engaging. As soon as you walk in, there is a giant 2-story mural, my favorite artwork there, that you can’t look away from…They change their exhibits often so students or anyone else that wants to see the artwork can have a chance to see other beautiful work done by many great artists.” -Allison Elliott, Graphic Design Student at WVU
Ice also expressed an interest in working with local schools to make an impact there as well. Beginning to introduce art at a young age will hopefully encourage children to continue to learn more about art and help them grow an appreciation for the art culture.
“I think we can make a real difference in their lives,” said Ice, “[And] contribute to the quality of life for Morgantown and this area.”
At this point, the museum has a little over 3,000 pieces from a mixture of sources. Local artists, such as Blanche Lazzell, are featured in the museum, but the museum covers an international scope. Lazzell is a WV native as well as a WVU alumni who was born in 1878 in Maidsville. Lazzell played an important role in shaping abstract art in America and the museum is lucky enough to hold the largest public collection of Lazzell’s work.
Africa, Europe, Asia and North America are all represented within the museum and show a wide range of different styles. In addition, the pieces cover a wide range of time and generations also.
Even though the museum just opened on August 25, WVU has been fundraising over the past 10 years and has been collecting art pieces for the past 40 years through donations and gifts.
This museum is a great addition to the Morgantown area and to the art culture here in Morgantown. It’s a place where individuals can explore various art forms and can spark their creativity. With two different galleries, individuals can interact with all different art forms, a mural, paintings, sculptures and more.
“I just like the excitement that it brings, that creative process that someone has come up with an idea and concept and then created something from nothing that people are going to respond to and that we interact with…I think it feeds the human spirit and I think that’s what is so rewarding and satisfying about working with the museum,” said Ice.