The Ackland Museum Store’s new home

By: Alice Southwick

We completed our move from East Franklin Street into the Ackland Art Museum and opened on October 6, 2017 in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition Flash of Light, Fog of War, which was being installed in the galleries as we were setting up the Store. It was an exciting and energetic time, with all of us working under a deadline—lots of carpentry, painting, and ladders—and with a common purpose. We think the Store turned out great and, needless to say, so did Flash of Light, Fog of War!

Being located inside the Museum has proven to be a wonderful experience. We’ve always been a part of the Museum, but had not experienced being around all the teaching activities that are constantly going on and that has been amazing. We also have the opportunity to look at the exhibitions much more closely, connect with our Museum colleagues on a regular basis, and gain a better understanding of each of the many parts that work together to make the Ackland such a special place.

We are thrilled that many of you have come to see us in our new location. Your positive comments about the Store mean so much to us. Our time spent on Franklin Street was amazing and we miss our neighbors and look forward to visits from the regulars who used to stop by the store for greeting cards, a quick look, and even a brief chat. That said, we’re delighted for all the new connections we will make here in the Museum and hope we will see you soon in our new, sparkly, little Store. We cannot wait for you to see our wonderful greeting card “wall” and hope you love it as much as we do!  The best part:  You get to see amazing art at the Museum too!

 

The Study Gallery

By: Elizabeth Manekin

As is true in lots of encyclopedic collections, much of the artwork in the Ackland was never intended to be in a museum. Made for religious rituals, mass markets, burial sites, and banquet tables, it lives in harmony alongside works that were intended for gallery walls. We collect and combine the gamut as “Art.”

Sammy Baloji Culture Congolese, African, “Kalamata, chief of the Luba against watercolor by Dardenne” 2011:
medium archival digital photograph on Hahnemuhle Paper. 2016.6.

Perhaps my favorite part of my job is teaching and learning about these diverse objects from multiple perspectives. Teaching in the galleries, I regularly engage in lively discussion with students and faculty; in the Study Gallery, I get to put some of those conversations on the wall.

The artwork in the Study Gallery aligns with course objectives from all corners of the University, and its organization often eschews the traditional display categories of country or chronology. I work closely with faculty to determine which works of art will enhance their course and its learning goals. The art might illuminate a cultural context, or push students to consider a familiar concept from a new perspective. Works of art may develop new competencies, of empathy or visual literacy for example, or might be a platform for further research, reflection, and creative response. With two eight-week installations per semester, there’s always something new to see and consider on view.

This semester is no exception. In our first rotation, for example, graduate students in the Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program visited the Ackland’s Study Gallery on multiple occasions as they investigated experiential learning. Students examined the different experiences depicted in the artwork and reflected upon their own experiences of looking at and talking about art. As students looked repeatedly, they evaluate the concepts that define experiential learning and how they relate to their work in the classroom.

Also on view were works for the Art History courses “Introduction to Architecture” and “Art and Sports,” which presented multiple representations of building and athletes, respectively. Students in a Renaissance history course used works of art on view in the Study Gallery to learn to read visual and material primary sources. A Women’s and Gender Studies class analyzed photography and thought

about issues of identity. Graduate students in musicology explored the influence of Russian refugees on global artistic production in the wake of the Revolution in 1917. This last course coincided with a graduate-organized conference, and their scholarship was accessible in the gallery.

Egon Schiele, Austrian, “Church and Houses at Modling, near Vienna,” 1918: black chalk and gouache. 58.1.238

Anyone of these Study Gallery installations is engaging on its own, but I also love the challenge of figuring out the ways in which these separate courses are in dialogue with one another. This semester, the theme of how we form identities, as individuals and as nations, is an undercurrent. In what ways do both the buildings around us and the sports teams we root for shape our sense of self in relation to the world outside? How do we draw the boundaries of “otherness”? What are the roots of our faith in reason and logic? What role do we play in shaping our own identities? These are big, difficult questions, helped along by the experience of looking closely at what is sometimes a small and specific thing. For all visitors, the Study Gallery is a window into the classrooms at Carolina and an invitation to ask these questions on your own.

I invite you to come to the Ackland’s second-floor Study Gallery. Look closely and think big. Pick up a syllabus. Discuss issues with a friend. The Study Gallery is for everyone!

Out of the Basement

By: Lauren Turner, Assistant Curator for the Collection

For those of us who work in the arts in the Triangle, October doesn’t just portend the changing seasons, Halloween, and pumpkin-spiced everything; it also means it’s time to celebrate the medium of photography through the annually occurring, month-long Click! Photography Festival. (Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it.)

Photographer: Peter Krogh; pictured, left to right: Bryce Lankard, Stephen Fletcher, Lori Vrba, Ray Pfeiffer, Frank Konhaus

In an effort to focus some of the month’s activities to appeal to out-of-town guests, this year’s Click! organizers decided to introduce a new facet of their programming – Click! 120, an intensive five-day celebration of all things photography, with highlights including presentations by three keynote speakers, bus tours to local collections, and a day-long portfolio review by assorted curators, gallerists, and arts editors. Unfortunately, this year the Ackland was unable to offer a tour of its collection to the participants since Click! 120 overlapped with both the opening of our new exhibition Flash of Light, For of War: Japanese Military Prints, 1894-1905, the unveiling of our new Store’s location, and some no-big-deal, really minor news announced that weekend. (Kidding! We’re still giddy!).

Even with the flurry of activity at the Ackland and on campus, I was fortunate enough to serve as one of the portfolio reviewers on the final day of Click! 120, during which I met with eleven photographers for a full half-hour each at the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Durham. During those meetings, we discussed their aspirations for their current bodies of work, and where possible, I offered suggestions and encouragement in helping them to achieve those goals.

The morning began with Daniel Kariko, an assistant professor of photography at East Carolina University; his project Suburban Symbiosis: Insectum Domesticus utilizes microscope photography and an intensive post-production process to create stunningly colored portraits of household insects. He was followed by Carol Erb, a Californian photographer who showed me her series-in-progress Reckoning, in which fantastic scenes of natural disasters serve “as a metaphor for a civilization in crisis.” Chris Ogden then shared with me selections from Stones Echo, a series he has created by rappelling into stone quarries; the beautiful images that he has captured read more as elegant abstract color studies than traditional landscape compositions. Susan Patrice was also turning to landscape in her most recent work, but she was doing so in a way to explore a mid-career turnaround in practice and the ways in which exploring a familiar wooded path through a tondo format have had on this transition. Charlotte artist Amy Herman brought apartofme and it wasn’t important until it was, two series connected by her captivating inclusion and consideration of vintage family photographs within her own practice. Tori Gagne rounded out the morning with her elegantly captured Moonlit Dance series of horses in motion.

photographer: Peter Krogh

After a break for lunch, I met Susan Keiser who uses mid-century dollhouse figures with water and ice to create unsettlingly quiet scenes that evoke suburban tragedies in the two bodies of work Barbaric Glass and Flooded. Greg Banks, currently an instructor at Appalachian State University, delighted me with his combination of Appalachian folklore, family history, and a tintype aesthetic in An Explanation of Sympathetic Magic. Donna Hixson impressed me with her witty eye for depicting roadside Americana, as seen especially in series like Unseen Florida and Stars and Stripes. Chapel Hill artist Heather Evans Smith introduced me to her meditation on the tensions between mother and child in Seen Not Heard, a thoughtful body of work that some local viewers may have encountered this year at the Horace Williams House. I finished the day with R.J. Kern who will have selections from his series The Unchosen Ones appear in November’s National Geographic; his respectful portraits of participants in county fair animal competitions complicate conceptions of winning and losing.

While the day was a whirlwind introduction to a broad array of creativity and working styles, each of the photographers I met exemplified professionalism and an evident love for the medium. It is a truly wonderful event that the Click! organizers brought together, and it’s still only mid-October! I encourage you to check their website for more upcoming programs.

Nashville’s Belmont Mansion: Birthplace of William Ackland and a Legacy of Art Appreciation

By: Brian Fletcher

“Who was William Ackland?”

“So is all this his private collection?”

“Is he really buried in there?”

In my five years as an Ackland Art Museum security officer, I often answer these and many other inquiries about William Hayes Ackland, the man whose unique vision and generous endowment made his eponymous museum—and resting place—at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill a reality.

On a recent visit to Nashville, Tennessee, I visited Belmont Mansion, William Ackland’s birthplace, and childhood home, and found not only some of the likely inspiration for the museum’s benefactor whose epitaph reads, ‘He wanted the people of his native South to know and love the fine arts,’ but some interesting parallels between the Ackland Art Museum and the home of its namesake.

Nashville’s Belmont Mansion, located on the Belmont University campus, was the birthplace and childhood home of Ackland Art Museum namesake William Hayes Ackland.

The Ackland surname was originally spelled ‘Acklen’—William twice modified it. Belmont Mansion was also spelled differently then: Belle Monte. The summer home and—by the time of William’s birth—full-time residence of his parents, Joseph (1816-1863) and Adelicia Acklen (1817-1887), the opulent antebellum mansion is—like the Ackland Art Museum—situated on a university campus, present-day Belmont University.

Work began on Belle Monte shortly after Joseph and Adelicia married on May 8, 1849. Joseph was Adelicia’s second husband; her first, Issac Franklin, died in 1847 leaving her a $900,000 estate—worth nearly $25 million in 2017 dollars, making her the wealthiest woman in mid-nineteenth century America. The day prior to their lavish wedding—with a who’s who of notable attendees including former President and Carolina alum James K. Polk—she insisted Joseph sign a contract allowing her to retain control all of her assets after their marriage.

Situated on the top of a hill near what is now Nashville’s trendy Hillsboro Village district, Belle Monte was completed in 1853, just two years before William’s birth. While Adelicia’s great wealth came from cotton, Belle Monte was no plantation; aside from a limited agricultural presence mainly to support the estate’s needs, Belle Monte was designed in the style of an Italian villa, a showplace designed for entertainment and relaxation. Joseph even built a neoclassical art museum on the grounds in 1857. The museum—which also included guest quarters and a bowling alley—was razed a decade later as Adelicia felt it obstructed her view from the mansion, but no doubt had a great influence on the young William.

Formal dining room at Belmont Mansion.

My March 15, 2017, visit to Belmont Mansion coincided with Adelicia’s 200th birthday, and the mansion marked the occasion by waiving their admission fee and offering cake and refreshments in the beautiful grand salon—an 1859 addition to the home. Comparable in size to Ackland’s Yager Gallery, the grand salon played host to Adelicia’s many parties and social functions which, according to a docent leading the tour, sometimes included upwards of 2,000 guests. An organ in the center of the space bears testament to Adelicia’s musical inclinations—said to have a beautiful voice, she would famously entertain her guests with song, perhaps a precursor to Nashville becoming ‘Music City, U.S.A.’ and Belmont University counting many notable musicians, including Brad Paisley, Pam Tillis, Stephen Curtis Chapman, and Sarah Cannon—better known as Minnie Pearl—among its alumni.

An elegant staircase leads from the grand salon to the upstairs bedrooms—including the one William and his older brother Joseph Hayes Acklen (1850-1938) shared—and a study room where William and his siblings were educated by private tutors. Above the bedrooms is the mansion’s cupola. The narrow stairwell leading to the cupola is undergoing restoration that, unfortunately, rendered it off-limits during my visit, though an interpretive sign noted that William wrote about witnessing the 1864 Battle of Nashville from this lofty vantage point. Despite their wealth, the Acklens—and by extension, Belle Monte—weren’t spared the challenges of the Civil War era. Joseph died in 1863 of malaria while managing Adelicia’s vast plantation holdings in Louisiana, and the next year, just prior to the Battle of Nashville, Union forces occupied Belle Monte until the war’s end in 1865—destroying many of the estate’s other buildings and wreaking havoc on its ornately landscaped grounds.

Bedroom of William Hayes Ackland and his older brother, Joseph. William’s bed is at the right.

At the end of the war, Adelicia took young William and the rest of her children on a year-long ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe, during which she purchased a treasure trove of furnishings, silverware, fine china, and—of course—works of art. While growing up in such elegant surroundings with an art museum in his backyard certainly must have been a catalyst for young William’s lifelong love of the arts, the Grand Tour is credited with sealing the deal—Ackland would return to Europe annually for the rest of his life. Among the special displays marking Adelicia’s landmark birthday was a picture of a ten-year-old William taken in Paris while on tour. Sleeping Children, a marble statue by Rome-based American sculptor William Henry Rinehart (1825-1874), was one of five marble works obtained during the family’s yearlong European visit—four of which are still located in the mansion. The Rinehart piece, located on your left as you enter Belmont’s front entrance, is vaguely reminiscent of the marble sarcophagus that originally topped William Ackland’s tomb here at the museum—though very different stylistically. Engraved on the piece are the names Laura and Corinne—Adelicia and Joseph’s twin daughters who died at age two in 1855 from scarlet fever. The piece reminded Adelicia so much of her twin girls that she had Rinehart add their names as a memorial to them.

Belmont Mansion and the Ackland Art Museum—William Ackland’s birthplace and resting place—sit 514 miles apart from each other, though the same highway—Interstate 40—passes within a few miles of both, just one of many threads that connect Ackland’s early life with his legacy as perpetuated through the Ackland Art Museum. Seeing Ackland’s beginnings help me to better understand the man and the importance of that legacy to him—and to us all.

All photos were taken by the author, 2017.