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!


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.

Meet the Staff: Debbie Pulley

Debbie Pulley is the Ackland Art Museum’s Security Supervisor.

How long have you been at the Ackland?
I started at the Ackland in August 1990.

What brought you to the Ackland?
I had been working for Northern Telecom Security for about six years, and I wanted to do something different in the security field. I applied for both a detention officer job at the Durham County Sheriff’s Office and a position with UNC Security at the Ackland Art Museum. Both offered me a job, and my husband said I should take the UNC Security position. I’m so happy I did!

What do you do at the Ackland?
As the Security Supervisor, I’m on-call 24 hours. I’m responsible for training the security staff, protecting the Ackland’s collection, and assisting the visitors. I also train the Museum’s work study gallery assistants, make sure operating policies and procedures are implemented and followed by all personnel at all times, and monitor the Museum’s closed-circuit television (CCTV) system.

What is a memorable Ackland experience?
In August of 1990, the Museum staff was moving back into the building following a three-year closure for renovations. On December 2, 1990, I got to see the reopening party for the newly redesigned Ackland Art Museum. Then-director Charles Millard and Chancellor Paul Hardin were on-hand to receive ‘Welcome Back’ posters from children as we opened the doors (see photo). What an evening!

What is your favorite thing about working at the Ackland?
Seeing our growing collection. I also love working with university and K-12 students, as well as meeting visitors from all over the world.

SEE. MORE. ART.: What is your favorite arts experience in the Triangle?
I love DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center).

Editor’s Note: Debbie Pulley was chosen as the UNC Department of Public Safety’s 2016 Employee of the Year. UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken presented Pulley with the recognition at the department’s annual awards ceremony Friday, June 17, 2016.  Pulley—who was also recognized for 25 years of service to the agency—was cited for the fresh passion she brings to her job every day as well as for leading by example and her kindness to her team, museum staff, and visitors to the Ackland.

Meet the Staff: Alice Southwick

ALICE SOUTHWICK is the Manager of the Ackland Museum Store.


How long have you been at the Ackland?
I came to the Ackland prior to the opening of the Ackland Museum Store in 2010 to help with getting the Store launched. I became the full-time Manager of the Store in March 2011.

What brought you to the Ackland?
I jumped at the chance to work with the Ackland since I’d seen a couple of exhibitions and I loved the people I was meeting. Everyone on staff was so enthusiastic and dedicated. It seemed just the kind of place I would like to work.

What do you do at the Ackland?
I manage the Ackland Museum Store which is a job I love since it involves working directly with lots of people–both within the Museum and University but also the general public. I enjoy meeting people and derive a lot of energy from getting people excited about the Ackland Art Museum and the Store.

What is a memorable Ackland (or Museum Store) experience?
There have been so many, but I distinctly remember coming to the Ackland prior to working here. There was an exhibition on Aldwyth (Aldwyth: work v. / work n.: Collage and Assemblage 1991 – 2008) that I came to see with a couple of friends from Raleigh. I was really knocked out by the exhibition and the Museum. I likened the Museum in my mind to some of the smaller museums I had encountered in Europe–it had an intimacy that I found delightful.

What is your favorite thing about working at the Museum Store?
Definitely the people. I have an amazing and talented group of people who work with me in the Store and I am extremely fond of them. We seem to bond over the experience–even when some of them have moved on to other things, we remain good friends. Our customers are the best, too. They are loyal and wonderful people who enjoy coming to the Museum and to the Store. They are passionate about supporting what the Ackland is trying to do by keeping its exhibitions free, educating people of all ages, and being involved in its community.

SEE. MORE. ART.: What is your favorite arts experience in the Triangle?
I’m a gallery hopper and I love going to galleries for the openings, especially of people I know. I live in Raleigh so First Fridays are a big thing there and lots of fun.

BONUS QUESTION: What has been your favorite exhibition that has been on view at the Museum Store?
Each of our shows in the Store has been pretty unique, but one of the earliest ones we did was really fun. It was an exhibition of Ron Liberti’s posters from the last 20 years. We had this huge wall of Ron’s colorful posters for local bands over the years. Ron went all out and even did one-of-a-kind t-shirts. We had a band and it was so much fun to talk with people who were buying the posters about their time as students at UNC during the late ’80s and ’90s. They are now raising families and engrossed in their own careers so it was a fun “blast from the past” event for them.

Meet the Staff: Scott Hankins

SCOTT HANKINS is the Ackland Art Museum’s registrar.

6846ef81-7b1b-413e-9f58-cfca56fd55cfHow long have you been at the Ackland?
I’ve been at the Ackland for 10 years.

What brought you to the Ackland?
In 2005, Rebecca and I found ourselves tired of New Jersey and began looking at different opportunities. Rebecca took a chance and applied for a development job at UNC. When she got the interview we decided to make a weekend trip to come to North Carolina for the first time and explore. We feel in love with North Carolina and decided this is where we wanted to be. Then when the position of Assistant Registrar opened here, I applied and the rest is history. There were two things that initially attracted me to the Ackland. First, was the planned expansion. At the time I was working at the Newark Museum and they were working on the beginnings of an expansion project. I really wanted to work at a museum doing an expansion and get the experience that comes with it. So seeing the Ackland doing the same thing was attractive. The second thing was that it was part of a University. I was really interested to see how a museum worked within a University structure and how it integrated with the education mission of the University.

What do you do at the Ackland?
I’m the Registrar, I manage the collection.

What is a memorable Ackland experience?
There are so many, how to choose. One of my favorite moments was hanging Jim Hodges, You (the flower curtain in More Love). I really enjoyed installing More Love in general, but there was just something about that moment.

What is your favorite thing about working at the Ackland?
I work with amazing people and great art.

SEE. MORE. ART.: What is your favorite arts experience in the Triangle?
The Georges Rousse installations in Durham. We had just moved here and it was this really cool public art moment. I remember walking around downtown Durham with Rebecca and seeing the different installations. It was very cool.

Remembering Dr. Mary Sheriff

The staff of the Ackland Art Museum mourns the loss of one of our long-time UNC-Chapel Hill colleagues, Dr. Mary Sheriff, W.R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Art History in the Art Department, who passed away 19 October 2016.

Dr. Sheriff was internationally renowned for her research in the fields of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century French art and culture, particularly in the areas of creativity, sexuality, gender, and, more recently, travel and cultural exchange. In all these areas, and in her capacity as chair of the Art Department, Mary was a treasured friend of the Ackland, engaged in advising on acquisitions, interpreting exhibitions, and encouraging her many advanced students to take advantage of professional development opportunities at the Museum. She avidly used the Museum’s collection in her undergraduate and graduate classes, firmly believing in the importance of object-driven teaching and research. For many years, she served on the Ackland’s Academic Advisory Committee. For several decades, the Ackland’s exhibition program has been enriched by projects undertaken with her forceful guidance by her graduate students, just as many works of French art owe their place in the collection to her advocacy, enthusiasm, and expertise.

Carolyn Allmendinger, the Ackland’s director of academic programs and a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill’s PhD program in Art, recalled how much fun it was to get a few minutes with Mary in front of an interesting work of art in the galleries. “It was always clear that in addition to the depth of understanding she had about all the literature, all the contextual issues, that she just truly enjoyed the pleasures of looking closely at eighteenth-century art.”

Peter Nisbet, deputy director for curatorial affairs, praised Mary Sheriff’s passionate belief in the ways in which the Ackland could bolster the efforts to create and maintain a first-rate department of art history at UNC-Chapel Hill, covering as broad a range as possible of the world’s visual art traditions. “Mary could be counted on to hold the Ackland to the same high standards she applied to herself and her students,” Nisbet recalled. “We have lost a great champion for serious engagement with art and an energetic partner in our enterprise.”

Ackland Art Museum director Katie Ziglar noted that, although she had arrived too recently to get to know Mary, her effect on the Ackland was easy to spot. “We pledge to continue on her path of creative cooperation with our Art Department colleagues,” Ziglar affirmed. “I speak for all of us at the Ackland in sending our deepest condolences to her husband Keith and all her family and friends following this terrible loss.”

Meet the Staff: Emily Bowles

EMILY BOWLES is the Ackland Art Museum’s Director of Communications.

bowles_roaminggnomeHow long have you been at the Ackland?
My first day working at the Ackland was August 30, 2010, so as of this writing I’ve been here over six years.
What brought you to the Ackland?
A job that was the perfect mix of my backgrounds in the arts and in communications. And a freelancing gig that was about to dry up after eight solid years.
What do you do at the Ackland?
I make sure that the word gets out about all the amazing exhibitions and programs that we have going on. That means I’m responsible for the website content (text and images), our bi-weekly eNews, media relations, press releases, advertising, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), printed invitations and posters, e-fliers and printed takeaways, flat screen TV slides, etc. It’s a big job because we are a very active museum.
What is a memorable Ackland experience of yours?
I have several, and most of them fall under the category of highly anticipated works of art arriving in the building; I call them “Big Truck Days” or “Big Crate Days.” There’s a wonderful, heart-stopping moment when you get to see in person the work of art that you’ve been “seeing” reproduced in small jpgs during months and months of exhibition planning. The hush when the loaned Francis Bacon is finally on the wall. The “oooohs” when a Roy Lichtenstein painting is uncrated. There’s also the thrill of unusual pieces being installed after months of anticipation, like the time an Indian rickshaw was steered into our lobby. During the Ackland’s 2013 exhibition More Love, it was Jim Hodges’ “spider web” piece Hello, Again (1994-2003) being deftly installed in a corner of the ceiling and his huge curtain of flowers, You (1997), being hung.
What is your favorite thing about working at the Ackland?
As you can guess from my previous answer, for me it’s the chance to see great works of art up close, in person, and this is always possible working at the Ackland because I can walk downstairs to the galleries at any time. I studied art history both as an undergrad and as a graduate student. I never take for granted the opportunity to look closely at a work of art when it’s right in front of me. It’s the reason why I am devoted to getting the Ackland the attention it deserves: everyone should know about and visit a world-class art museum and see art from all over the world, up close and in person.

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Meet the Staff: Lauren Turner

LAUREN TURNER is Assistant Curator for the Collection.

TurnerHow long have you been at the Ackland?
I started at the Ackland in January 2009 as a Curatorial Assistant.

What brought you to the Ackland?
My long-term goal was to work in a museum, and I was an undergraduate alumna of the Art Department at UNC-Chapel Hill. When the job posted, it seemed like it was a sign from the universe to return to campus. Also, in her annoying habit of inevitably being right, my mother told me that I would be an idiot to not apply.

What do you do at the Ackland?
My current title is “Assistant Curator for the Collection,” but it encompasses more than researching, growing, and exhibiting the almost 18,000 objects of our collection. I also coordinate catalogue publications, act as a project manager (and sometimes curator) for our changing exhibitions, and introduce interns and student assistants to the many different types of tasks in a museum career. Continue reading

Meet the Staff: Emily Bowles

EMILY BOWLES is the Ackland’s Director of Communications.

BowlesHow long have you been at the Ackland?
My first day working at the Ackland was August 30, 2010, so as of this writing I’ve been here over 5-1/2 years.

What brought you to the Ackland?
A job that was the perfect mix of my backgrounds in the arts and in communications. And a freelancing gig that was about to dry up after eight solid years.

What do you do at the Ackland?
I make sure that the word gets out about all the amazing exhibitions and programs that we have going on. That means I’m responsible for the website content (text and images), our bi-weekly eNews, media relations, press releases, advertising, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), printed invitations and posters, e-fliers and printed takeaways, flat screen TV slides, etc. It’s a big job because we are a very active museum. Continue reading