As this new year begins, I reflect on the important role that Joslyn Art Museum plays in our community. Museums make unique contributions to the public through tangible objects they collect. Joslyn's art collection is one-of-a-kind, spans millennia, and grows and changes constantly (as demonstrated at the end of this letter). More importantly, the art is our programmatic inspiration; all of our approaches are collections-based. As we do this work, we never forget that we are also people-based. The Museum is a place where all audiences can connect with artistic expression and also tap into their own creativity as they explore works of art from across the globe, across time, and from a variety of perspectives.
An important resource for all of Nebraska, Joslyn continually finds new ways to engage, connect, and inspire people no matter what their background or circumstance. Some of the many ways we have connected with the community this past year include mentoring young women in the Refugee Empowerment Center's Fashion Club and offering art-making workshops for families at the Learning Community Center of South Omaha. Last summer, we partnered with the New American Women's Alliance to present backstrap weaving classes facilitated by Karen artists. In June, the Museum was host for Omaha World Refugee Day, attended by over 1,500 and featuring a naturalization ceremony for a group of new Americans. INTERTWINE, a project inspired by the Sheila Hicks exhibition filled our community gallery with your visual voice. Also last summer, Joslyn was the site again for the annual loom multicultural music and dance event in the garden, with its focus on "weaving together the diversity of Omaha." More recently, the Joslyn Artpost exhibition presented work by professional artist and veteran pairs, and artist Hayv Kahraman orchestrated a performance reflecting upon the experience of being displaced from one’s home and her memories of her childhood in war-torn Iraq.
These events are highlights of the myriad ways that Joslyn connects with the people in our community. Every day, Joslyn offers free general admission so that every person has access to our collections. And year-round, the Museum offers additional outreach programming, collaborations, teacher training, teen mentoring, bilingual resources, student programs, and more. In these ways, we develop relationships with new and underserved audiences throughout our city.
Joslyn is an accredited museum (about 10% of U.S. museums have achieved that status, according to the American Alliance of Museums; Joslyn is one of only seven in Nebraska) and part of the global network of museums that touch millions of visitors annually. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) estimates that there are over 35,000 active museums of all disciplines in the United States alone (2014). Broadly speaking, museums are everywhere but, like people, each is unique. We feel strongly for museums because they connect us with our history, introduce new ideas and perspectives, and foster empathy and understanding. We are here to do what artists themselves do . . . explore and reflect upon life and humankind in all its complexity and diversity. Thank you for supporting our mission and our work.
Joslyn is an official partner with the state of Nebraska for its sesquicentennial and year-long "150 Celebration." We are highlighting the history of our region with tours of the Art of the American West collection. Contact us to bring your group in 2017. The first exhibition of the year is certainly one that will fascinate many, including those celebrating life in Nebraska. Wild Spaces, Open Seasons: Hunting and Fishing in American Art opens in February. Joslyn is one of four organizers of this exhibition featuring work loaned from 33 museums and nine private collections. An exhibition of this scale on this subject has never been done before, and you are in for a treat. This summer, Joslyn will present dazzling examples of four centuries of French jewelry and related art from the Petit Palais in Paris (save the date for the Bijoux Parisiens Gala on Saturday, June 3). This fall, the focus is on 100 preeminent 15th- to 21st-century drawings from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The Riley CAP Gallery will feature photographs, video installation, and painting by three artists in 2017, and three Mind’s Eye exhibitions will celebrate award-winning children’s book illustrators.
The Museum has several new acquisitions of note. These include a collection of nearly 600 original Currier & Ives prints, donated to Joslyn by ConAgra Foods, Inc., last year. The Rembrandt has a new, more historically appropriate frame; the Pissarro is on view in a major exhibition in Paris; and we are preparing now for a major event — the temporary closure (February 13 through May 19) of the European galleries for reinstallation, led by Dana E. Cowen, Ph.D., Associate Curator of European Art.
All of us at Joslyn Art Museum wish you and yours health, happiness, and prosperity in the New Year. See you in the galleries!
Jack Becker, Ph.D.
Executive Director & CEO