Sunday, June 1, 2014

trip report - Chrysler Museum, Norfolk VA

Coming home! We lived in Norfolk for three years while fitting out our boat, Red Ranger. We lived about a 6-minute walk from the famed Chrysler Museum, home of one of the nation's best glass collections. We took advantage of the proximity and became members, attending their weekly evening wine/cheese/music mixers in the summer, the monthly book club, yoga class on Friday mornings in the main court, and lots of visits to the main exhibits. I even read this history on how the collection began.

The new glass studio was built while we were living here and it has become a great focal point for locals and tourists to interact with the museum. The studio has free lunchtime demonstrations which are awesome and lots of classes on the many aspects of glass-making. And just a shout-out to the director, Charlotte Potter, who moved into our old apartment when we left. Check out her TED talk.

Just as we were leaving, the museum closed for a major renovation. Museums take a big risk when they contemplate a lengthy closure and expensive renovation. Members get whiny that they can't use their privileges, regular attendees find other things to do, the community moves on and forgets the museum. Numbers will tell, but in my opinion, the CM absolutely pulled it off.

I stopped in on a Friday morning to take a tour of the re-designed space. There was a bus load of senior citizens and a big class of high school seniors and many other small groups wandering around with me. It's still free (donation-based) to get in, which is wonderful. I'm happy to chip in.

The space and curation are top-notch. They moved collections around, so instead of a room of art nouveau furniture, the pieces are placed amidst the glass collection pieces that are contemporary. A modern sculpture of a horse is included in a gallery of older paintings and sculpture depicting subjects involving horses. The Tiffany collection was brought out of a cavernous, quiet space into the light. The pieces seem to float right with the viewer, where they used to be distant and dark. 

They also have a gallery devoted to viewer favorites on a rotating basis. It was great to see the comments on why the piece speaks to that voter next to the art that was chosen. I love the interaction between community and museum that generates the contents of that gallery. It will be interesting to see its collection change based on community input. There is a big board on the second floor with paper and colored pencils under a banner asking "What did you discover today?" The board is full of people's comments and sketches. 

I love this museum! If you haven't visited the NEW Chrysler Museum, get yourself over there. It's a pleasure to view the old favorite pieces in new spaces, some beautiful new acquisitions, and to see the interplay between community and art.

This is a big cityscape bowl. You are encouraged to take pictures of the collection, but I forgot to note the artist.