As an artist, having a museum feature your work is a Big Deal. Having an exhibition in your hometown’s art museum is a Dream Come True! In January I was invited to be one of only two abstract painters for an exhibition at the Foosaner Art Museum in Melbourne, Florida called Abstraction: Retrospective Memories. Meeting Ashley Milliken, the museum’s director, opened a door for me that I never imagined would ever present itself.
Ashley selected nearly everything she saw in my art studio and home art gallery for the exhibition. And, I decided to paint 8 new large paintings which would bring the total to 52 artworks for the exhibition. Those new abstract paintings would make up my Inner Landscapes series which dealt with my feelings and experiences of growing up in the Eau Gallie section of Melbourne, now known as EGAD (Eau Gallie Arts District).
Over the years as an artist, I’ve learned that when opportunities like this appear, ready or not, you’ve got to say YES and figure out a way to make it happen. I had less than two months to complete and varnish all artwork, order frames, title, photograph and document the art, install frames and hardware, and deliver them to the museum. During this time, I provided Ashley with thumbnail images of all the work so she could curate the exhibition. In other words, she designed a layout of the artwork so that it flowed visually from piece to piece, from wall to wall, and from room to room. Individual artworks had to be placed so that they made an impact when viewed individually as well as entire walls and rooms.
Ashley, like a movie director, planned and executed every detail of the exhibition—things like title tags, artist statement and bio, mailing lists, postcards, exhibition posters, the exhibition title wall, along with the retrospective materials about the museum’s history. She helped make the exhibition an enjoyable experience for over 1600 attendees.
Due to COVID-19 and the CDC guidelines in place, the museum was unable to have an official opening reception for this exhibition. However, unbeknownst to me, my entire family appeared on March 20th to celebrate this important event in my art career. My 6 siblings drove or flew here from as far away as California as did my children. My partner, who knew about their arrival, planned a party at home for family and close friends to honor me and my exhibition. It has always been important to me to be acknowledged and encouraged by my family as a serious artist and this event and their efforts in being here for me has been a highlight in my life.
From March 20 to June 19, 2021 when the museum officially closed its doors, I gave 4 artist talks to the general public and 3 private tours. Each talk provided me the opportunity to engage with people who had some interest in art. I was able to not only talk about my artwork but also my process, my concepts and intentions, and abstract art in general. My goal was to educate my audiences about my artwork, answer questions and be a spokesperson from the local art community.
All in all, this has been a wonderful experience. I’ve spent these 3 months walking around on Cloud 9 but at the same time saddened by the realization that our beloved art museum is gone and now takes residency only in the form of our communal memories. We can only hope that the interest and energy that sparked the original art museum’s existence will rise to support a new art museum somewhere in the arts district.