Sixty-five years after the launch of its original Artmobile, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is once again bringing traveling art exhibitions and educational offerings to audiences across the Commonwealth with VMFA on the Road: An Artmobile for the 21st Century.
This state-of-the-art mobile museum and education studio made its public debut on Oct. 30, 2018, in Fredericksburg and will be in Charlottesville on Thursday, September 5 from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM at the University of Virginia Research Park.
Throughout the day, attendees will also enjoy music from The Gallatin Canyon Duo, Archery Art from Boar’s Head Outfitters, body art, cool treats from Kona Ice, art displays and crafts from local artists as well as hands-on art activities for artists of all ages!
Visitors will be invited to board the new Artmobile to view the inaugural exhibition, How Far Can Creativity Take You? VMFA Fellowship Artists, which explores the history and impact of VMFA’s fellowship program, the largest of its kind in the United States.
- 10am – 4pm: VMFA Artmobile
- 11am – 2pm: body art with Expressions Face Painting; live music with Gallatin Canyon; art archery with Boar’s Head Outfitters
- 12 – 3pm Kona Ice
The Artmobile Yesterday and Today
Beginning in 1953, the original Artmobile program brought art exhibitions and educational programs to colleges, schools, and community organizations across Virginia for 40 years, reaching 2.5 million people. For many Virginians, this unique art-museum-on-wheels was their first encounter with VMFA. Since then, museums around the country and throughout the world have created their own mobile museum experiences.
VMFA discontinued its Artmobile program in the early 1990s. As part of its 2015-20 strategic plan, and a renewed commitment to statewide outreach, museum leadership began exploring ways to bring this beloved program back. When the Commonwealth offered VMFA an 18-wheel tractor-trailer that includes 640 feet of display space, the museum began working with exhibition design firms Riggs Ward Design of Richmond and Explus Inc. in Sterling to design and fabricate a new and improved version of the Artmobile, equipped with cutting edge technology for 21st-century visitors.
“As a statewide art museum we are charged not only with welcoming visitors to our Richmond campus, but also with bringing art and educational programs to all corners of the Commonwealth,” says VMFA Director Alex Nyerges. “VMFA on the Road allows us to significantly extend our reach so that every Virginian has access to authentic works of art and arts-based educational programming regardless of their location or economic status. It is our hope that VMFA on the Road will transform lives and communities through the creative power of art.”
VMFA currently serves nearly 500,000 people beyond its Richmond campus each year through lectures, artist workshops, teacher trainings and traveling exhibitions hosted by more than 1,000 Statewide Partners, including schools, community centers, colleges and universities, libraries, hospitals and museums around the state. With VMFA on the Road and Lettie Pate Evans Distance Learning Program (Evans 360°), the museum’s new digital outreach initiative, VMFA hopes to reach more than 1 million Virginians each year.
The Exhibition: How Far Can Creativity Take You? VMFA Fellowship Artists
VMFA on the Road’s inaugural exhibition explores the history and legacy of VMFA’s Statewide Fellowship Program with How Far Can Creativity Take You? VMFA Fellowship Artists. Since the program was established in 1940, VMFA has awarded more than $5 million to more than 1,300 undergraduate, graduate and professional artists, and graduate level art historians, all of whom were residents of the Commonwealth when they applied. Each year, up to 30 artists and art historians receive more than $162,000 in support.
How Far Can Creativity Take You? VMFA Fellowship Artists uses the work of former fellowship artists to examine how different mediums and techniques are used to create unique works of art. Featured artists include painters Cy Twombly and Benjamin Wigfall; photographers Sally Mann and Emmet Gowin; printmakers Dennis Winston and Ann Chenoweth; and television writer and director Vince Gilligan, among other Virginians.
Jeffrey Allison, VMFA manager of statewide programs and exhibitions, notes there are original works of art on display, such as Wigfall’s painting, Chimneys. “We wouldn’t have resurrected the Artmobile, if we didn’t plan on including works from the museum collection as part of the program,” he says. “It’s what drew people to the Artmobile in the past, and it will always be the major attraction.”
The exhibition is divided into three sections, beginning with an introduction to VMFA and its unique history of serving the Commonwealth of Virginia. This history includes highlights of the statewide program as well as the history of the fellowship program, including video footage and historic images. An interactive digital map shows the location of where each VMFA fellow lives, or is from, and visitors can push additional buttons to uncover more information about the artist.
The second space is a gallery presenting works of art by fellowship winners along with in-depth video interviews with the artists, VMFA curators and educators. VMFA on the Road also includes a modular studio that can be used for interactive hands-on creativity. Visitors can participate in a collaborative project to be completed over the course of the tour and also create their own take-home projects.
In addition to bringing the museum experience to those outside Richmond, VMFA on the Road includes 21st-century digital components. From interactives featuring newly digitized collection images to classroom resources from the online Learn Portal, the mobile museum is fully integrated with VMFA’s broader digital outreach efforts. In preparation for the mobile museum’s arrival, local secondary schools can also participate in the new Evans 360° program, which enables students to interact in real time with a VMFA educator broadcasting live from the museum’s galleries.
Two VMFA on the Road educators will staff the truck, with a separate driver transporting them from town to town. Like their Artmobile colleagues from the past, the educators and driver will set up the truck, greet our visitors, conduct tours, offer activities on-site and also work with local Statewide Partners to give lectures at community venues as well as hands-on workshops in schools and art studios.