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Museum Director Nick Nelson

From Museum Director Nick Nelson

As we prepare to close the books on 2016 at the Springfield Art Museum, I'd like to thank you all for your past support and express our heartfelt appreciation for being a part of our Museum community. Looking back on 2016, we have much to celebrate including a number of significant acquisitions, innovative educational programs, compelling and provocative exhibitions, and exciting community partnerships.
Significant acquisitions from the year include tilted sky by Anne Lindberg, installed in June as a memorial to Samuel O. King and all he did to support the Museum. We also installed the first work of permanent outdoor sculpture on the Museum's grounds in over 30 years, John Walker's Plow God. Through a generous gift from the Southwest Missouri Museum Associates (SMMA), through the estate of Shirley A. Carr, the Museum acquired its largest work of watercolor, Anne Austin Pearce's Loosened #3.
In the past year, the Museum has continued to grow its service to the community through outreach and education. School tours of the Museum continue to follow an upward trend. In 2012, we recorded a total of 2,124 school children attending the Museum. In 2016, that figure more than doubled with over 4,500 K-12 students attending tours. This growth would be impossible without community partnerships like the Any Given Child Initiative and Placeworks, an outreach program to rural schools produced through the Rural School Partnership and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and supported by the Louis L. and Julia Dorothy Coover Charitable Foundation and SMMA. 

We were pleased to be one of 7 museums nationwide to receive a SPARKS! Ignition Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support our [email protected] program. This partnership between the Museum, Springfield Public Schools, and the Missouri Job Center utilizes art-making to hone "soft skills" in elementary classrooms. Soft skills, like communication, teamwork, and critical thinking better equip our future workforce. In the future the Museum hopes to expand programs and partnerships like these to better serve as a resource to our community. The Museum is encouraging end-of-year gifts which can be made on our website to support these efforts.
In addition to expanded tours, outreach, and community programs, the Museum also made a number of needed improvements to its building and grounds. Most notably, we were able to restore 3 of our outdoor sculptures including John Henry's Sun Target II and Ernest Trova's AV/T.S.C. and ABSTRACT VARIATION (X). This project was made possible through an outpouring of community support during Give Ozarks Day. 

In addition to online fundraising, 2016 saw the return of our signature fundraiser, the 99X Party. This fun event supports preservation of our collection, supporting art conservation projects. This year was a tribute to the Bohemian style of artist Rose O'Neill, with the proceeds funding conservation of a number of works to be featured in our 2018 exhibition, Frolic of the Mind: The Illustrious Life of Rose O'Neill. The 99X Party has a funny name, but is simple in concept: if we produce the event on an annual basis 99 times, we will help preserve our collection for the next century. This sentiment is all the more meaningful as we prepare to celebrate our 90th anniversary in 2018.
This past year was not without challenges and hardships. In April 2016, 7 prints by Andy Warhol were stolen from our galleries. In the wake of this tragedy, the Museum has resolved to do two things: improve our security practices so that something similar never happens again and recommit to making great art as accessible as possible to our community. We are steadfast in our belief that these efforts are not mutually exclusive. 

We are focusing on accessibility in other areas as well. This will include ensuring physical accessibility like labels with larger text for those with visual impairments and strictly following ADA guidelines when designing our exhibitions. We are also proud to announce that we are launching bilingual labels in our galleries with text in Spanish. We are also including images and artist bios for works on display in our Creating an American Identity exhibition as a way to highlight the diversity of artists in our collection and so that our visitors might better see themselves reflected in the art on display. 

In the coming year, we will also host a major exhibition of American Impressionist painting from the Reading Public Museum in Reading, PA that is traveling to venues across the country. This exhibition, titled American Impressionism: The Lure of the Artists' Colony, will feature 75 oil paintings and 30 works on paper from the 1890's to the 1940's and will feature such artists as William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, John Twachtman, Mary Cassatt, and John Singer Sargent. This exhibition not only demonstrates the Museum's ability to bring great art from other locales to our community, but also the confidence our peers have in us to care for and protect their precious objects on loan.
The Museum will continue to produce community inspired exhibitions like our upcoming, Veterans' Views, a partnership with Drury UniversityThis juried photography exhibition will highlight photographs taken by members of the armed forces related to their military service and will raise awareness of our veterans' experiences while serving our country.  We are also pleased to announce the acquisition of a Dale Chihuly chandelier, Autumn Persian with Feathers, which will be on permanent display in 2017 after renovations are made to our lobby. This acquisition was made possible by the estate of Elizabeth Burgess. 

Finally, we are also pleased to announce that the Museum has been accepted into the American Alliance of Museum's Accreditation Program. While this is the first formal step toward AAM Accreditation, this represents years of work by our Board and staff. If accredited, this will place the Museum among less than 1,000 museums nationwide to achieve this honor. 
Again, I thank you for your support and look forward to your participation and in the coming year!


Nick Nelson
Museum Director

Children enjoying a field trip at the Springfield Art Museum

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