“First the lights go out, then it closes
Felonies that carry maximum penalties
It is their fault that they are eternal,
There is a price to pay and a consequence
All galleries, museums
Here is your welcome ticket to the grave
They are only public mausoleums
The living dead fill every room.”
In the quiet moments after the museum doors close and the lights go out, I’m reminded of these lyrics from Regina Spektor’s song, “All the Rowboats.”
It may seem strange for someone who loves art and is passionate about museums to feel comfortable sharing texts that equate space with mausoleums, but I love the idea that art has a soul—because in a way, it does. Only when we pay attention to art, it comes to life.
Some arts require more attention than others. Some goldens scream for attention, some softly whisper, some just glance your way. It’s the museum’s job to make sure you feel the pulse of art beating within its walls.
The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts’ upcoming exhibitions bring the museum and the souls of its visitors to life. The programs aligned with these exhibitions are designed to guide your understanding and observations and to go beyond your first glance at the art to connect in a deeper and more meaningful way.
Bring your family or a group of friends to experience “Joseph Holston: Color in Freedom, Journey Along the Underground Railroad,” on view Sept. 24 through Jan. 14. This collection of more than 50 works takes us on a visual journey from the darkness and oppression of slavery to the bright and light colors of freedom.
Holston is a Maryland-based artist, and his paintings are large-scale and bold—they demand your attention and transcend your emotions through color, size, and, of course, subject matter. To deepen this experience, we will offer educational programming including:
- Meet the artist reception, 4 pm Sunday, September 25. Join the museum in welcoming Joseph Holston for an afternoon event to celebrate the opening of his exhibit. Light refreshments. Free and open to the public.
- From Slavery to Freedom in Washington County, 1:00 p.m. Saturday, October 1. Historian and author Emilie Amt will discuss how the art of Joseph Holston reflects and exhibits the history of Washington County. Sharing true stories of captivity, resistance, and journeys to freedom, she will explore the parallels between Holston’s art and the local experience. Free for members, $5 for non-members. Register in advance.
- Unraveling the past, 6:00 p.m. Thursday, November 10. Online. Join genealogist Renate Yarbough as she discusses the challenges involved in tracing African American family history and offers concrete advice on how to begin your research. Ask questions to help you on your journey to better understand your past. Free. Sign up for a Zoom connection.
- Painting a symphony, 11am to 1pm on Saturday, January 7. Personal class. Joseph Holston and music will be the inspiration to complete a colorful masterpiece to take home. For grades 1-6. Cost is $14 for members, $20 for non-members. Register in advance.
To register for any of these events, contact Donna Rastelli at 301-739-5727 or [email protected].
Speaking of ‘PAN’
Bringing art to life sometimes means making room for art to spark conversation. For the special exhibit, “From the Pages of PAN: Art Nouveau Prints 1895-1900,” we’ve called on local artists, writers, educators, musicians, and art enthusiasts to pay special attention to specific pieces. PAN was a German-based periodical published from 1895-1900. The exhibition lasts from October 8 to January 29. Special guests will create museum tags that will give their personal perspective in a project called Visiting Voices.
The “PAN” exhibition inspired some interesting programs, including a tasting of the infamous absinthe:
- “Absinthe and Art Nouveau: Party Like It’s 1899!” 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, October 18. Join us to learn more about the infamous “green fairy”. Absinthe, a legendary drink and a drink of choice in fin de siècle bars and cafés, was outlawed in 1915 in many European countries and the US. the avant-garde world of art and literature represented in our exhibition. $30 per person, $25 for museum members, includes a drink ticket and snacks. Attendance is limited, so registration is required. Creative attire encouraged. Contact Donna Rastelli at 301-739-5727 or [email protected].
- Top artist books, 10am to 1pm on Saturday, November 12. Inspired by art in the art nouveau edition “PAN”. Students will create an enhanced art book. For ages 14 and up. Free and open to the public.
- Print demo, 2 to 4 pm Sunday, November 13. Observe the many printing processes from Penn’s Woods Printmakers and try it yourself. Inspired by “PAN” printing techniques. Free and open to the public.
So when you visit the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts to experience an exhibit or join a program, remember that your presence, thought, and appreciation of this art breathes life back into its spirit and fills it with this sacred “mausoleum” with a rebirth of the spirit of expression.
For more information about any of our educational programs, see our website at WCMFA.org or call 301-739-5727.
Kellie Mele is the Director of Education for the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts at 401 Museum Drive, Hagerstown. Museum hours are 10:00-17:00 Tuesday through Friday, 10:00-16:00 Saturday and 13:00-17:00 Sunday. For more information, go to www.wcmfa.org. Find WCMFA on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and TikTok.