Director’s Note – Silagh White.
When was the last time you went to a museum of art? If it’s been a while, the Allentown Art Museum is offering one of the biggest enticements for you to get there this summer, aside from their amazing collection and … oh, yes – the climate control! According to local news, The free admission — a savings of $12, adults, and $10 students and seniors — means access for everyone to the permanent collection, special summer exhibits, events and activities for adults and children that complement the exhibits. (Thanks, Morning Call) *
Regular hours are Wednesday-Saturday, 11am-4pm and Sunday, 12pm-4pm.
Did you know that art museums MUST have a controlled climate to protect the art? That means this is a great place to escape the heat and humidity while giving yourself the gift of time to plop in front of a masterwork and stare at it until it smiles back at you.
Sound silly? Maybe. When the writer of this post worked at the Toledo Museum of Art, escaping to the galleries was the best job perk ever. (and now the writer slips into first person). As a docent trainer, I knew were the folding stools were stashed. I also knew where the Cloister gallery ambient sound system was hidden so that I could turn up the volume ever so slightly. The Gregorian chant music resonated with the tapestries and reliquaries. I didn’t just escape to the Cloister. Each gallery was a mini vacation through time and foreign lands. It was a truly magical place. I found serenity in front of so many friends.
Yes, those art objects became my friends. As I would sit in front of the objects, I would imagine the artist struggling with their vision. I’d be asking questions about their process. Which line of the portrait did they draw first? Did they carve the marble from the top or the middle? Where did they really want my eyes to linger on the landscape? The objects became precious not just for their placement in the display case, but because they survived thousands of years and became the keepers of history. I can still conjure up details of brushstrokes in Monet’s Water Lilies. While I stared, my mind would wander into the daily to-do list, lesson plans, performance reviews.We bonded over time spent together, reading each others’ minds. I remember so many ideas of how to engage with the work from the brilliant storytelling of the curatorial staff. Art historians would translate the iconography of Netherlandish Renaissance paintings, list the details of Greek mythology with as many plot twists as could be imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien, or animate two-dimensional Expressionist painting by instructing me to watch the layers play off each other.
When the secret of looking at negative space, or the expansion of a line outside the frame was shared along with the wave of an arm, it was like a magic wand took away a veiled sense of unknowing. This opened my eyes to new levels of wonder.
Seeing art in person is to understand the work of an artist on an intimate level. The picture of Monet’s work here is just a reference marker, just like the words you are reading are a reference to the memory I’m sharing. This memory comes to life when the reader and I do not have a computer screen between us. The memory comes to life when we are talking to each other, face to face over a cool drink in the shade on a breezy summer afternoon in the sculpture garden. (wait… Lehigh has a sculpture garden?…. Yep.)
Or the memory becomes the reader’s, as you venture into an art gallery to have your own private affair with art. Summer loving? Yes – and for a few fleeting weeks, the Allentown Art Museum is offering you, dear reader, a chance to place a piece of art in your heart.
* Check out the Allentown Art Museum website to plan your visit. Then, when you come back to campus – visit the Lehigh University Art Galleries. Same climate control, some opportunity to make a long time friend who is right now, literally hanging around just waiting for you to introduce yourself.