Friday, February 22, 2008

The Butler Institute of American Art

Did you know that I live within an hour's drive of the first museum built solely to showcase American art and artists? Well, I am embarrassed to say, neither did I. (That question is not for you, Joany. I'm sure you knew about it, but never told me!) Once I found out about The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, however, it took us less than a week to drive out there and see it.

I actually learned about the museum in an interesting way. Saturday afternoon I was working on Julie's second scarf, trying to get it finished before she had to go back to Maryland. I like to have the tv on while I knit, but I really listen to it more than I actually watch it. I was clicking around, looking for something to watch when I found Bob Ross just beginning a painting. Perfect, I thought, and began to knit. I quickly realized, however, that I didn't want to look away from Bob's painting to knit. I might miss something. Well, it was only a half-hour show, so I laid my knitting aside, and watched Bob work. I love the sound his brush makes as he taps the canvas with spring green paint, and his soothing voice assures me that there are no mistakes, just happy accidents. My eyes glazed over, and I never even realized when I fell asleep.

When I woke up, Bob was gone, and someone else was talking to me about the collection at The Butler Institute. I had heard the name before, and I guess I thought it was probably in Pittsburgh. I was totally surprised to learn that it was actually in Youngstown, a place I have never been, despite living within 50 miles of it for the last seven years. I sat down at my computer and googled the museum. You can see what I found here: Well, we love museums, and since Ben has this week off, the two of us headed out there on Wednesday, mapquest maps in hand.

We only got lost once, and within an hour of leaving home, we turned into the parking lot of the beaux-arts building designed in 1917 by architects, McKim, Mead and White. After a quick lunch in the small (and very cold) museum café, Ben and I set out to explore the collection. What a pleasant surprise this little museum was! It had works by all the big names in American art, of course, Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper and Grant Wood, to name a few, but it also had a lot of works by lesser-known (to us, unknown) artists, as well. I love to have a good mix of familiar and new art to look at, and that is exactly what we found.

A large new wing of the museum is "dedicated solely to new media and electronic art. The facility regularly displays works of art that utilize computers, holography, lasers and other digital media." The exhibits there were fascinating and fun, especially the interactive Ronald Amstutz installation.

Several hours passed before we knew it, then we headed for home. Although it took us a long time to learn about The Butler Institute, it won't take us long to return there. This was a One-Tank Trip well worth taking.


Julie said...

sounds pretty fantastic, mom! i look forward to going when i get back!

how big was it? i mean, did it take you several hours? i assume it was bigger than the akron museum was before its renovation (remember, when we went there for the anime exhibit?). maybe bigger than it is now, even?

anne mancine said...

We also saw signs for a "Museum of Labor & Industry", which seems like something you might be particularly interested in. I couldn't find out much about it online, however.

anne mancine said...

Oops, forgot to answer your question. I would say it is bigger than the Akron museum now, so it is a decent size.

Julie said...

hey, labor and industry sounds cool! where'd you see a sign for it?

anne mancine said...

Also in Youngstown. I'm guessing the "industry" part of it is probably the steel industry, eh?

Ben said...

This was a top-notch museum, and considering it was only American art, even more impressive. A great space, lots and lots of art, nearly all of it very interesting. There was a gallery devoted to the Pastel Society of America which I was really surprised to enjoy. So much variety - from very chalky-looking to oil-painty to hyper-real air brush-looking - the collection challenged my preconceived notions, seemingly.

We were disturbed that some of the lights intended to show off some pieces were burned out. (!) And there was only a very minor Georgia O'Keeffe, and we didn't actually visit the "Sports Art" gallery, but these are minor points and didn't diminish our delight or enjoyment of his museum.

Of course I liked the modern stuff. Plenty of neon, lights and mirrors, recorded performance art - even a "Rube Goldberg"-like contraption.

Put visiting this place on your to-do list!

Kristy said...

I fucking love Bob Ross - I spent many of my formative years watching him (and others like Julius Sumner Miller) on pbs. I credit Bob Ross with teaching me how to turn blunders into happy accidents :)

anne mancine said...

When we went to see my dad over the weekend, I mentioned that we had been to this museum. He said he had been there when he used to travel to Youngstown on business. He's been everywhere, man!