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Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum leads consortium with Southern museums

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Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
An untitled 64-by-81-inch latch-hooked rug by sculptor Alexander Calder will be part of a collaborative traveling exhibit between the Wadsworth and museums from South Carolina and Alabama.

Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is partnering with three Southern art museums to form the American South Consortium as part of a national effort to expand the public’s access to American art.

Thanks to a $2 million grant from the Art Bridges Foundation, the Wadsworth, along with curators from South Carolina’s Columbia Museum of Art, and Alabama’sMobile Museum of Art and Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, will spend the next three years collaborating on a series of traveling exhibits of American art, using works from each museum’s respective collections.

Erin Monroe, the Wadsworth’s Krieble Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, said the exhibits will play to each museum’s strength, like the Wadsworth’s collection of what she calls “material culture.”

“So we have costumes, textiles, furniture and decorative arts,” Monroe said. “And the [consortium] partners were really interested in how the Wadsworth’s material culture objects can be in conversation with their own collection of American art.”

One such material culture object from the Wadsworth collection that will be on display in the first traveling exhibit is a pair of rarely seen hook rugs by noted modernist sculptor and onetime Connecticut resident Alexander Calder.

“Less well-known is the fact that Calder worked in other mediums besides wood and wire,” said Monroe. “So the mixing of the known and the unknown I think creates some interesting conversations.”

The American South Consortium is part of the Art Bridges Cohort Program. In a statement, Paul Provost, CEO of Art Bridges, said, “Expanding access through collaboration and collection-sharing is at the heart of the Art Bridges Cohort Program, and we’re delighted to have the Wadsworth leading the American South Consortium. These four cohort partners are exploring new ways of storytelling and presenting American art and material culture from different regions of the country for their respective communities.”

The first objects from the Southern museums in the consortium will be on display at the Wadsworth this spring.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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