FREDERICKSBURG—Sixty-five years after the launch of the original Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VFMA) Artmobile, Governor Ralph Northam and VMFA Director Alex Nyerges today hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of VMFA on the Road: An Artmobile for the 21st Century. The inaugural exhibition, How Far Can Creativity Take You? VMFA Fellowship Artists, explores the history and impact of VMFA’s fellowship program, the largest of its kind in the United States, using the work of former fellowship artists to examine how different mediums and techniques are used to create unique works of art.
“The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has been an important state partner since its opening in 1936, serving as the state’s flagship art museum and sharing acclaimed works of art with visitors from all parts of the Commonwealth and around the world,” said Governor Northam. “I am thrilled to launch this unique mobile art exhibition that will reach an unprecedented number of Virginians and give of all people ages an opportunity to experience our world-class artwork up close.”
Beginning in 1953 the original Artmobile program brought art exhibitions and educational programs to colleges, schools, and community organizations across Virginia for 40 years, reaching 2.5 million people. VMFA discontinued its Artmobile program in the early 1990s, but as part of its 2015–2020 strategic plan and a renewed commitment to statewide outreach, museum leadership began exploring ways to bring this beloved program back. When the Commonwealth offered VMFA an 18-wheel tractor-trailer that includes 640 feet of display space, the museum began working with exhibition design firms Riggs Ward Design of Richmond and Explus Inc. in Sterling to design and fabricate a new and improved version of the Artmobile, equipped with cutting edge technology for 21st-century visitors.
“As a statewide art museum we are charged not only with welcoming visitors to our Richmond campus, but also with bringing art and educational programs to all corners of the Commonwealth,” said VMFA Director Alex Nyerges. “VMFA on the Road will allow us to significantly extend our reach so that every Virginian will have access to authentic works of art and arts-based educational programming regardless of their location or economic status. It is our hope that VMFA on the Road will transform lives and communities through the creative power of art.”
The exhibition is divided into three sections, beginning with an introduction to VMFA and its unique history of serving the Commonwealth of Virginia. The second space is a gallery presenting artwork by fellowship winners, in-depth video interviews with the artists, VMFA curators, and educators, and a modular studio that can be used for collaborative projects. Featured artists include painters Cy Twombly and Benjamin Wigfall; photographers Sally Mann and Emmet Gowin; printmakers Dennis Winston and Ann Chenoweth; and television writer and director Vince Gilligan, among other Virginians.
From interactive features using newly digitized collection images to classroom resources from the online Learn Portal, VMFA on the Road also includes 21st-century digital components that will be fully integrated with VMFA’s broader digital outreach efforts. In preparation for the mobile museum’s arrival, local secondary schools can also participate in the new Evans 360° program, which enables students to interact in real time with a VMFA educator broadcasting live from the museum’s galleries.
Like their Artmobile colleagues from the past, VMFA on the Road educators will greet visitors, conduct tours, offer activities on-site and work with local statewide partners to give lectures at community venues as well as hands-on workshops in schools and art studios.
VMFA on the Road will visit Hurkamp Park from October 30 through November 2. Tours will be limited to school groups from October 31 through November 2, with public tours being offered on Friday, November 2, from 2:00 to 7:00 PM. The Fredericksburg visit is organized in partnership with the Fredericksburg Area Museum. Its next scheduled stop is November 10 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM in Lorton for the Workhouse Arts Center’s 10th anniversary. For details on the Artmobile’s schedule, visit vmfa.museum/on-the-road.
The anticipated tour schedule consists of a combination of visits to K-12 schools, short residencies at community partners such as Boys and Girls Clubs, stops at community colleges and four-year institutions, visits to Museum Level Partners, and participation in large festivals and fairs throughout the state. The initial 16-month tour will place special emphasis on reaching communities in Southwest, Southern, and Central Virginia, in addition to venues in all 21 of the Commonwealth’s planning districts. A VMFA on the Road residency will typically last three days.
About the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the largest comprehensive art museums in the United States. VMFA, which opened in 1936, is a state agency and privately endowed educational institution. Its purpose is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret art, and to encourage the study of the arts. Through the Office of Statewide Partnerships program, the museum offers curated exhibitions, arts-related audiovisual programs, symposia, lectures, conferences, and workshops by visual and performing artists. In addition to presenting a wide array of special exhibitions, the museum provides visitors with the opportunity to experience a global collection of art that spans more than 6,000 years. VMFA’s permanent holdings encompass nearly 40,000 artworks, including the largest public collection of Fabergé outside of Russia, the finest collection of Art Nouveau outside of Paris, and one of the nation’s finest collections of American art. VMFA is also home to important collections of Chinese art, English silver, and French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, British sporting, and modern and contemporary art, as well as renowned South Asian, Himalayan, and African art. In May 2010, VMFA opened its doors to the public after a transformative expansion, the largest in its history.