The progeny of a cool idea by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is hitting the road this spring—and Culpeper County will be its first stop.
The 18-wheel VMFA Artmobile will park outside Culpeper County High School on March 25-27, inviting area residents to come inside and enjoy artworks by masters of the craft.
From 1953 to 1994, the world’s first Artmobile—created by the Richmond-based museum—roamed the roads of the commonwealth, bringing art exhibitions and educational programs to 2.5 million people.
Its modern descendant, launched in October 2018, is continuing that adventuresome journey by transporting a diverse sampling, “A View from Home: Landscapes of Virginia,” to communities far and wide. The traveling exhibition will be the first time these works of art have been displayed outside the museum.
After the show opens in Culpeper, its 2020 premiere, the Artmobile will roll on to other communities. It will visit Sperryville’s Haley Fine Art gallery on Saturday, March 28, from 2 to 5 p.m. The gallery is at 42 Main St; call 540-987-1000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Culpeper, the tractor-tractor chock-full of art will welcome visitors from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 25; 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, March 26; and 3 to 4 p.m. Friday, March 27, at 14240 Achievement Drive between Culpeper High and Culpeper Middle School. Admission is free.
Retired educator Elizabeth Hutchins, a former member of the Culpeper County School Board, is among the area residents who helped persuade the museum to bring it here.
“The Artmobile was in existence when I was a child so I remember, way back then, having it come to Culpeper, and going to see it,” Hutchins said in an interview Thursday. “I loved having that opportunity, and wanted to share it with children today.”
Rappahannock County resident Anne Edwards, a VMFA trustee, proposed bringing it to the region.
Fauquier County sculptor Gary Coleson, who created the “Healing Hands” sculpture at the Culpeper Hospital and has designed a sculpture for Rockwater Park, introduced Edwards to Hutchins—and they ran with the idea.
“We’re proactive about art education here and wanted to give students the opportunity to really benefit from having the Artmobile here,” Hutchins said.
Culpeper teachers will take students through the Artmobile’s exhibition during class time, she said. Students from Floyd T. Binns Middle School and Eastern View High School will be bused to it. Elementary-school students and their parents can come during public visiting hours.
Teachers will cue students to be on the lookout for particular features in the artworks, and prompt them with questions. Viewers will also listen to audio presentations via earbuds.
Covering a wide range of mediums and artists, the educational presentations are geared toward secondary-school students—and not just those in art classes. Those teaching social-studies, creative writing or leading programs for gifted students are developing lessons around the Artmobile, Hutchins said.
“In my experience in Culpeper, many students don’t have the opportunity to go to the VFMA, or any museum,” she said. “Many students don’t ever go to Washington, D.C., or Richmond—so the opportunity to have the Artmobile come here, for them, is golden. It’s a chance to get a glimpse of what’s in the museum, maybe pique their interest and encourage them to go.”
Hutchins said experiencing fine arts firsthand can bring alive their magic, driving home the beauty and heart that can enrich the lives of all who experience them.
She shares a favorite quote by Pablo Picasso: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up.”
“We all need to tune into that inner child, to find that creativity and help release the stress and anxiety of our day-to-day lives,” Hutchins said. “Art helps us do that.”
“A View from Home: Landscapes of Virginia” will exhibit works by Adele Clark, Hullihen Williams Moore, George Harvey, Edward Beyer, George H. Benjamin Johnson, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Laure Pharis, O. Winston Link, Miwako Nishizawa, Elizabeth Nottingham and Brian Palmer.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1936, during the depths of the Great Depression, for the benefit of the people of Virginia. It is the only art museum in the United States open 365 days a year with free admission.