Sixty-five years after the launch of the original Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VFMA) Artmobile, a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 2nd celebrated 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.
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.
For details on the Artmobile’s schedule, visit vmfa.museum/on-the-road.