“Give me a museum and I’ll fill it.” — Pablo Picasso
What are your vacation plans? Consider a day trip to Richmond where the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts offers the mystery and excitement of many worlds in one place.
In the midst of the Great Depression, on January 16, 1936, Virginia’s political and business leaders bravely demonstrated their faith in the future and their belief in the value of art by opening the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond; it would serve as the headquarters for an educational network that would bring the best of world art, past and present, to every corner of the commonwealth.
A $100,000 private challenge grant to build a museum for this burgeoning public art collection was issued; Virginia Governor John Garland Pollard accepted the challenge by promoting the use of state revenues to support the new museum’s operating expenses. Virginia’s General Assembly approved legislation authorizing the museum on March 27, 1934 and with additional funds from the Federal Works Projects Administration, the VMFA became a reality.
Today, the museum is an international treasure trove of design and history and artisic excellence. Read on.
On the road to the Shenandoah Valley.
In 1953, VMFA became one of the first museums in the world to have an Artmobile. For four decades, as many as four Artmobiles toured 59 exhibitions and served more than 2.5 million Virginians. Due to conservation concerns and the fragility of traveling works of art, VMFA replaced the program in the early 1990s with a strategy to develop stronger partnerships with schools, community centers, and museums around the state. Today, a climate-controlled 53-foot Volvo trailer includes Wi-Fi to connect visitors with VMFA educators and interactive components to meet their 21st-century expectations. Here are two opportunities to visit this traveling show near Winchester.
Madison County Fair
Delight in Imperial Splendor.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has the largest public collection of Fabergé and Russian decorative arts in an American museum. It includes about 200 objects by or attributed to the Fabergé firm, as well as “Old Russian”–style works, such as silver and enamels, by Feodor Rückert and other masters. You can imagine yourself on the Russian Court in the early 1900s when the Romanov Families held the public’s fascination. There are interactive displays that offer commentary and assistance with historic context.
Paradise lost and Found.
The environs inside the museum look outside to the former Confederate Home for Women. The monumental limestone building on the west boundary of the present museum grounds was built in 1932 as a residence for destitute female relatives of Confederate veterans. In operation for over fifty years, it now houses museum offices and meeting rooms as well as the headquarters of the Virginia Association of Museums
Pack a picnic for the green spaces beyond the sculpture pool. The grounds are open, and you can supplement your fare with food from one (or both!) of the two eateries in the museum. What a great way to celebrate history and the outdoors.
Shop the world.
While you are enjoying your visit, bring home a treat with international vibes. Home and garden and books underscore this carefully sourced collection.
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