Off the Cuff: We Love Art More than We Know

Charles Shepard, President and CEO

Despite the fact that many people wouldn’t consider themselves “art lovers”, it’s no real surprise that virtually everyone has images they love on their home or office walls or on their phone or iPad.  Maybe they have a smooth river stone they picked up in Petoskey or a polished slice of a geode from a rock shop in Sedona.  Maybe there’s a digital photo frame on their desktop or children’s drawings stuck on the front of their ‘fridge.  The truth is that we all have cool visual stuff we love to surround ourselves with – probably more today than ever before in history.  My perspective holds that all of that stuff is art, and our fondness for it all makes 99% of us art lovers, whether or not we ever walk into a gallery or art museum. I readily confess: I like stuff.  On the bookshelf at home, I have a large pink conch shell surrounded by family pictures and a pair of bronze Chinese foo dogs which guard a bright red balsa dragster my son made in the 5th grade. On my desk at the office, I have an eerie cast iron, gnarly, hand-shaped door knocker from the 19th century, a tin horse and wagon, my rosary beads hanging from my desk lamp, and a dozen little prints and drawings.

So even though my profession as a museum director means I’m paid to be surrounded by art, on a personal level I still covet my collection of cool stuff that I park in every bare space on my desk, shelves, and walls.  Seeing my artful stuff every day makes me extremely happy, and I’m sure you feel the same way about seeing your artful stuff each and every day.

Now, as the President and CEO of FWMoA, I’ll be the first to admit that I get to see a lot of cool things that aren’t part of my personal collection of special things. In a normal week, I walk through the galleries at least a dozen times a day and see hundreds of objects that were made specifically to be seen in that space.  That’s a treat that transcends my pleasure at looking at my own little collection of cool things. Basically, that’s the role of museums in our lives: to give those of us who, knowingly or intuitively, like looking at stuff the chance to see something that we might otherwise miss. The door to my office, for example, opens to reveal a gold, glistening Chihuly chandelier that is art on a scale way beyond my personal resources. Although I must walk by that shimmering glass orb 20 times a day, I smile each time like I’ve just seen the sun peek out from behind the clouds on these ever grey Indiana spring days. Just down the stairs, the rosy glow from Peter Bremers’ pink triangle fairly radiates optimism no matter the weather. And just around the corner, our new glass installation, Repose in Amber by Martin Blank, kickstarts everyone’s inspiration by virtue of its beauty and ambitious scale.

Martin Blank, American, b. 1962. Reponse in Amber. Hand-sculpted glass on steel, 2004. Private Collection.

I could go on and on, but my point really is simple: in some form, we’re all art lovers. The artful things we hold close to our hearts came to us as the result of a series of personal experiences. If we would all take a moment or two to reach out to touch on a new series of experiences, we would find more things to love. We would find more things that bring us as much joy as those wonderful things we already covet. And the beauty of this is that it’s all right at your fingertips – every day, this museum puts hundreds of tantalizing visual experiences right in your path just waiting for you to sample them. (Just remember to look but not touch!). Come in, open your eyes, and your world of things you love will have no end.

Inspired to visit us? Come see us Tuesday-Sunday, with free admission on Thursday evenings from 5pm-8pm.

Leave a Reply