On a recent business trip to Norfolk, I had the opportunity to spend a morning visiting an East Coast treasure I never knew existed. The Chrysler Museum of Art, a venue housing tens of thousands of works exemplifying a number of styles and artists, represents a significant cultural resource for the city of Norfolk, Virginia.
The Chrysler Museum’s glass collection and state-of-the art glass blowing studio have literally made the venue a center of learning for the craft. For those with even a casual interest, be prepared to be blown away. The collection itself is every bit as expansive as the erotic pottery collection on display in Lima, Peru and includes everything from Tiffany lamps and stained glass windows to art nouveau pieces and items from ancient Egypt. There are some wonderful modern pieces as well.
The glass-blowing studio, located in an entirely separate building from the original Chrysler Museum, is state of the art. Students pursuing their Masters of Fine Arts degrees, renowned glass artists, families, tourists and local school groups can all benefit from the program. Freed from the budget constraints similar programs might experience, the studio offers free daily demonstrations to the public and a chance for visiting master artists to mentor the student interns participating in the program. For those who would like a more intimate, hands-on experience with the glass, the studio offers paid classes and workshops with limited class sizes focusing on everything from decorative beads, cold work, inclusions and even fusion.
In addition to the Chrysler Museum of Art’s extensive glass collection, you’ll find roughly 30,000 objets d’art spanning 5,000 years of human history. Examples are on display of European and American painting and sculpture, art nouveau furniture and pre-Columbian art as well as Islamic, African, Asian and numerous ancient Egyptian pieces. There’s even a notable photography program.
One that struck me in particular about the Chrysler Museum is the number of interactive opportunities there were for a museum that focuses mainly on older, more traditional art forms. In addition to the expected reflection benches in various gallery spaces, paintings of importance have soft couch seating in front of them. This invites longer, more introspective analysis of the works and makes a struggling art student’s life just a bit more comfortable. Also, in the neoclassical sculpture exhibit, there’s a place for youngsters to sit with sketch chalkboards and try their hand at capturing the essence of a variety of classical pieces.
For those who visit regularly, fresh viewing opportunities are worked into the schedule at the Chrysler Museum of Art. At the time of my visit, the big draw was the 30 Americans show, featuring works from 30 different African American artists using a variety of styles. There was also an interesting black and white photo show featuring images from the deep south. Other works of note featured on a rotating basis include items by such artists as Norman Rockwell, Rembrandt, Andy Warhol and more.
Within walking distance of the Chrysler Museum, and part of its overall program are two period homes of note. First, the Moses Myers House. Built by one of Norfolk’s prominent families after the Revolutionary War, the home contains an extensive collection of the family’s personal belongings over several generations, as well as a number of art works owned by the Myers.
Additionally, the Willoughby-Baylor House is also affiliated with the Chrysler Museum and is currently home to the Norfolk History Museum. The building contains several private works of the Chrysler family as well as a number of other items donated by private citizens to represent an accurate picture of the history of Norfolk. The garden was specifically designed to represent the most specific understanding available today regarding the look and feel of Colonial architecture.
The Chrysler Museum of Art if free to enjoy for all who would like to visit, although memberships are available for those who would like to provide additional support for the venue’s mission. When you are done sampling all of the food adventures the city of Norfolk has to offer, then this museum is a great way to incorporate a bit of culture into your vacation itinerary.
Photo Credits: Trek Hound