by William R. Valerio
These first weeks of 2014 at the Woodmere Art Museum are a time for thinking ahead and planning the exhibitions, films, music performances, classes and lectures that will make the year vibrant and exciting. At Woodmere, as at every museum I have ever known, we are working on all these programs at the same time, preparing labels and finishing the hanging of some exhibitions, even as we make the trade-offs on the checklists for future shows, contact potential speakers, purchase our cases of wine and raise the funds we need to do it all.
Working the year backward (and being a holiday junkie), we are already looking forward to another holiday collaboration with Historic Germantown and the Chestnut Hill Historical Society on the theme of holidays past and the Pennsylvania German tradition. Belsnickel needs to make an annual appearance! And, of course, we are already planning the new straw maze.
On the exhibition front, for the fall we are working with artist Deena Gu Laties, a magnificent calligrapher and watercolorist who lives and works in Mt. Airy, whose large-scale works on paper straddle the artistic practices of her two cultural “homes,” Philadelphia and Shanghai, China.
We are also deep into negotiating loans with other museums and private collectors for an ambitious exhibition dedicated to the great Pennsylvania Impressionist painter W. Elmer Schofield. “Scho,” as he was known locally (he lived on West Moreland Avenue with his brother’s family for six months of every year and often painted on the Wissahickon), was involved at Woodmere, having been a close friend of Violet Oakley and her partner in life, Edith Emerson, who was the director of Woodmere from the early 1940s through 1978.
Over the summer, we offer the Woodmere Annual, which will be our 73rd annual juried show. This year, our juror is the wonderful Sarah McEneaney, who will not only select the work for the juried exhibition, but show a selection of her own recent work and organize an exhibition of treasures that spark her interest from Woodmere’s storage racks.
This spring is our season of women artists. In January and running through March, we offer a tribute exhibition to the late Martha Mayer Erlebacher, who taught for decades at the University of the Arts and at the New York Academy and was recognized as one of the very greatest figurative realist painters of our times.
Later in the season, we will open an exhibition dedicated to Jessie Drew-Bear, a self-taught “primitive” modernist who came to Philadelphia from London with her young daughter and painted from a small studio at the back of her once-renowned flower shop, The London Flower Shop, at 18th and Chestnut streets.
Another exhibition, opening in February, is dedicated to Quita Brodhead, an abstract colorist who found her voice as a painter in the middle decades of the 20th century. Brodhead’s large-scale gestural abstractions, which she showed extensively in Europe and New York, became well known in Philadelphia only when the artist was in her 90s (!), and Woodmere is honored to shine the light on the extraordinary accomplishments of her career.
To tie this all together, we are organizing an exhibition that focuses on women and biography, with selections from our collection that explore the many interesting ways that women artists painted themselves and their most loved.
Please don’t miss any of this, and know that there is nothing better than a packed house at the museum for our ongoing schedule of Saturday-afternoon lectures, Tuesday Night at the Movies, Friday Night Jazz and much more.
William R. Valerio, Ph.D., is the Patricia Van Burgh Allison Director and CEO at Woodmere Art Museum. Woodmere Art Museum is located at 9201 Germantown Ave. For more information, call 215-247-0476 or visit woodmereartmuseum.org.