Current and Coming features detailed information about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania. Originated as “Currents.” Retitled “Current and Coming,” Winter 2003, and then retitled “Out and About,” Fall 2005. Revived as “Current and Coming,” Winter 2013. Ran regularly, Spring 1984 to Spring 2008, and then occasionally, Winter 2013 to Spring 2015.

Quilt Museum Reopens

After having been closed for nine months for substantial renovations and an extensive expansion, the Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum recently reopened, boasting an enlarged exhibition space, a one- thousand square foot textile-related museum store, and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.

Peter Swift Seibert, president and CEO of the Heritage Center of Lancaster County, which administers the newly revamped museum, says “the renovation has increased the institution’s street presence and gives it a bright, welcoming appearance.” He notes that the larger exhibition space enables visitors to enjoy a greater perspective on quilts and textiles on view.

Anchoring the museum’s exhibitions is the premier collection of Lancaster County Amish quilts formerly owned by the Esprit de Corps, a San Francisco based clothing company whose founders, Douglas Tompkins and Susie Russell Tompkins, began gathering what has been acclaimed as the best collection of Amish quilts in the world. The couple decorated the walls of the company’s world headquarters in San Francisco with quilts, which they invited sightseers to visit. The company occupied a unique position in the history of quilts: it was the first clothing manufacturer to employ its own quilt curator.

After the Tompkinses divorced and sold the company, they divided the quilt collection. Douglas Tompkins placed his share in a foundation, the Conservation Land Trust, created to preserve rain forest environments in South America. In 2002, the Heritage Center Museum of Lancaster County purchased 82 of the Amish quilts made by Lancaster County women between 1870 and 1940 for one million dollars. Seibert says patterns in the collection include all the Amish classics: Diamond in the Square, Bars, Sunshine and Shadow, Nine Patch, Jacob’s Ladder, and Tumbling Blocks. “This collection,” he adds, “is literally the best of the best. We brought these quilts home to Lancaster County and to Pennsylvania so that we could share them with visitors who want to know more about Amish, Mennonite, and Pennsylvania German culture and tradition. By bringing this collection back to Lancaster County, we’re preserving it and keeping it intact while offering it to the public as a popular visitor attraction.” Seibert also notes that the purchase of the collection was beneficial to not only Pennsylvania, but to international environmental conservation. “The one million dollars we raised for the purchase,” he adds, “went directly to aid South America’s endangered rain forests.”

With the acquisition of the Esprit Collection, the Heritage Center of Lancaster County launched into the development of the Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum. For the new museum, the center acquired a grand Beaux Arts-style building, originally built in 1912 for the Lancaster Trust Company, a prosperous community bank that failed during the Great Depression, in the heart of historic downtown Lancaster. After the bank’s failure, the building stood empty for much of its existence — until it opened as the Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum in 2004.

In addition to the Esprit Collection, visitors can examine other Amish objects and artifacts in a stimulating interactive exhibition appropriate for both adults and children. Museumgoers can learn about the history of the Amish, defining characteristics of Amish quilts made in Lancaster County, and the process of making a quilt. The inaugural show in the changing exhibits gallery is “Rags to Rugs: Pennsylvania Hooked and Hand-Sewn Rugs,” featuring traditional and contemporary examples. The exhibit continues through December 31, 2008.

The Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum, located at 37 Market Street, is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is charged and group rates are available. The Heritage Center of Lancaster County also operates the Heritage Center Museum, on Penn Square at 5 West King Street, that showcases and interprets the history and decorative arts of Lancaster County and southcentral Pennsylvania. Both museums offer a full spectrum of professionally developed educational programs for school groups, adults, and families.

 

Masterpieces

Organized by Pittsburgh’s Frick Art and Historical Center, “From J.P. Morgan to Henry Clay Frick” provides — at least for a limited time — an exciting opportunity for visitors to examine an outstanding selection of bronzes, porcelains, furniture, and works of art with a fasci- nating history: all objects were acquired from the collection of American financier J. Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913).

A search of the Frick Art and Historical Center’s collections identified approximately seventy objects originally owned by Morgan, including a large group of Renaissance and Baroque bronzes, rare Chinese and Meissen porcelains, eighteenth-century French furniture, and an array of fine and decorative arts. Together, these objects tell the story of the intersection of two great entrepreneurs and col- lectors: New York’s Morgan and Pittsburgh’s Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919).

Morgan amassed the majority of his astonishing collection of fine art and decorative accessories, manuscripts, and historical materials in the last decade of the nineteenth century, after his father’s death in 1890. In the opening years of the twentieth century, he continued to purchase with a feverish zeal, eventually assembling a collection unrivalled for breadth and quality. At the time of Morgan’s death in 1913, it was estimated that the value of his collections accounted for as much of sixty million dollars of his eighty million dollar estate. Frick, who died six years after Morgan, acquired a small but significant portion of the Wall Street tycoon’s collection. Pieces that Frick purchased from the Morgan estate passed to family members, including his unmarried daughter, Helen Clay Frick (1888–1984), who ultimately brought the pieces she inherited to Pittsburgh where they were part of the founding collection of the Frick Art Museum.

“This exhibition allows the Frick an opportunity to present a wide array of objects from our permanent collection together for the first time,” says William B. Bodine Jr., director of the historical center. “With this exhibition,” he continues, “visitors can examine the collecting interests and influence of two of our nation’s preeminent art collectors and cultural benefactors.” Bodine also says the collecting habits of both Morgan and Frick warrant attention.

As a teenager and young adult, Morgan spent a great deal of time in Europe, both convalescing (after a bout of rheu- matic fever) and attending school. The experience exposed him to the richness of European history and the remark- able treasures that filled the stately homes of wealthy Europeans. During his rise to prominence in the world of finance, he began amassing works of art and furnishings. In 1888, he entered a lengthy relationship with the Met- ropolitan Museum of Art and became president of its board in 1904. He began to envision his collection at home at the Met, hinting that it would be gifted to it if he could avoid the exorbitant customs taxes. Tax laws were changed in 1909, and museum officials planned an immense exhibition that has been called America’s first “blockbuster.” Morgan died in 1913 and did not live to see the exhibit featuring more than four thousand pieces from his collection which opened the following year. More than one million people visited the exhibition in 1914 alone.

Many of the purchases Frick made from Morgan’s estate were carefully selected to create the proper domestic setting for experiencing his painting collection. Portrait of Mr. Frick in the West Gallery, posthumously painted in 1925 by Sir Gerald Kelly (1879–1972), depicts the Pittsburgh steelmaker in his element — enjoying a cigar amidst his bronzes and accompanied by the likenesses of seventeenth- century royalty as painted by Velásquez and El Greco.

In addition to bronzes and paintings, “From J.P. Morgan to Henry Clay Frick” includes a finely crafted late-eighteenth- century writing table by master French furniture maker Martin Carlin and an outstanding pair of impressively large and magnificently painted eighteenth-century Chinese vases. “The objects we have placed on display,” Bodine adds, “embody both the apex of artistry and craftsmanship for their particular time and place, and they represent the aspira- tions of their various owners as they have passed through the years and ultimately passed from Morgan to Frick, two of the country’s wealthiest citizens. This exhibition also represents a deeper involvement with researching the Frick Art Museum’s permanent collections and presenting them within the fascinating contexts in which they were formed.”

“From J.P. Morgan to Henry Clay Frick” continues through Sunday, February 3, 2008.

The Frick Art and Historical Center, in addition to administering the Frick Art Museum, also operates Clayton, the baronial residence of the Frick family, and the Car and Carriage Museum in Pittsburgh’s residential East End.