The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum hosted the “American Visionary: John F. Kennedy’s Life and Times” reception on Thursday, March 21, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The exhibit was curated by Lawrence Schiller, who photographed the Kennedys, Marilyn Monroe and other famous figures. He gave a lecture after the reception in the Malcolm Field Theatre.
The traveling exhibit was sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
This was the first exhibit to be hosted by Megan McAdow, who took over as museum director this semester.
“It’s amazing (to have this as my first exhibit),” she said. “I’m so happy that we are able to bring this exhibit to SVSU, and that it’s the only Michigan venue for the exhibition.”
The exhibit consists of about 77 pieces, including replicated photos. It also features several artifacts, including books and magazines.
Marilyn Wheaton, the former museum director, was responsible for getting the exhibit to SVSU.
“I believe Wheaton primarily (wanted the exhibit here) because of the connection with Marshall Fredericks doing the JFK bust, which he did in 1970 for Macomb County in bronze, but we have the original plaster here still in the museum,” McAdow said.
During his lifetime, Fredericks was a JFK supporter.
“Marshall Fredericks is quoted as being very revering of John F. Kennedy for his optimism, and he thought that he had a visionary quality to him, so we created the American Visionary Exhibition,” McAdow said.
Besides Wheaton, Schiller also played a key role in getting the exhibit to SVSU.
“The curator actually worked with the Kennedy family during the planning stages,” McAdow said. “The Kennedy family actually contacted him and said that the centennial year of JFK’s birth, 2017, was coming up, and they wanted the curator, Lawrence Schiller (to create) the book we have for sale here.”
The Kennedys liked Schiller’s book so much that they let him create an exhibit for it.
“It started off at the Smithsonian, and it’s been traveling around the country,” McAdow said. “Now it’s in France, and then I think it is going to go to China for two years.”
McAdow’s favorite replicated photo is of Kennedy wearing Ray-Bans.
“I love JFK and his Ray-Bans,” she said. “That is awesome. We brought in some merchandise for the museum store with the cool shades. I anticipate that we will have to order more of those.”
The replicated photo of Jackie Kennedy in her pink Chanel suit also stands out to McAdow.
“She was working with the Smithsonian at the time when her husband was in office, trying to get the Smithsonian museums to upgrade and modernize,” she said. “So, as someone who works in museums, that’s really important and really cool.”
McAdow found that many people connected to the exhibit.
“The subject matter, of course, is tapping into a lot of peoples’ memories, but we’re also finding out that a lot of younger people, including myself, who weren’t around during JFK’s lifetime really find the images resonating and really powerful,” she said. “It makes you think about the office of the president, how it appears through these photographs and how it is in our lifetime.”
The museum will be offering several events related to the exhibit. On select Saturdays, Andrea Ondish, the museum education coordinator, will host free drop-in art activity programs open to all ages.
The museum will also host a Lunch and Learn series. Several speakers will discuss different topics related to JFK.
More information about the events can be found on the museum’s website or Facebook page.
The American Visionary exhibit will remain open until June 29.
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