Art for all. And all. And all
When the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art opened its doors to the public on March 2, 2008, it gave up a 20-plus year history of being “Art on the Gogh”. Along the way, the collection had travelled abroad and created “pop up” displays wherever wall space could be found — mostly in the City of Hamilton, but not confined to that environ.
It was “guerrilla warfare”, with art its cause and champion. The belief was that “A” was for Art, “A” was for Access and “A” was for “Awerybody”.
Art should be hospitable, not hostile to inquiring minds; open to both criticism and praise for its initiative. It made no apologies for the notion that education, information and awareness were cool, and that art could teach us about ourselves. Art would help us to discover that culture and history were a process to better prepare us for the world around us.
In the early days, Masterworks went to the schools, hosted “Arts for All”, summer camps, television quizzes before the seven o’clock news, hosted telethons to raise funds and awareness, as well as using reproductions from the collection for annual reports, publications and even sandwich boards to visibly share the rich heritage that art offered.
Today, with a fixed address in the Botanical Gardens, the philosophy has not changed — just the notion that the artwork cannot be driven around on wheels. The new mandate is that any visitor of any age, background or interest may access the collection or meet with the archivist for any inquiries.
Because the museum is centrally located and open to the public six days a week, but striving for seven days, the ambition is to see visitors of “all stripes” enjoy and learn in as informal a platform as possible. There is much discussion around education that centres on the formal classroom, reading, writing and maths, with little or no attention paid to the arts, no matter the discipline and as an adjunct to education rather than a part of it.
Therefore, students whose abilities are in the arts and languages are short-changed, coupled with the known, researched knowledge that students who make up an arts programme make better pupils owing to their ability to learn to focus, concentrate and discipline themselves.
I challenge you to show me an undisciplined dance or musical programme.
So ten years later, Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art continues to try to reach out to the community. The facility, its collection, and its wonderful and rich archive are available for both academic and the merely curious for the practitioner to see the results of the “masters” in their field, or simply the lovers of art.
Mark Twain once said: “You can go to heaven if you want. I’ll stay right here in Bermuda.”
To paraphrase: “You can see the world and never leave home.”
The museum was not any one person’s will; it was rather a collective vision and wish, a people’s museum sponsored by hundreds of willing donors to give the gift of life — art in our heart for posterity and the benefit of future generations.
The ultimate goal would be for visitors to leave with a shake of the head and say: “I have seen Bermuda and now I understand.”
See. Learn. Enrich.
• Tom Butterfield, MBE, is the founder and creative director of the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art
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