Polk Museum opens new Degas exhibit

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Hannah Kiester

Since Winter Break, the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College has been experiencing record-breaking numbers of attendees, according to museum curator and FSC professor Dr. Alexander Rich. 

The newest collection, which has been particularly popular so far, features the works of Edgar Degas. While most art fans may know of Degas for his paintings, the collection at the museum offers a selection of his drawings instead.

One of Rich’s favorite sections in the collection is the early drawings by Degas as a young man.

“I love the immediacy,” Rich said. “I love looking at them and knowing that is Degas’s hand.”

While most people might expect to see more paintings in a Degas collection, the goal of the current collection is to expose attendees to a side of the famous impressionist that they may not have known about before.

“That’s one of the biggest things [about the museum],” Rich said. “I want people to have fun, but I don’t want them to come out and just say they’ve seen some art. I want them to say they learned something new.”

The collection, “Degas: The Private Impressionist,” features 21 drawings, 21 prints, seven photos, three mono-types and one letter. The variety of mediums used was one of the appeals of the collection, which is part of a touring exhibition. 

Also featured in the Degas collection are works by or of other contemporary artists in his circle that visitors may be familiar with, such as Degass’ close friend and fellow artist, Mary Cassatt.

With the opening of the Degas exhibit, Rich and the other curators hope to raise the bar of what the museum has to offer in order to attract more visitors, both students and members of the public alike.

Along with adding more well-known artists, Rich is hoping to add a more academic quality to the works featured at the museum. 

Given the recent partnership between the museum and FSC, the curators are now putting more of a focus on “learning in an effective, fun, illustrative way,” Rich said.

“Degas: The Private Impressionist” will be at the Polk Museum until March 24. 

Later this semester and into the summer, the museum has a full roster of exhibits that will be featured. With the museum’s partnership with the college, the museum is able to schedule events further into the future than they were able to before.

Rich noted a few exhibits that he is particularly looking forward to. Those include “Painted Pages: Illuminated Manuscripts,” which features manuscripts dating back to the medieval period, and “Inside the Masters’ Studios: Dioramas by Richard Haas,” which will feature a New York artist’s dioramas of famous artists’ studios. 

For those looking for more content from the museum, Rich leads curator talks at the museum every first Thursday of the month at 6 p.m.. The next talk will be Feb.7, and it is open to both students and the public.

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