Muse Award Winners in the West

Congratulations to our colleagues in California, Nevada, and Washington who earned recognition for their outstanding achievements in museum media at AAM's 2010 Muse Awards last night.

The Asian Art Museum (San Francisco, CA) won the top award in the Public Relations and Development category for Raising Spirits.

"Raising Spirits takes our world-renowned collection "on the road" via a plasma screen into private dining rooms of our patrons, while host Kirsten Shilakes—a museum-trained docent—tells tightly woven stories about art, food and wine, taking guests on a multi-sensory aesthetic and culinary journey. The result is a fully-conceived food and wine experience for our patrons that places the Asian Art Museum collection - in its digital form - as the centerpiece."

The judges said, "...Raising Spirits is a comprehensive public relations package designed to promote a traveling, multimedia art history presentation showcasing the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco's permanent collection. The package juxtaposes earthy and textured print materials with professionally produced digital content to create a balanced and complete project...very high marks for image quality, design and overall appeal."

The Nevada Museum of Art (Reno, CA) won the top award in the Video category for Between Grass and Sky.

"Much like visual art, the enduring tradition of cowboy poetry is a rich and vital form of cultural expression in the American West. This film, created and produced for the 2009 exhibition Between Grass & Sky: Rhythms of a Cowboy Poem, is inspired by the widely-celebrated poem Grass, which was written by legendary Texas poet Buck Ramsey. The exhibition featured a selection of historical and contemporary paintings, photographs, and sculptural works combined with the spoken voices of renowned cowboy poets in the film, this unique exhibition offered insight into the varied experiences arising from life in rural and ranching communities."

The judges said, "An absolutely beautiful video, the Nevada Museum of Art has created a moving piece which effectively transports the viewer right into the West. Really lovely introduction to a genre unfamiliar to many. Stellar editing and beautiful art direction. We loved hearing the three poets collectively recite the work with such genuine passion, and the film made us want to discover more cowboy poets.  This was the only entry where the entire room of jurors sat silent from beginning to end. Though clearly a polished production, it was the power of the readers' voices combined with the beauty of the poetry that won us over."

The Washington State History Museum (Tacoma, WA) won silver in the Community category.

"COLUMBIAKids is a free online magazine that features exciting, interesting, and informative articles and stories based in Pacific Northwest history. Our target readers are children up to age 14 who live in the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska, but we are also happy to find that our readers come to us from all over the world. We support family literacy both by working with established children's authors and by using varied media and formats to help kids explore the amazing people, places, objects, and events in Northwest history."

The judges said, "...The site should be commended for involving children's authors and illustrators to work on the content which makes the site more appealling to the young readers. It is a useful resource for teachers. The site has many interesting sections to engage the readers - the jurors especially like CollectionConnundrum which teaches children how to look at objects and podPuzzle."

The J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, CA) won the silver in the Video category for  Making a Spanish Polychrome Sculpture.

"In conjunction with a long-term didactic exhibition on the J. Paul Getty Museum's sculpture Saint Ginés de la Jara by Luisa Roldán, we produced a video comprised of animation and live action to demonstrate the carving and painting techniques used in Spain hundreds of years ago....Presented in-gallery and distributed online on, ArtBabble, and YouTube, we intentionally approached the subject in a manner that would make it a relevant resource for understanding the methods used to create any Spanish polychrome sculpture."

The judges said, "This is a fine example of technology effectively used to clearly demonstrate an intricate artistic process. It's the combination of the digital imagery with the live footage of an artist that makes this video exciting and fascinating for all kinds of audiences.  The entire film really promoted a deeper appreciation of the art form, far beyond what a viewer might get from just seeing the work in a museum. The footage of the artists' hands creating the pieces was really magical to watch. The computer-generated animations were just the icing on the cake. To see the traditional process put into use in a contemporary is what put this video above typical 'here's the process' videos."

Letitia Carper Long, a Museum Studies student at John F. Kennedy University (Berkeley, CA) won the bronze in the Student Award category for her video project in partnership with the Asian Art Museum (San Francisco, CA), Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam & Burma: Conserving the Collection.

The Emerald Cities exhibition was composed entirely of objects from the museum's permanent collection. Most objects date from the 19th century, and quite a few had been damaged or deteriorated over time. Art conservators worked some 7,500 hours to prepare the objects for the exhibition. The video, which was shown on a loop in one of the galleries throughout the exhibition's duration, needed to tell three stories:

  • The principal story is a "behind-the-scenes" view of the process, procedures, and methodology of art conservation.
  • The video also provides a brief introduction to the art and culture of 19th-century Siam and Burma, and tells a key story of Buddhism, which is the theme of the artwork presented.
  • Finally, because some 70 percent of the objects came from the collection of the late Doris Duke, the video also delves briefly into her story as a collector of Southeast Asian artwork.

The judge said, "Overall, I believe this video to have greatly enhanced the corresponding exhibit. So many times, you visit a gallery and see the objects and read the labels, but with this video, you get to look behind the scenes. The quality of the video is outstanding-- both in content and appearance."

Congratulations again to all our colleagues!

You can find more information and photos about AAM's 2010 Muse Awards on the Media and Technology Committee's website.

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Lydia Johnson




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