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Press Release / American Art
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Press Room

3/27/01

Smithsonian American Art Museum Participates in First Ever Collaborative International Virtual Exhibition

Contact: Laura Baptiste baptistel[at]si.edu
Tel: (202) 275-1594
American Art's Web site: AmericanArt.si.edu
Recorded information: (202) 633-8998


Media: Download Key Images from the Panoramas Virtual Exhibition


"Panoramas: The North American Landscape in Art," the first international art collaboration for the Web, sponsored by the United States, Canadian and Mexican governments, will be launched April 3, 2001.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum, located in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Department of State represent the United States in this trilateral project, which celebrates the landscape of North America by comparing cultural histories and outlooks of the three countries.

The virtual exhibition is available at www.virtualmuseum.ca/panoramas and as a link from the museum's Web site at http://AmericanArt.si.edu.

Artists in the United States, Mexico and Canada have long depicted a powerful attachment to place. This exhibition explores the ideas that people are profoundly affected by the landscapes they inhabit and that a sense of identity—as individuals, communities and nations—comes from the land.

"This is an exciting collaboration among the three countries that share one continent," said Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence M. Small. "We have much to learn from each other, and the Smithsonian is pleased to take part in this artful exploration of the importance of place and land in all our lives."

"The Smithsonian American Art Museum has been developing virtual exhibitions for an international audience since 1995," said Elizabeth Broun, the museum's Margaret and Terry Stent Director. "With our exceptional collection of American art, we are delighted to partner with Canada and Mexico in this .one-of-a-kind project."

"Canada, Mexico and the United States are united first of all by our geography," said R. Susan Wood, Deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs at the U.S. Department of State. "This unique virtual exhibit enables anyone with access to the Internet to view that geography through dramatic works of art depicting North American landscapes, and—very appropriately on the eve of the Summit of the Americas—it exemplifies the cooperative spirit of our North American Partnership. This wonderful exhibit is a splendid example of modern technology at the service of cultural diplomacy and mutual understanding."

The exhibition is organized along four themes—the Evolving Landscape, the Mythic Landscape, the Social Landscape and the Personal Landscape. Each theme contains about 75 artworks from all three countries shown side by side and organized by various sub-themes.

More than 100 images from the museum's permanent collection are available for the online visitor to explore and compare to works by Canadian and Mexican artists. Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's mural study for the U.S. Capitol, titled "Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way" (1861), represents the United States on the introductory splash page for the exhibition.

Other artworks from the museum's collection included in the exhibition are George Catlin's images of Native Americans in their villages, Thomas Moran's Western landscapes, Winslow Homer's seascapes, Edward Hopper's isolated scenes of New England, Grant Wood's mid-western landscapes, Berenice Abbott's photographs, William H. Johnson's scenes of African American life and Georgia O'Keeffe's abstractions.

"'Panoramas' offers visitors an experience that would be hard to replicate in an actual museum," said Jeana K. Foley, virtual exhibition specialist at the museum and project manager for the exhibition. "The Web allows us to show images that might be too large or too fragile to travel."

A significant portion of the site is dedicated to interactive educational programming designed to foster understanding among citizens and to encourage students to find cultural similarities and differences.

"The Panoramas Education Project allows young people throughout North America simultaneous participation in one undertaking that supports the overall spirit of 'Panoramas' as a trilateral and tri-lingual endeavor," said Woody Dowling, head of interactive distance learning at the museum.

The exhibition is designed for use in distance education, both in classroom settings and by individuals in each country. All text will be available in English, French and Spanish. The Smithsonian American Art Museum is hosting the global classroom within the museum's virtual community. A global classroom is a computer-mediated learning environment; a virtual community is a group of people with mutual interests .who communicate online. In addition, visitors can take a virtual tour with one of the exhibition's curators, experience a "Movies and Music" feature and view panoramic .scenes with virtual reality software

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A brochure in English, French and Spanish, prepared by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, will be available to .the public and distributed to educational facilities in all three countries.

A grant from the U.S. Department of State to the Smithsonian American Art Museum funded the development of the U.S. content based on the museum's collections.

The Canadian Heritage Information Network coordinated this initiative with support from the Department of Canadian Heritage. The Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec and the Winnipeg Art Gallery in Winnipeg, Manitoba provided Canadian content. The Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, located in Mexico City, provided content with support from Mexico's National .Council for Arts and Culture.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum collection began with gifts of art donated to the federal government in 1829 and has evolved into the world's most important American art holdings with approximately 39,000 paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, photographs, folk art and contemporary crafts.

While the three-year renovation of the museum's main building—the Old Patent Office—continues, American Art offers a full program of exhibitions at its Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W.). For information about Renwick Gallery activities, call (202) 357-2700. Please visit the museum's award-winning Web site at AmericanArt.si.edu.

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