WORCESTER — The Worcester Art Museum has been awarded three grants totaling $290,000 to support a new arms and armor gallery, teen programming and operational relief.
The awards include $250,000 from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to fund the design and development phase for the long-term installation of the John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection of arms and armor, the museum said in an announcement.
Acquired in 2014 when the Higgins Armory Museum closed, the Higgins Armory Collection at WAM is the second largest of its kind in the Americas, next only to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Comprising arms, armor and metalwork from around the world and from antiquity to the 19th century, the collection is particularly known for its rare grouping of suits of plate armor from 15th- to 17th-century Europe. By the end of 2023, WAM plans to open an Arms and Armor Gallery, displaying nearly the entire 2,000-object collection in a combination of gallery displays and open storage, an innovative design solution that allows museum visitors to see a large quantity of artwork in a non-traditional exhibition space.
“The ultimate result will be a stunning display of beautiful objects, but more importantly, it will offer a personalized visitor experience that capitalizes on the powerful popular appeal of arms and armor to engage existing audiences and draw new visitors to the museum,” said Jeffrey L. Forgeng, The Higgins Curator of Arms and Armor and Medieval Art at WAM.
The museum recently launched redesigned webpages for the Higgins Collection. These new pages provide comprehensive information about the collection, its history, related programs and the present — and future — interpretation and integration of arms and armor throughout WAM, the museum said. In addition, the Higgins Collection has its own Facebook and Instagram pages and YouTube library where followers get behind-the-scenes and in-depth information.
Meanwhile, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded the museum $30,000 to support its teen offerings through the 2020─2021 academic year. “Teen Arts at WAM” comprises a suite of traditional and innovative (and now also virtual) art classes, intensives, apprenticeships, collaborative programs and social experiences that take place outside of school time and are geared specifically for teens from the demographically diverse City of Worcester and surrounding communities. Partnerships with various groups, including the Worcester Public Schools and Worcester Juvenile Court, provide additional access points for rigorous art history and hands-on studio art instruction, as well as opportunities for exploration and belonging for approximately 250 teens each year.
The museum also announced that it has received $10,000 in operational relief funds from Mass Humanities, provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.
“This financial support for the Worcester Art Museum benefits all corners of our community by helping us transform lives with enriching programming,” said Matthias Waschek, WAM’s Jean and Myles McDonough Director, about the three grants. “We are grateful for this timely public support and confidence in our mission to connect people, communities and cultures through the experience of art.”