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The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is committed to engage and inspire through the arts, gardens and education. A permanent collection of nearly 5,000 works of art on a riverfront campus offers more than 95,000 annual visitors a truly unique experience on the First Coast. Nationally recognized education programs serve adults and children of all abilities.

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Family Activity Series: Cairo, Egypt



For this series, each geographical stop is paired with an item. Each item is significant and serves a specific function in ancient Islamic tradition. In order to complete each activity, please print the post and enjoy. The first stop in our activity series is Cairo, Egypt.

A minbar is a pulpit that is used by the prayer leader, (Imam), to lead prayer, give guidance to his listeners, and to give speeches. This particular minbar door is made from several different kinds of wood from several eras. Some of the intricate details are said to have come from original minbars! At the bottom of the door, there is a secret inscription that says, “Honor to our master the sultan the king… Al Zahir Baquq. God magnify his victory.”


Examine the mesmerizing details of the door on the left. Now look away and try and recreate the door from your memory using the outline on the right. How did you do? What did you remember? What did you forget?

Let’s continue on our journey! Next stop? Iznik, Turkey.


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Accessibility Outreach



The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is committed to living its mission, “to engage and inspire through the arts, gardens, and education.” This mission extends to all people, including those with disabilities who represent an integral part of the diverse visitors to the Museum. In some cases however, it is necessary for the staff of the Cummer Museum to go beyond its walls and out into the community to reach these populations in their schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. The outreach programs of the Museum’s Education Department are a vital component for ensuring access and engagement for all.

Outreach visits are designed to connect audiences to the Museum and are often carried out to prepare visitors for an upcoming trip to the Museum. Museum Educators often travel to sites to share photographs and stories that demonstrate the experience of visiting the Museum. In many cases when working with school children, the Educator will also lead the participants in an art-making activity that relates to the themes of the presentation.

In preparation for the annual VSA Festival, the Museum offers outreach visits to a select number of the participating schools. During these visits a Museum Educator shows the students and staff exactly what they will do and see during their Festival visit, answers any questions they have, and carries out a brief art lesson.

Stephanie Triay, a teacher whose students participated in the Museum Access for Kids program at the Museum, stated, “The classroom outreach program was very effective. The students definitely had a better appreciation for the visual arts at the end of the program. It definitely benefited their self-esteem and confidence being out in the community. The population I teach doesn’t get to go out on trips like this often.” These visits serve to inform students and teachers but also to create a deeper connection between the Museum and individuals whose opportunities for onsite visits may be limited.


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Ink, Silk, and Gold: A Family Activity Series



Islam is one of the most practiced religions in the world. If you practice Islam, your day starts with a call to prayer. Let the new exhibition Ink, Silk, and, Gold: Islamic Treasures from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston call you to the Cummer Museum.

Ink, Silk, and Gold will feature Islamic works of art dating from the 8th century to the 21st century. Though these pieces are from across the world, this is the first exhibition to be dedicated to showing the artwork as a collection.

The exhibition features golden-tipped pages from the Qur’an, ceramic pieces, and other items of various media that represent ancient Islamic tradition and culture. The Museum of Fine Arts began collecting these pieces over 130 years ago.

The exhibition is paired with a Family Guide that is available for pick up at the exhibition. The guide serves as an interactive activity packet as you navigate the exhibition geographically and chronologically. The activities in the guide will use ancient facts, cultural traditions, and artistic activities to educate the whole family. The activities will be broken down into a series of posts to follow!

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James McNeill Whistler




James McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903) was a complicated artist who approached his life and work in a unique, often unorthodox way. At the age of 11 he began studying fine art in Russia and realized art would be his profession. He would later tell people he was born in St. Petersburg, Russia as opposed to his actual birthplace of Lowell, Massachusetts. He approached life with a bohemian artist spirit which often meant relying on the generosity of wealthy friends and family, and learning from his peers such as poet Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1864), who taught him principles of art he used throughout his career. Those principles included choosing to draw and paint as a realist, which often meant searching for the brutality of life and nature, as well as staying true to the idea that black is the fundamental color of tonal harmony and line is more important than color, an argument dating back to Florentine artists of the Renaissance.

James McNeill Whistler, ‘Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1’ , 56 x 64 in., 1871, oil on canvas, Musée d’Osay

The supremacy of the line can be seen in Whistler’s most famous work, the portrait of his mother. The almost monochromatic painting is unique both in color and composition as his mother is captured in profile. The tonal harmony of the composition, and how the artist translates his mother’s pious nature with an impressive economy of means, met with great acclaim from both the academy and art historians.

Edward Linley Sambourne, ‘An Appeal to the Law’, Punch 1878, (image from ‘Turner Whistler Monet: Ruskin v Whistler’,

However, praises were not a common thing when it came to Whistler. Following a modern aesthetic and style left him susceptible to a great deal of criticism from members of the Royal Academy of Art and contemporary scholars. In 1877, an exasperated Whistler sued art critic John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) for slander as Ruskin publicly attacked his art in a newspaper article. Whistler was hoping for a payday as he was falling into more debt, but although the case eventually ruled in his favor, he didn’t receive a windfall. Shortly after the trial he had to declare bankruptcy and see all of his possessions auctioned off at Sotheby’s. It was around this time that he received a commission from the Fine Arts Society of London to create 12 etchings of Venice, and he jumped at the chance for a fresh start.

Whistler arrived in Italy in September 1879 to complete his task and shared a palazzo with several artists, including John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925). The initial three-month trip stretched to 14 months, during which time he produced over 100 pastels and 50 etchings, which became some of the most important works of his career. In an effort to break away from the usual monuments and tourist spots, he focused on hidden canals, alleyways, and courtyards that gave a glimpse into the daily lives of Venetians. He would travel all over the city with prepared copper plates in his pocket ready to capture anything that caught his eye. Aesthetically, he played with light and shadow, reflections of the water, and experimented with different types of paper.

By the time Whistler left Venice, legend of his sharp wit, provocative, and egocentric nature was spreading. Artists such as Frank Duveneck (1848 – 1919) and Robert Frederick Blum (1857 – 1903), who had sojourned in Venice, returned to America emulating Whistler’s vision and approach to printmaking. His followers were happy to be called “pupils of Whistler.”


You can see several works of Whistler and the artists he impacted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the exhibition An American in Venice: James McNeill Whistler and His Legacy until July 23, 2017. The show features prime examples of Whistler’s innovative technique and singular subject matters.  Organized by the Syracuse University Art Collection.

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Happy Birthday to Janet Fish, Painter of ‘After a Wedding’ from the Museum’s Permanent Collection





Photo from

Born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 18, 1938, Janet Fish was raised on the island of Bermuda and came from a family of artists. Her grandfather, Clark Vorhees, was an American Impressionist painter, while her father was an art history teacher, and her mother, Florence Whistler Fish, was a sculptor and potter. Fish knew from a young age that she wanted to pursue the visual arts. She was talented in ceramics, having access to her mother’s kiln, and initially intended to be a sculptor.

She eventually attended Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she studied sculpture and printmaking. Later, she enrolled at Yale University School of Art, where she attended from 1960 to 1963. It was while at Yale that Fish decided to change her major from sculpture to painting. Unfortunately, at Yale her realistic approach wasn’t always encouraged. Fish felt that Abstract Expressionism, which is what was being taught at Yale, had little meaning to her. Instead, she was influenced by California painters David Park and Richard Diebenkorn, whose work offered a fresher approach to painting.

Although Fish largely rejected Abstract Expressionism, some of its principles, such as boldness and smooth, flowing brush strokes, influenced her work. Fish is known for her dramatic, still life paintings, where the objects themselves are not the primary players. Rather, the colors and light effects of her works create movement throughout the composition. The arrangement, which takes several days to finalize, reveals her interest in juxtapositions.

Janet Fish became one of the first women to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale’s School of Art and Architecture. She has been an art instructor at the School of Visual Arts, Parsons School of Design, Syracuse University, and the University of Chicago. Fish resides and paints, in her SoHo, New York City loft and her Vermont farm house in Middletown Springs.

Today, the Museum celebrates her birthday by inviting visitors to view her painting After a Wedding, in the Stein Gallery.

Janet Fish (American, b. 1938), ‘After a Wedding’, 2002, oil on canvas, purchased with funds from the Morton R. Hirschberg Bequest and gifts from the J. Johnson Gallery AP.2005.9.1

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Cummer Museum Junior Docents



The Junior Docents of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens are students in the sixth through twelfth grades. Each school year they contribute hours to the Museum and the community. They participate in varied learning experiences and create an exhibition consisting of their original artwork.

During this 2016/2017 school year, each Junior Docent created a work based on what most inspired them in the gardens. Their inspirations, represented in acrylic paint on paper, will be on exhibit throughout the summer in Art Connections.

The Junior Docents shared their works with visitors in the gardens on the evening of Tuesday March 28, 2017. Comparing their works to the gardens and speaking of their personal inspiration, Junior Docents were involved in numerous conversations throughout the evening.

“This opportunity really allowed me to connect my personal artistic passion to the beauty of the Museum gardens.” – Caitlin Wiegert, Junior Docent

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