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High Museum receives $3.1 million grant to conserve its collections

Entrance to the High Museum of Art (Special: High Museum of Art)

By Maria Saporta

The High Museum of Art has received one of the largest foundation grants in its history with a $3.1 million grant from the Sara Giles Moore Foundation to conserve and care for the Museum’s art collections.

The grant will support a complete assessment of the Museum’s care needs and will fund necessary treatment of its artworks.

The funding will be allocated over six years, allowing the Museum to develop a long-term collection care plan and to present expanded programming to foster greater public awareness of art conservation.

A view of the High Museum’s Renzo Piano addition with the Piazza in front (Special: High Museum of Art)

This will build upon the High’s ongoing preservation plan, which has included renovations to its storage facilities and major renovations to its galleries in 2003 and 2018.

“As an institution, we must balance our mission to exhibit the incredible works in our holdings with the mandate to responsibly provide for their preservation,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director. “We’re incredibly grateful to the Sara Giles Moore Foundation for this generous grant, which is at once a watershed event for the Museum and an empowering investment in the stewardship of our community’s cultural heritage.”

According to Sara Hehir, the Sara Giles Moore Foundation board chair, Sara Giles Moore was a dedicated supporter of the High Museum during her life. She, born in Milledgeville in 1921, died in September 2003.

“The Foundation has always aimed to honor Mrs. Moore’s commitment to the Museum through grants for exhibition support, the acquisition of ‘A Reading (or Woman in Windsor Chair)’ by Thomas Wilmer Dewing, and conservation and treatment of the American art collection,” Hehir said in a statement. “The Sara Giles Moore Foundation is thrilled to celebrate Mrs. Moore’s generosity and commitment to the long-term success of the High Museum by supporting this comprehensive collections’ care, treatment and education effort.”

In the coming months, the High’s collections care team, led by Associate Collections Manager Paula Haymon, will work with the Museum’s curators and professional conservation specialists from the Atlanta Art Conservation Center (AACC) and Williamstown Art Conservation Center (WACC) to analyze the physical condition of the collection, identify immediate and long-term preservation concerns, and prioritize needs for future conservation treatments.

The team will also give attention to the proper mounting and presentation of each object, including frames and pedestals, to ensure they are exhibited appropriately after treatment.

The High will document that work through behind-the-scenes photography and videos and will further unveil these processes and any noteworthy discoveries through public programming and future scholarly research and reviews.

Conservation highlights and accomplishments made possible by the grant will have a physical presence in the Museum through select installations of reviewed works each year and an exhibition on the High’s long-term conservation efforts planned for 2023. Conservators and curators will present their work periodically through talks and tours, and the entire project will be documented in a digital publication on the High’s website.

A view of the High Museum of Art campus, which is part of the Woodruff Arts Center (Special: High Museum of Art)

Featuring more than 18,000 works that span seven curatorial departments, the High’s collection reflects a broad spectrum of media and cultures.

Among these are superior holdings of American, African, and European art; an important collection of historic decorative arts and international contemporary design; a prominent collection of modern and contemporary art, and a renowned collection of photography.

In addition to stewarding one of the largest concentrations of vintage civil-rights-era prints in the United States, in 1996, the High launched its “Picturing the South” program to commission emerging and established photographers to create new work inspired by the Southern landscape. The folk and self-taught collection is recognized as one of the most significant public repositories of its type, with extensive representation of art of the American South.

This grant follows other recent contributions to support the Museum’s conservation efforts, including a 2019 Bank of America Art Conservation Project grant to conserve artwork by renowned contemporary artist Thornton Dial in the Museum’s folk and self-taught art department.

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Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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