Director of the Booth Western Art Museum • Cartersville, GA
By Bonnie Gangelhoff
What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the art world during your career? As interest, value, and recognition for western art increases, its place in American art is being elevated. At the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art there are western works woven into the full story of American art. There continues to be growing interest in western art done in a more contemporary style. Traditional western art will always be in the mainstream, but currently there is more acceptance of other styles. The way art is sold is also changing. Galleries have to adapt as more art is sold by artists directly to collectors, through the Internet, at auctions, and through the museum shows. The innovative galleries are finding ways to add value for collectors through unique experiences, educational services, and personal relationships.
How did the Booth Western Art Museum get its start? The Booth began as the idea of an anonymous local family that had collected western art for more than 30 years. In 2000, they sold a successful business and began constructing an 80,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art museum facility to serve as an educational resource for the Southeast. In 2003 the Booth opened to the public, offering galleries filled with western art primarily by living artists as well as western illustration and movie posters, Civil War art, and presidential letters and photographs. Southern collectors of western art who had not previously had a museum of this type in the region quickly adopted the Booth and began supplementing the founding collection through loans and donations. In 2007 the family decided to add another 40,000 square feet. When the new wing opened in 2009, the Booth became the largest permanent exhibition space for western art in America.
How has the Booth contributed to an appreciation of western art? First, we are the only major western museum whose emphasis is primarily on collecting and exhibiting the work of living artists and bringing them to the museum for interaction with their fans. Second, we are one of a small number of museums that is helping to push the boundaries of what is called western art. We love traditional western art and celebrate it, but we also think the tent is big enough for a lot more. Finally, I think we have provided a rallying point for fans of western art in the South. We have seen collectors significantly increase the quantity and quality of their personal collections as they become involved with the Booth.
What do you hope to accomplish at the Booth in the next 10 years? We want to continue to grow the size and quality of the collection through donations and strategic acquisitions. We want to grow the size of our collector and support base, as well as our audience, through increased awareness. We also want to continue to improve the quality of our exhibitions, scholarship, publications, and public programs, which will improve both the real and perceived value of the institution.
Featured in May 2012.