HARRISBURG — Dozens of works of art from the Philadelphia Museum of Art will be lent over the next three years to a network of regional museums across the state, thanks to a $700,000 grant from two art foundations.
The artwork — including Marsden Hartley’s Blessing the Melon (The Indians Bring the Harvest to Christian Mary) and Charles Demuth’s Tulips — will be displayed in eight regional museums, from Allentown to Erie, in an initiative art officials say is one of the largest in-state sharing programs in the nation.
“For the regional museums, it’s a dream come true,” said Kathleen Foster, senior curator of American art at the Art Museum. “Most of them cannot afford to actually purchase these artworks themselves … So it gives them access to an amazing panorama of American art.”
For museum audiences, said Foster, “it’s huge.”
“They will have an opportunity to learn about American art in their own backyard in a way that was never possible,” said Foster, who is also the director of the Art Museum’s Center for American Art.
The funding is coming from Art Bridges and the Terra Foundation for American Art. The regional museums that will receive works include the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown; Allentown Art Museum; Erie Art Museum; Reading Public Museum; Palmer Museum of Art at Pennsylvania State University; Trout Gallery at Dickinson College; Demuth Foundation and Museum in Lancaster; and Westmoreland Museum of American Art.
The initial loans include works by some of Pennsylvania’s most notable artists, including Demuth, Edward Hicks, and Charles Sheeler.
Blessing the Melon will go to Allentown. The Palmer has requested Homage to the Square (It Seems), a 1963 painting by Josef Albers. And the Reading museum has selected Sheeler’s Bucks County Barn and Pennsylvania Landscape.
The Trout will borrow five silhouettes by Moses Williams, the early 19th century cut-paper artist who grew up enslaved in the home of the Philadelphia painter Charles Willson Peale.
“This goes right to the heart of our goals of community engagement,” said Timothy Rub, chief executive officer of the Art Museum.
The Art Museum regularly lends artwork to museums around the world — a delicate and often expensive process. The $700,000 grant will, among other things, help cover the costs of transporting the artwork, which includes careful packing and crating, and supervising the shipping.
Though the sharing program is funded for three years, museum officials hope to extend that life span.
“Everyone’s wish is that this becomes a perpetual partnership,” said Foster.