This story was supposed to run in Sunday’s print AJC, but is now scheduled to run on Monday. You’ll recognize some of the info from an earlier blog post, but this includes more comments from the museum director and visitors and points out again their big cowboy festival this weekend. Enjoy! — Jamie G.
After two years of construction, the Booth Western Art Museum this month opened a new wing that doubles its gallery space and reorganizes the works on display. Still, its greatest challenge remains the same as the day it opened: explaining why a 120,000-square foot Western art museum exists in Cartersville.
“That’s the biggest question we get, ‘Why?’” executive director Seth Hopkins said.
The Booth opened in 2003 with 80,000 square feet, a small collection of romantic landscapes and scenes and far more contemporary pieces influenced by or reacting to traditional Western art. The non-profit museum and expansion were paid for with local, anonymous donations, much like the nearby Tellus Northwest Georgia Science Museum.
Hopkins is well-prepared to defend the Booth: how it explores a westward push that started in the East, even in Georgia; how the collection, rooted in contemporary art, offers new perspectives of the West and personal relationships with living artists; how it educates local and international visitors who may never visit the American West; how fascinations with cowboys haven’t faded, and there are Western art museums throughout the country to prove it.
“It’s an anomaly, but not as big an anomaly as you think,” Hopkins said of the Booth.
And then there’s the latest argument, 40,000-square-feet large and made from Bulgarian limestone. Hopkins expected the museum to grow after 10 or 15 years, but as it drew 40,000 to 50,000 visits per year and space limitations forced more of the collection into storage, museum leaders pushed forward. Admission increased $2 for most visitors when the new wing opened. A children’s area, research library and presidential gallery remain, but there are several new features:
In the days before the new wing officially opened, floors in every gallery were filled with school children playing games or listening to Western stories. Dozens of volunteers toured of the redesigned galleries. Students from a Cobb County art class visited, some for the first time.
“I had never even thought about Western art, really,” said Laurel McLeod, a first-time visitor from Marietta. “It never dawned on me that someone would do it in Cartersville. I thought it was amazing.”
The museum was busy again Oct. 22-25 with its annual Southeastern Cowboy Festival and Symposium, which includes concerts, artists presentations, gallery tours and children’s activities.
Atlanta Artist Dee Venzer expected to make the drive to Cartersville several times during the festival, and again in the next few weeks to tour the new galleries with friends.
She recalls sending her portfolio a few years ago to what she thought was “some podunk museum” north of Atlanta.
“Then I drove up and thought, ‘Oh, jeez ,’” she said. “When they asked if I’d show downstairs, by the children’s area, I said I’d be glad to show in the bathroom of this marvelous museum.”
Since then, some of her paintings have become part of the permanent collection. She said she’s brought skeptical friends and family to visit, only to drag them out hours later.
“It’s so well thought-out, so beautifully displayed,” Venzer gushes. “Every time I go up there, I learn something new. It’s 30 minutes away, and people don’t know about it.”
Want to go? Booth Western Art Museum, 501 Museum Dr., Cartersville. $10 for adults, $8 for people ages 65 and older, $7 for students, free for members, children 12 and younger accompanied by an adult, active military. 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday. 770-387-1300, www.boothmuseum.org.
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