SEATTLE, WA.- Following a year of scholarly research into the Frye Art Museum’s Foundation Collection and the legacy of founders Charles and Emma Frye, the Museum’s Board of Directors last week ratified a new mission statement.
The new mission statement reads: The Frye Art Museum is dedicated to artistic inquiry, a rich visitor experience, and civic responsibility. A primary catalyst for our engagement with contemporary art and artists is the Founding Collection of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century art by Munich-based artists. Admission to the Museum will always be free.
Frye Executive Director Midge Bowman notes that the new statement “more truly reflects both the intention of the Fryes as well as the vision the current staff and Board have for the Museum.”
Bowman explains that after extensive research into the Frye collections by four noted scholars, as well as meetings with community leaders, “we determined that a new mission statement was in order. The scholars—Dr. Joachim Kaak, chief curator of Munich’s Neue Pinakothek museum; Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, former director of the Museum Villa Stuck in Munich; Richard West, the former Frye director; and Patti Junker, curator of American art at the Seattle Art Museum—encouraged us to consider whether a redefinition of our mission statement would better reflect the Fryes’ intent and allow for more opportunities to engage with the Collection.”
One salient change is the elimination of the term “representational” from the mission statement. Robin Held, the Frye’s chief curator and director of exhibitions and collections, notes that the term was first used during Richard West’s tenure as Frye director. “Richard coined the phrase as a way to define the Museum and to help visitors understand, and engage with the Frye Collections and temporary exhibitions.
“In recent years, we continued to use Richard’s definition to the extent that we could, but realized that it was limiting in scope,” Held continues. “We must have the flexibility to approach, present and explore our Collections in new ways and contexts that further a deep understanding and appreciation for the works themselves.”
Furthermore, Held explains, the new mission statement “brings to the forefront what the Fryes believed in, and what we have already been doing: working directly with artists and being visitor-oriented in all areas. These traits were central to Charles and Emma’s lives, in how they lived and how they envisioned their art work living on after they were gone.”
“As we strive to honor and extend the legacy of Charles and Emma Frye, our goal is to understand better their collection, their expectations and their intent in collecting and leaving the artworks that would form the Frye Art Museum,” says Bowman.
“What visitors will see when they visit the Frye—what they have always loved about the Museum—won’t change,” Bowman continues. “The new mission articulates the connections between late 19th- and early 20th-century art and other works of art from our own collection, as well as from sources outside the Frye.”