When I asked Douglas Myatt, Director of Collections and Exhibits at WAMA, why he thought Ocean Springs attracted so many artists, photographers, potters, jewelry makers, he said, “We’ll have to go way back to 1914. Annette Anderson hopped on a train in New Orleans by herself, which was unusual in that day, and came to Ocean Springs to rent a summer house. She fell in love with twenty-four acres of land here and bought it on the spot. Part of this property today is Shearwater Pottery. From a prestigious family, she had studied art in New Orleans and New York. In 1918 the family moved to Ocean Springs full-time so she could start an art colony.”
The Walter Anderson Museum of Art evolved from a group called The Friends of Walter Anderson begun in 1974 by Courtney Blossman and others who recognized the tremendous talent of Walter who died in 1965. In 1987 the group started working with the architect and the construction was finished in May of 1991.
The 20th Anniversary Exhibit opened with a reception Thursday, August 25, with more than 20 lenders and more than 200 objects, as well as some pieces from the permanent collection.
Linda Bloom, Executive Director, said that this 20th Anniversary Celebration is a way of saying “thank you” to the founders, the Anderson family, the donors and all of the community supporters over the years.
To commemorate the occasion, artist Gayle Clark, has designed an exquisite piece of silver jewelry, a zinnia, which was Walter’s favorite flower. It is on display in the lobby.
An exceptional night, the Community Center adjoining the Museum was opened for the first time since the Walter Anderson murals had undergone a conservation/restoration program after fifty years. In an article by Memphis art critic Guy Northrup, “A Genius is Among Us,” he wrote: “Never in the history of American art has genius given of itself so generously. For the sum of one dollar the town of Ocean Springs is getting a mural which will someday be worth hundreds of thousands and which will attract art lovers and students from all over the world.” The murals were last appraised at thirty million dollars. The original copy of the contract for one dollar is temporarily on display for the Celebration.
Continuing in the fall, the whole town is invited to a street party, WAMA JAMA, on October 14, 2011, a party which replicates the one held at the 1991 opening.
Imagine having to prove things to the angels.
__Walter Inglis Anderson