It is a steamy, overcast Saturday, typical of late summer here in the Deep South. At the museum, our two new exhibitions by up-and-coming artists Sanaz Haghani and Cedric Smith tackle the role of women in a theocratic society and the forgotten history of African-American horse culture, respectively.
In the Haley Gallery, twenty-six hot pink—yes, hot pink!—shipping crates sit in a premeditated formation, like a temporary Stonehenge, while their contents, twenty-nine Italian Renaissance and Baroque paintings from the Kress Collection at the Columbia Museum of Art, slowly acclimate to their new environment. These works are on exhibition in our newest show, titled European Splendors: Old Master Paintings from the Kress Collection until Christmas.
With all this beauty and anticipation, what could possibly dampen the enthusiasm as we sit on the cusp of a groundbreaking show here at the AMA? I mean, just how often does Renaissance Italian art visit Southwest Georgia?
The truth outside of the museum grows more challenging once again. Based on all reports, the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus is gaining momentum across the world. Almost all new cases in the United States are Delta in origin. As of Sept 15, 84% of all Covid-19 hospitalizations at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital were patients who were unvaccinated. Political strife runs amok between vaccinated and anti-vaxxers. And, nations are beginning to require “green certification”—proof of vaccination—in order to participate in social activities such as visiting museums, restaurants, and performances. New York and San Francisco have recently followed suit.
We at the AMA are concerned too and continue as best as we are able to abide by our mandate to remain open, free, and welcoming to all. We are arguably one of the few constants in society that have weathered wars, storms, even pandemics. While protocols to keep us safe may appear once again to circumscribe our lives, we at the AMA are here for all of you, our friends and future friends, near and far.
The great poet (and former director of the Museum of Modern Art) O’Hara pushes us, in times of crisis, to “decide again and again whom we love.” That would be you, dear friends. As always, that would be you.