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Museum season preview

The traveling exhibition of the Florida Watercolor Society

The traveling exhibition of the Florida Watercolor Society draws many visitors from the Treasure Coast and beyond to the Elliott Museum in Stuart. Local society members will demonstrate the process this season. ELLIOTT MUSEUM PHOTO


There is never a shortage of things to do and places to go on the Treasure Coast, and many of them are offered by three museums that have grown through the decades from a glint in the eye of a few enthusiasts to state-of-the-art organizations that would fit comfortably in any city.

The Vero Beach Museum of Art continues its affiliations with Ballet Vero Beach and the Atlantic Classical Orchestra, extending its appeal far beyond the gallery walls.

The enlarged A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery in Fort Pierce offers new opportunities to enjoy the work of the Highwaymen and their mentor, A.E. “Beanie” Backus. Added exhibition options include an outside gallery, opening doors for more artists to display their art. Executive Director J. Marshall Adams calls it “a small museum with big ideas.”

The Elliott Museum in Stuart pays homage to its founder, inventor Sterling Elliott, with its many halls and galleries devoted to his collections. The next-century auto garage is a mechanical wonder built to showcase the many vehicles acquired over the years. Pick any county and you’ll find a gem of a museum to enjoy.

The A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery in Fort Pierce has long been known for its extensive collection of Highwaymen and Backus art as well as annual cultural events that give back to the community. The 2018-19 season will continue those traditions and add even more.

Adams, now in his second year as executive director of the museum and gallery, says that if he were to give the upcoming season a title, it would be A Season of Inspiration. Recognizing the need to appeal to a variety of interests, Adams says he looks for “different artists in different media exploring remarkable creative directions.” He found it for 2018-2019, beginning with a pre-season exhibition by Rusty Wiles, a St. Lucie County firefighter who doubles as a photographer and Instagram phenomenon.

The year-ending show, with several pieces by Dale Chihuly, is Masters of Glass: Dale Chihuly and Marlene Rose. Florida-based Rose has been called a next-generation master, creating mesmerizing pieces from molten glass. An opening reception has been set for Nov. 30, coinciding with that weekend’s holiday sale in the gift shop. After a short holiday break, Artists of Color: Place, Race, and Vision of the Florida Highwaymen opens to celebrate the famed artists with paintings on loan from private collections. The exhibition will run Jan. 11 to March 3, and the opening reception is Feb. 15 as part of the Highwaymen weekend celebration in Fort Pierce.

Opening March 9, Backus & Butcher and the Florida Landscape will showcase unique views of Florida as seen through the eyes of Beanie Backus and large-format photographer Clyde Butcher. Butcher will be at the gallery March 30 to meet guests and sign his latest books.

The season will end, as always, with Through the Eye of the Camera juried exhibition, drawing photography as art from the area’s talented photographers.

Beginning in January, the museum will partner with Main Street Fort Pierce to present the Florida Humanities Speakers Series, some events at the A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery and some at the Sunrise Theatre’s Black Box Theatre.

In addition to showcasing new artists and ideas, Adams says the popular Backus traditions will be back. The new gift shop, expanded from 114- to 1,720-square feet, will welcome shoppers for the free-admission holiday sale Dec. 1-2. Refreshments and entertainment will be part of the fun, including Backus-inspired gift items found nowhere else ready for holiday shoppers.

Even Floridians need a winter escape and the museum offers one with its Sunday in Key West luncheon and auction Jan. 27. Adams says the brunch fare will have its usual extravagance, served with “a generous portion of over-the-top, quirky charm of Key West right here at home.”

Another free weekend, Feb. 15-17, will celebrate the Highwaymen, with dealers offering vintage paintings through the weekend, and the 3rd Annual City of Fort Pierce Highwaymen Heritage Trail Festival and Art Fair at Moore’s Creek Linear Park Saturday.

The “All You Should Eat” Backus Brunch and Painting Raffle is back for the 23rd year March 3. The breakfast is Florida Cracker-inspired and guaranteed delicious. For those who like adventure with their appetizers, The Big Game, the Backus bingo luncheon in June is for you. Adams draws the numbered balls while the audience enjoys “a luncheon feast fit for man and beast,” he says.

The season schedule is online at www.BackusMuseum.com. Dates and times are subject to change.

The Elliott Museum on Hutchinson Island has long been a favorite stop for Americana and local history buffs, antique car and baseball aficionados, and just about anyone with a curious mind.

If it moves and can carry passengers or freight, you’ll probably see it at the Elliott. A few years ago, a state-of-the-art, multi-level garage with a turntable for your auto-ogling pleasure was built to house the museum’s collection of vehicles. Those vehicles are one of the greatest attractions at the Elliott, inspiring a variety of exhibitions and events throughout the year. A big draw every season is the Classics at the Beach car show, scheduled for March 23.

One of the exhibits, Octane & Opulence II: Gentlemen Prefer Race Cars, opens Feb. 4 and runs through March 31. Museum spokeswoman Robin Makowski says we can expect to see the Changing Exhibitions Gallery transformed into a “fabulous race cars showroom.” Showing at the same time at the Art Down the Hall gallery will be The Need for Speed, race car photography by Bob Bennett.

Associate Car Curator John Giltinan offers guided tours of the collection most weeks for visitors who gather at the reception desk by 10:55 on a Thursday morning. The tour is included in the admission fee and is free for members. The second Saturday of every month, unless the weather is really bad, Cars & Coffee offers coffee, pastries and “some of the area’s coolest cars,” Makowski says.

Giltinan also presents a series in the Curators & Cocktails lecture series with an intriguing range of topics this season: The Cars of Cuba, The Chevrolet Corvette - America’s Sportscar, Gentlemen Prefer Race Cars and Lincoln — An American Classic.

It isn’t all vehicles with wheels there. The Elliott absorbed the Maritime Museum at Indian Riverside Park in 2013. The Maritime artifacts include a number of model boats and ships, original Chris-Craft boats, a library of nautical books and charts, and other items of interest.

John Nelson, president of the Audubon Society of Martin County, offers Lunch on the Fly every second Tuesday, January through April.

Space is limited for the Cruise to Key West & Havana with the Elliott at the end of February. Robert van Dellen’s Literary Lecture series begins Jan. 17 with a lecture built around Hemingway’s Key West & Cuba — His Old Man and the Sea during a pre-cruise reception.

In March, the Elliott’s History in the Making Luncheon at Hutchinson Shores Resort will feature CBS News foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata.

A major event at the Elliott this season is the Florida Watercolor Society’s 2018-2019 Traveling Exhibition in the Changing Exhibitions Gallery through Jan. 27. About 40 paintings, including several by local artists, arrived at the Elliott, one of only two stops for the exhibition, after the FWS annual show in Bradenton. Makowski says, “The Elliott Museum was chosen for its central location along Florida’s East Coast and a fine venue that can adequately display this unique selection of watercolor art.”

Watercolor demonstrations will complement the exhibition during its run with Makowski demonstrating her art in the gallery Tuesdays at 1 p.m., excluding holiday weeks. The society’s 2018 award-winning Pat Dews will demo Abstracting Nature Dec. 15. Dews will offer a two-day workshop at the Elliott in late January.

Reservations are required for some of the Elliott’s events. Information and schedules are at elliottmuseum.org.

For the Vero Beach Museum of Art, the city’s centennial year will bring an opportunity to build on existing programs and produce what CEO Brady Roberts calls “blockbuster” exhibits for the museum’s audience.

Danielle Johnson, curator of modern and contemporary art, says the museum has strategically aligned its cultural programs with its exhibitions “to provide an even greater educational offering for the Treasure Coast” and offer year-round programming with world-class exhibitions.

On loan from one of the first major private museums of contemporary art, Made in Germany: Art Since 1980 from the Rubell Family Collection in Miami is the season’s opening exhibition in the Holmes and Titelman galleries through Jan. 6. Paintings, photography and sculpture make up the 60 pieces selected for this display of the work of contemporary artists in 20th and 21st century Germany. They include Anselm Kiefer, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Schütte, Candida Höfer and others.

In the Schumann and Stark galleries until Jan. 13, visitors can get a glimpse of some of the museum’s permanent collection, art from the mid-1800s to today. Both galleries will highlight VBMA’s depth in American 20th century and international contemporary art, including some old favorites and a selection of new acquisitions. Look for art by Jack Tworkov, Isabel Bishop, Waldo Peirce, Marguerite Zorach and others. A rare treat will be works not often seen in the galleries, paintings by Patrick Archer, Pierre Daura and René Portocarrero, and sculptures by Paul Granlund and Louise Kruger.

Beginning Feb. 9, the museum’s galleries and special events will be given over to Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts and Crafts Movement, organized by the American Federation of Arts and Birmingham Museums Trust. The 145 works are from the collection of the city of Birmingham, United Kingdom, and many have never been exhibited outside the UK.

Expanding on the Victorian theme, there will be two seminars to go along with the exhibition. In February, Tamar March will lead a discussion on The Nature of Humor from the Victorians to the Present. Examples of humor and humorists will range from Charles Dickens to Dorothy Parker. Tim Barringer, chair, and Paul Mellon, professor in the Department of the History of Art at Yale University, will talk about The Victorian Avant-Garde: Rethinking the Nineteenth Century in March.

The 2019 International Lecture Series adds to the Victorian lineup with Daisy Goodwin in March. Goodwin is a novelist and creator of Victoria on PBS. Other lecturers will be Graham Moore, Rob Ashford and Aileen Ribeiro.

Artist Douglas David returns this season with several workshops on painting in oils. The Asbury Shorts Film Concert comes back for the fifth year in February with two shows Feb. 9, featuring short films in all genres, many of them Oscar nominees or film festival winners. This event is recommended for viewers 16 and older.

A second installment of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition is scheduled for late summer. The tradition of free admission Saturdays continues and in April will coincide with the 39th Children’s Art Festival.

The VBMA schedule and additional program information are at vbmuseum.org.