Friday, March 18, 2011

Daffodil Terrace

On the first Friday of each month the Morse Museum (445 North Park Avenue ), holds an open house offering free admission to the public between 4 and 8pm. This open house offer will continue through April. The museum also has a long tradition of offering an open house on each three day Easter weekend. I decided it was time to stop in and see the new wing which opened last month. I brought along my digital drawing tablet and my handy artist's stool for my relaxing afternoon sketch. When I entered the museum I was told I would have to check my artists stool. I didn't complain, I just handed it over. I would simply have to stand in one spot for several hours. I made a bee-line back to the new wing. I knew I wanted to sketch the Daffodil Terrace.

I pulled out my tablet and opened Sketchbook Pro. Within a minute the guard walked up to me and said, "There is no sketching in the Museum." Fuming I explained that I had sketched there before with no problem. He said, "Sorry that is the policy." I pulled out my iPhone and immediately sent out a tweet angrily announcing that an artist can not sketch in the Morse Museum. The guard walked up before I finished the tweet saying, "You can't use your cell phone in the museum." I sighed, turned on my heel, pressed send, and marched back to the front desk to collect my artist stool and leave in a huff.

As the woman behind the desk looked for my stool, I said, "I didn't realize that artists were not allowed to draw in the museum." She said, "I didn't know that either." She made a call. A very tall guard walked up to me as she was on the phone. He explained that it was the use of the tablet for drawing that was at issue. The guards assume a tablet might be shooting video or taking pictures. Anything digital is suspicious. He also said that people using their cell phones often walk around without looking where they are going. I imagined someone so immersed reading their cell that they walk right through a stained glass window. I find that image funny. "If I sketch in a paper sketchbook, is that alright?" I asked. "That is fine." He said. I offered to leave the tablet at the front desk with my chair. The woman behind the desk said, "You hold onto it." Walkie talkies buzzed among the museum guards announcing that an artist would be sketching, possibly with a tablet. They announced what I was wearing so they all could be on the lookout. She was concerned that I might block the traffic flow but I assured her that standing with a sketchpad, I would only take up a one footsquare. Besides, the museum wasn't particularly crowded. Only one or two people inspected the terrace at a a time.

When I got back to the new wing, the first thing I sketched of course was the guard who told me I could not sketch. I decided not to use the tablet since it had caused such a commotion. As I worked, Catherine Hinman, the director of public affairs introduced herself to me and apologized about the policy. She explained that she was from the old school world of paper and ink publishing and that this digital age was a whole new world. She was very gracious and I felt a bit less like a felon as I sketched. I actually started to respect the guards stamina because he stood in one spot for a solid two hours. That is no easy task. Who knows how long he stood in that one spot that day.

The Daffodil Terrace was part of Laurelton Hall, Louis Comfort Tiffany's upstate New York house. It was added to the house between 1915 and 1916. The columns are of beautiful white Carrara marble. Mined in Italy this is the same marble used by Michelangelo to carve David. Several times people reached out to touch the columns and the guard had to intervene. An old lady's cell phone rang and the guard asked her to take the call outside. The capitals of the columns were made of concrete with yellow glass daffodils clustered together. A pear tree used to grow up through the central opening in the terrace. Sadly that opening is now capped off. The whole structure is enclosed in a sterile glass atrium. In the future I hope the museum will encourage artists to stop, sit and observe Tiffany's colorful and inspiring work. As I retrieved my stool the guard said, "If we let you sit and sketch then everyone will want to do the same." Is that really such a bad thing?

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at


Suma CM said...

Hahaha, wow, sounds like they really need to do some thinking about their policies. A stark contrast to our most recent sketchcrawl at Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, CT, where the guards actually *gave* us folding stools that they had on hand to encourage us to sit and sketch as long as we pleased.

Joseph Hayes said...

We should only hope "everybody" would want to sketch. We were there last Friday and the guards were hovering over everyone and swooping down on anyone with a phone. "NO electronics in the museum," I heard one say to a woman who was checking her calendar to make a date.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting how often the authorities have felt challenged by your sketching.

"If we let you sit and sketch then everyone will want to do the same."

Sounds like an invitation to a flashmob to me...

Thor said...

Oh! A sketchmob! Love the idea!

Anonymous said...

a sketchmob would be GREAT. and no announcing it ahead of time, like that 'flashmob' at the Mall of Milennia, either.

joco said...

Is that place named for Sam Finley Morse?
The telegraph man who helped himself to Joseph Henry's invention?

I was allowed to do a pastel in the Oxford Ashmolean, easel and all.
There were no people clamouring to do the same. Mind you that is a few years back, in non-digital days. No tablet, no mobile phones :-) Maybe they have changed their tune.

I am so enjoying the sketches and posts.