From Monet to Matisse

Impressionist masters come to Columbia

As latest exhibition opens, scenes of daily life grace museum, Main Street January 25, 2013 

  • If you go “Impressionism from Monet to Matisse” exhibit Tickets: $15 adults; $12 seniors 65 and older, and military; $5 students; free ages 5 and younger. Admission free on Sundays. Museum hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday* ; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday. * Open until 8 p.m. first Friday of the month
  • The big draws Starting today, the Columbia Museum of Art offers a new exhibition, “Impressionism from Monet to Matisse.” Here are other shows proving most popular with the public in recent years, each attracting an average of 36,000 people to a museum that greets 125,000 visitors a year. The largest was Turner to Cezanne, with 46,000 visitors. This new exhibition, which continues through April 21, could rival that one in popularity. Turner to Cézanne: March 6-June 7, 2009 Ansel Adams: Masterworks: Oct. 22, 2009-Jan. 17, 2010 Excavating Egypt: Great Discoveries from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology: Jan. 24-June 8, 2008 Chihuly: Seaforms: Aug. 28-Nov. 30, 2008 The Chemistry of Color: Contemporary African-American Artists: Feb. 4-May 9, 2010 Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade 1940-1950: Sept. 14, 2012-Jan. 6, 2013 SOURCE: Columbia Museum of Art
  • Chillin’ at the ice rink The Convention and Visitors Bureau tracked the skaters and spectators who visited a specially created outdoor ice rink downtown — showing how a special event can have economic ripples: • 13,804 skaters, most of them families • Each visitor spent an estimated $12 on food, beverages and incidentals • Add it up, and that’s $165,648 spent on hospitality-related business • The 2,760 people who came to watch but didn’t skatespent $33,130, the CVB reported. • That brings to $198,778 the amount spent by skaters and spectators on Main Street. SOURCE: Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau

At 11 a.m. on Main Street, there was a salesman standing behind a glass display case full of gleaming diamonds, a construction crew preparing to kick up dust in a vacant building and a group of florists arranging flowers that probably made someone’s day.

Down at the museum, a standing-room-only crowd was just breaking up after an art-history lecture — “you just don’t miss a Brad Collins lecture,” one of the participants explained — and there was an uplifting sense of excitement and camaraderie just inside the door.

Today, a new exhibition opens.

The response — from the 950 people who made up Thursday night’s sold-out preview to the number of people inquiring about memberships — leads the folks at the Columbia Museum of Art to think a lot of people are going to want to see “Impressionism from Monet to Matisse.”

The artists are familiar, their subjects joyful.

Nancy Brock, a docent, is looking forward to being part of it all.

Brock has always been fond of Impressionism even though, she said, some people find it overly sentimental.

“Degas was an old friend,” she said, bundled in her coat, prepared for January. “My mother hung his ballerinas in my bedroom as a child. Every little girl stumbling through ballet school probably had them on the wall.”

Outside, a workman on the plaza dismantled the ice-skating rink that brought a new pastime to downtown Columbia this Christmas. The ice was slushy along the edge, a remnant of holidays and glitter.

Main Street seems to be coming into its own, with new businesses and big events drawing people and dollars.

People are thrilled that Main Street attracted the headquarters of Agape Senior, which is renovating three side-by-side buildings for hundreds of office workers and patients by late summer.

Historic storefronts are emerging from behind dated veneer.

At Something Special, shiny red hearts dangled from the ceiling of the flower shop. A pair of fairies paused on the mantle. Over the register, a quote attributed to Claude Monet is painted on the wall: “I must have flowers ... always, always ....”

Michael Higginbotham said he can’t quite identify the aroma that lingers in the showroom.

“Everybody says that: ‘It smells so good in here,’” he said.

Across the street, a mother and daughter huddle in natural light from a floor-to-ceiling picture window. They are planning a wedding together at Wedding 101.

The door is at street level, but the shop is up a long, carpeted stairway.

“I love it when people wander up, and they look up and say, ‘It’s beautiful,” owner Connie Hancock said.

Here, love songs play all day long.

Sometimes Hancock hosts wine tastings.

Right now, she has a collection of wedding-dress samples for sale in satin, taffeta and organza with beadwork and trains.

In the past year, some of her clients have discovered the art museum as a beautiful venue for a wedding reception.

“It’s a fabulous, fabulous place to have an event,” Hancock said. “It’s urban. It’s chic. It kind of gives you that big city feel.”

She grew up in the suburbs of Northeast Richland and is a big fan of downtown who wants to see it come back.

“I want to see more beautiful businesses down here,” she said. “Greenville has done it. I think we can, too.”

At King’s Jewelers, Jeffrey Picow, also born and raised here, said the museum has done its part to improve Columbia’s quality of life.

“It’s bringing people downtown,” he said. “It’s a nice crowd. Polished.”

Joelle Ryan-Cook, the museum’s deputy director, said more people are interested in learning about art.

A decade ago, 15 or 20 people may have showed up for a lecture at the museum, she said.

Now, 150 people come.

“Impressionism from Monet to Matisse” will be up at the museum through the gray months of winter.

Ryan-Cook expects it to be a crowd-pleaser.

“The Impressionists looked at activities of everyday life, of everyday people. People are able to relate to that,” she said.

“They can be comfortable looking at those images full of joy and light and color.”

Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.

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