Reason #5: Weatherspoon Art Museum

Yesterday, I crossed off one item from my “Things I must do while living in Greensboro” list: Visit the Weatherspoon Art Museum. Shame, shame, shame on me for living in Greensboro for five years, and not visiting the Weatherspoon until Tuesday, August 31, 2010. It was merely by slight chance that I made it the other night. I was updating an event that I had posted on and out the corner of my eye, I saw the glimpse of a headline that read: PRIVATE FBI FILES TURNED INTO ART.

The exhibit, The FBI Files (on display until September 5 so hurry hurry!), features work by Arnold Mesches an 87-year-old artist, from Los Angeles, California. For 27 years, during the Cold War Era, the FBI followed Mesches with the suspicion that he was a communist and participated in Un-American Activities. Eleven years ago, under the Freedom of Information Act, Mesches requested to get his personal file, and was sent 720 pages of his special file. Mesches learned that his closed friends, family members, neighbors, and business affiliates served as special informants to help gather information for the FBI’s personal file. The innovative artist took the paperwork, to reflect upon the societal environment during the times.

Last night at the Weatherspoon, Mesches spoke about his experiences during his 27 years of government surveillance. Black-listings. Arrests. Necktie Cameras. Protests. Muhammad Ali. Art. Cross-Burnings. WOW. After the talk was over, I wanted to talk to Mr. Mesches about the concept of artivism, and how to encourage young artists to become more socially and politically engaged. As I was standing in the aisle waiting, I noticed an older woman directly in front of me with a black and white composition notebook in her hand. When it was her turn with Mesches, she politely asked him “Can you sign my notebook please? I get all of the artists who come here to sign this notebook.” Mesches kindly obliged. I just looked, smiled, and thought to myself “I wonder how many artists have signed that book?” I knew that I had to talk to the lady with the composition notebook,in the few moments that I had before the museum closed.

After I finished my conversation with Mesches, I looked for the lady with the composition notebook, and I found her on the second floor of the museum. Ms. Marsha is a security officer at Weatherspoon Art Museum and has worked there for 8 years, now. She has collected three notebooks full of autographs, drawings, and other special notes from the artists who have visited the Weatherspoon since she started working. She took me back downstairs to get peek at her Artograph book. She keeps very extensive and thorough records of all of the gallery’s special visitors.

In our brief, yet enlightening conversation, Ms. Marsha told me that the Weatherspoon was the first museum that she had ever been to, and that working there is the best job that she has ever had. She loves being around the art on a daily basis, and “the kids don’t cause any problems”. While Ms. Marsha is not working at the Weatherspoon, you can probably find her cooking (she runs a catering business on the side).

Overall, I loved my first experience at the Weatherspoon. It is such a huge facility, so much art to see! I know I will be back some time in the near future. Perhaps tomorrow. I told Ms. Marsha I would visit her soon.

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