Inside take on a Folger, Bodleian, and Ransom Center exhibition on the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible on the 400th anniversary of its publication.

Biblical Art for a Former Church Turned Museum

Annette Rigdon Swan, Mary and Martha

Annette Rigdon Swan, Mary and Martha

The Manifold Greatness exhibit’s visit to Tifton, Georgia, is the joint effort of the Tifton-Tift County Public Library and the Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage. When I came back from the Washington, DC, training session at the Folger Shakespeare Library with my big white notebook full of information, one of the first things that a member of the museum board said to me was, “The panels take up 600 square feet and the museum is 3500 square feet. What are we going to do so it looks like we have something in the building?”

It was felt that we had a unique opportunity with this exhibit, because the museum once was a Methodist church, complete with fabulous stained glass windows and the most beautiful wooden ceiling, crafted by skilled Yankee shipbuilders a long way from home. After some discussion and phone calls and negotiating, the museum board decided that an art exhibit would be an appropriate accompaniment.  They chose three artists, all of whom are well known in the community, knowing that an exhibit containing works by these artists would attract their fans.

Minnie G. Brown's Nativity, flanked by kneelers from St. Anne's Episcopal Church

Minnie G. Brown’s Nativity, flanked by kneelers from St. Anne’s Episcopal Church

Minnie G. Brown’s works hang in the First Baptist Church and First Presbyterian here in Tifton, as well as in the United Methodist Church in Ashburn, home of the annual Fire Ant Festival. Annette Rigdon Swan was a local art teacher for many years and at 92 years of age still produces paintings to commemorate special occasions in her friends’ lives. Her twelve paintings of women in the Bible that grace the exhibit come to us from their permanent home at First Methodist Church in Tifton.

Vincent Keesee, Let the Little Children Come to Me

Vincent Keesee, Let the Little Children Come to Me

Vincent Keesee’s oil paintings are an interesting contrast to traditional Biblical art. Dr. Keessee is inspired by parables and Bible stories and puts them in rural Georgia settings and he did some of the paintings especially for this occasion.

These paintings are amusing, often provocative, and make an offbeat and quirky contribution to a display that could have become quite heavy and pedantic. Most of the characters in his paintings are inspired by people he knows. Two of the congregants in the painting “Let the Little Children Come to Me” came to the museum to see themselves and explain to me who the other people in the picture were.

To contrast with the vertical surfaces created by the panels and the hanging paintings, three small displays, each containing a wonderful object, were created that sit on pedestals. Fabulously hand-worked kneelers borrowed from St. Anne’s Episcopal Church add more texture (see photo above).

Swedish pulpit Bible from a Swedish Lutheran congregation in Naugatuck

Swedish pulpit Bible from a Swedish Lutheran congregation in Naugatuck

Music from the period is played while the exhibit is open to the public to provide “ear candy.” We set up a touch-activated kiosk that works exactly like the one at the Folger Shakespeare Library did and you can sit and watch the Manifold Greatness YouTube videos in a little nook we made in the back.

It all fills the space very nicely.

To see how the Manifold Greatness panels and the art exhibit work together, take a look at the second photo (scroll down to see it) in our recent quarto-making blog post.

Vickie Horst is the Manager of Tifton-Tift County Public Library in Tifton, Georgia.

3 responses

  1. Bill Kelley

    This display is most interesting and provided me with some information that I didn’t know. However, I think the best part of this 400th year celebration event are the other events that are happening. I went to the one last night that the Lutheran pastor showed most effectively the problems of translating the many texts to work out which was most accurately understood in Engilsh from both Hebrew and common Greek. It would have been an easier task if they could have used the several words of English to accurately convey the original. However, who would be able to carry a Bible several times as thick as they are now so that all of those extra words could have been used.
    I know that I am biased being the Library board chair, but everyone there responded to his presentation that he commented that he’d never before been so applauded.

    May 3, 2013 at 6:54 pm

  2. Thanks so much for your firsthand report from last night! There have been some wonderful lectures and public programs throughout the run of Manifold Greatness around the country, and this is a definitely a key aspect of the traveling exhibit program.

    May 3, 2013 at 7:04 pm

  3. Remarkable opportunity to contemplate the many sources of phrases so familiar; thank you for traveling these scholarly research panels balanced with modernity. Bob Marley relying on the King James caught my attention!
    I too appreciate the complementary lectures and art classes. This is art and academia, inspiration and thoughtfulness at its finest for community participation.
    What a fine partnership among churches, the public library and the Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage.

    May 4, 2013 at 3:59 pm

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