Published Monday, December 8, 2003
SHOWCASING A CONTENT'S BEAUTY
Visitors to the Polk Museum of Art can now experience the beauty of African
artwork, thanks to a gift from a Winter Haven couple.
Norma and William Roth recently gave the museum more than 50 pieces of African
art, including authentic hats and capes, bags and vessels. The contribution
marks the first significant expansion to the museum's collection in about 15
"It's safe to say that most people haven't seen art like this before,"
said Todd Behrens, the museum's curator of art. "It's going to have a
significant impact in terms of education."
The collection includes 57 pieces from South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, many
of them beaded. It will be on display at the museum through Jan. 25, and museum
workers hope to create a permanent display area on the building's second floor
in the near future, Behrens said.
While the museum has acquired new pieces every year -- most notably a bench by
renowned sculptor Albert Paley and a Miriam Schapiro painting -- this collection
is so vast it allows the museum to branch out in a completely new direction,
The museum has long focused on its collections of pre-Colombian, contemporary,
Asian and European decorative arts, and this contribution allows the museum to
broaden its scope in a fifth direction, he said.
The Roths are well-known art collectors, and have donated pieces from their
collection to museums all over the East Coast. They've given more than 200
pieces to the Polk Museum alone, Behrens said.
Norma Roth said she and her husband donated the African pieces because they
wanted to expose people to an art form they may not have seen before.
"I felt African art is an area this community has totally overlooked,"
she said. "We have a very large African-American population (in Polk
County), and it occurred to me that this was a way of making a connection with a
very vital and important part of our community."
She said she hoped the museum would encourage schools to take advantage of the
The artworks are primarily functional pieces -- items made mostly by women and
worn and used by their owners. They aren't meant to be only decorative, but they
are beautiful, Roth said.
"They come from a heritage that is long, that is traditional," Roth
said. "They come from an authenticity of experience."
Other pieces in the collection include wedding capes, blankets, aprons, beaded
animal horns and leather bags.
"This collection gives the community a foot out into the world of
experience and cultural understanding," said Daniel Stetson, the museum's
executive director. "These are beautiful pieces. They add a significant
diversity to what we were able to present prior to this."
Rebecca Mahoney can be reached at 863-802-7548 or rebecca.mahoney*theledger.com.
found at: www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20031208/NEWS/312080302/1021
read also about South African art:
The Ndebele people of Zimbabwe