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Ackland unveils new spring exhibits

Throughout a span of 350 years, a lot can change. Great art, however, remains timeless.

Starting Friday, the Ackland Art Museum will feature two historically-based exhibits from different periods in American history.

“The New Found Land” is an exhibition that focuses on European impressions of Native American culture during the late 1500s through engravings and other printed materials. “America Seen” focuses on 1920s and 1940s America, also through various types of prints.

“The New Found Land” is divided into three parts: a visual introduction to main players — such as Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth — during British colonization of America, Native American artifacts, as well as engravings from Thomas Harriot’s 1590 book, “A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia.”

“What interested me was showing a little bit of the other side of the activities, not what the settlers did and what happened to them, but the native people whom they encountered and their artifacts,” said Ackland Chief Curator Peter Nisbet. “It’s looking at things with the emphasis shifted to the Native Americans. And they’re very beautiful engravings.”

The “America Seen” exhibition features 38 compositions of prints, lithographs, wood engravings, etches and more from the 1920s to 1940s. Emily Bowles, the Ackland director of communications, said the works are all in the social-realist style.

“They deal with various aspects of life in America from rural scenes to urban scenes and give us some snapshot of some pretty turbulent decades in America,” she said.

“There’s a lot of interest in comparing the economic situations and the hardships people encountered,” Nisbet said about “America Seen.” “In many ways, the 1930s was a defining decade for American culture and society.”

While 350 years separates the two shows, what unites them is the blend of history and art and a love for UNC that kept alumni thinking of the Ackland long after graduation.

Michael Joyner, from the class of 1977, lent the artwork in “The New Found Land” to the museum. Cathy Allen, from the class of 1973, and her husband, Hunter, donated the artwork in “America Seen.”

“I think it’s going to be interesting to see (the shows) together because, to an extent, they’re all artwork that give us a window into the past,” Bowles said.

“You ask yourself, ‘What can these scenes tell us about the subject matter? What can we learn about the history of America from these artworks?’ These are separated by 350 years, so hugely different scenes, but revealing, in any case.”

In addition to the free exhibitions, the Ackland will offer supplemental programs for people of all ages to immerse the viewer into the respective worlds of the art.

“We want people to learn a bit about the art and to be inspired by it, so we hope that these programs will help people achieve that,” said Allison Portnow, public programs manager at the Ackland.

“We want them to be inspired by what they see and to be intrigued to learn more and to see how the art world fits into their everyday lives.”

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