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Creating A Museum Of Art Education

March 20, 1987|RICK VANDERKNYFF

Modern Museum of Art may sound like a misnomer--do they mean Museum of Modern Art?--but in the case of a fledgling Orange County nonprofit group, the name fits.

The museum's focus is not on exhibiting modern art, but on using modern technology to create educational packages that will, if all goes according to plan, be distributed to public schools across the country. The packages will incorporate videotape, filmstrips and audio cassettes in a six-lesson package that organizers hope will help bring art education back to the schools.

After two years of planning, the museum is preparing to swing into full operation with a move into its first official quarters and an announcement of an opening exhibition, a show of works by Mexican master painter Rufino Tamayo.

Until now, the nonprofit organization has operated out of a room in the Newport Beach home of Robert Abbott, a founding director. On April 9, the museum will move into ground-floor quarters in the new Griffin Towers office complex in Santa Ana, 8 Hutton Centre Drive, at MacArthur Boulevard near the Costa Mesa Freeway. The facilities will include offices, as much as 3,000 square feet of exhibit space and an audio-visual center where art-related films and videos will be screened.

The Tamayo show, to open in late May, is being assembled from private collections and will consist of original oil paintings from the long career of the 88-year-old artist, who may attend the show's opening.

Tamayo, whose work shows the influence of early abstractionists but also integrates forms and colors inspired by pre-Columbian art, has been a controversial figure in modern Mexican art. He developed an international reputation but was often scorned at home early in his career because he did not work in the socially conscious realist style championed by Diego Rivera and other Mexican muralists in the 1920s through 1940s.

The Tamayo show marks a departure from original plans for a "museum without walls" that would eschew traditional exhibits in favor of plans to distribute art education packages, free of charge, to public schools across the country. The donation of the Griffin Towers space will now allow the museum to mount exhibits, but Abbott said the educational program is still the museum's first priority. "We'll provide the same services as other museums, but our focus is still on outreach," said Abbott.

The outreach program hinges on the planned educational packages. The first of these packages, titled "Communication in the Arts," is nearly complete. It will include a 30-minute videotape of a multimedia performance featuring paintings, music and poetry by Newport Beach artist Jerry Wayne Downs. Called "Reflections," Downs' project was presented live by the museum at Orange Coast College last September. (A performance of "Reflections" will be featured at the Griffin Towers opening April 9).

The package will also include five filmstrips, featuring slides of artworks throughout history, accompanied by lessons recorded on cassette. Teachers' guides will outline participatory exercises to accompany the lessons.

"Telecommunication is the future of where art is heading," Abbott said in a recent interview.

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