According to the City Beautiful philosophy, through its provision of beauty, the museum would improve the lives of the citizens, provide them with the ability to imagine a better life, and help them fight the damaging effects of poverty.
The City Beautiful movement felt that by elevating the lives of the poor through exposure to beauty, they would be able to imagine a better life for themselves, and if they could imagine a better way, they would also seek to find it.
The museum would provide a unique civic service through collections of art of the highest quality, through free admission to the museum's galleries, and through an abundance of art-education opportunities.
The museum has exceeded its obligation of providing citizens with access to beauty, achieving not only the promise made at its founding, of collections of the highest quality, but also attaining national museum accreditation.
It provides not only free admission to the exhibition galleries, but also free art-education opportunities, hundreds of programs for children and adults, concerts, festivals, lectures and other enriching activities. More than 50,000 people, including more than 7,000 Washington County Public School students, are served annually by the museum. The majority of those who benefit from the museum's services are tax-paying citizens of the county.
For 80 years, the museum's board and volunteers have worked diligently and voluntarily to support the museum and help it grow in artistic excellence and in service to the citizens. Today, for every $1 from local governments, the museum board provides $4 from the private sector.This illustrates how effectively the museum is a good steward of public funds, and how, 80 years later, the museum exemplifies the ideals espoused by the City Beautiful movement.
On a daily basis, visitors to the museum may pause in front of a given work of art, only to realize in a flash of inspiration: "Beauty is Truth!"
Art remains long after our human lives have expired. The images created on paintings, in sculpture, on Greek vases, continue to tell their stories from generation to generation.
The museum's "Diana of the Chase" sculpture captures a moment in time; the arrow shot from Diana's bronze bow is forever aloft. The marble "Head of Abraham Lincoln" captures his character, his life story, his struggles. The Frederick Church landscape of the Hudson River Valley evokes the pastoral natural world.
In works of art, embedded messages tell of times past and reassure us of the continuance of civilization. They have the power to inspire us or calm us.
Commensurate with the museum's mission to provide beauty, its significant contributions to cultural life, its record of achievements, its commitment to public education, its stature as one of the region's oldest and most successful civic institutions, the museum puts into action the ideals of City Beautiful.
Rebecca Massie Lane is director of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.
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A helpful chronology of City Park can be found on the City of Hagerstown's website at www.hagerstownmd.org/parks_rec/citypark.asp
A brief biography of George Burnap is available at the Cultural Landscape Foundation website: http://tclf.org/content/george-burnap