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Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Appoints Charles Waldheim as Consulting Curator of Landscape

Anne Hawley, Norma Jean Calderwood Director, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum announced the appointment of landscape scholar and educator Charles Waldheim, principal, Urban Agency as the Museum’s new consulting Curator of Landscape, effective January 2011.

Rooted in the Gardner Museum’s connections to the urban landscape and building upon the accomplishments of the first Curator of Landscape Patrick Chassé, the appointment of Charles Waldheim/Urban Agency will further highlight and expand the importance of landscape scholarship at the Gardner and to elevate the Gardner as a center for discussion of contemporary issues related to landscape and community. The Curator of Landscape position is unique among cultural institutions and museums like the Gardner . Waldheim will join the Gardner Museum as its new consulting Curator of Landscape in January 2011—about one year before the expected opening of a new wing designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano to include new dedicated areas for programming across the museum’s five cornerstones, expanded gardens, and restoration work in the historic galleries.

A leader in landscape scholarship and a founding proponent of landscape urbanism (an emerging area of urban thought and landscape practice), Waldheim/Urban Agency will bring new thinking, research, lectures, and exhibitions to the landscape program at the Gardner Museum. This appointment reflects a commitment by the Gardner both to engage the landscape community more directly within the context of the Gardner ’s landscape history, innovation, and importance and to help the public think more deeply about the link between landscape at the Gardner Museum and the surrounding urban fabric. New programming will support emerging thinkers in the area of landscape—much like the museum’s Artists-in-Residence program, which is now in its eighteenth year and supports contemporary artists by inviting them to work, live, create, and draw inspiration for new work and new ways of thinking amidst thirty centuries of art and inspiration.

“An urban gardener and thinker herself, Isabella Stewart Gardner advanced the value of landscape as a means to enrich urban life—first in her Beacon Street home and later in the Fenway with the creation of her museum,” said Anne Hawley , the Norma Jean Calderwood Director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum .

“Stimulating new ways of thinking in our key programming areas is central to the Gardner Museum ’s mission. Charles Waldheim’s appointment will challenge us to expand our thinking about landscape and its importance in the urban fabric of Boston . He will also help us to engage our public in new ways through exhibitions, scholarship, and public programs that will set a new direction for this ‘cornerstone’ at the Gardner . We welcome Charles to the Gardner Museum as our new Curator of Landscape,” Hawley continued.

“I look forward to contributing to the Gardner ’s ongoing renewal through the development of its public programs on contemporary landscape,” said Waldheim. “Given the Gardner ’s historic commitments in this area, and their extraordinary investment in new programming associated with the opening of the new venue in 2012, this is an important moment in the life of this singular institution. I look forward to making some modest contribution to keep contemporary landscape central to the life of the Gardner and to its many audiences. Given the centrality and relevance that contemporary landscape plays in design culture, urbanism, and the arts today, we are particularly fortunate that Anne Hawley and the Gardner ’s leadership team have rededicated themselves to landscape as a cornerstone of their programs going forward. I look forward to working with them toarticulate the sites and subjects associated with contemporary landscape design, and to construct opportunities for audiences to interact with the medium in its multiple and various forms,” added Waldheim.

The museum’s founder Isabella Gardner believed in the value of horticulture. Her street-side conservatory at her Beacon Street home was a profusion of blooms and greenery, and she regularly supported landscape beautification projects in the Fenway. Gardner was also an urban pioneer—choosing to build her museum at the turn of the century in the Fenway neighborhood, a new section of Boston that had recently been transformed by Frederick Law Olmsted from a tidal marsh into the parks of the Back Bay Fens. The Gardner Museum was one of the first buildings in the newly formed Fenway, a landscape that defines the community for residents and visitors alike and an area which today remains an important and vibrant example of the value of urban landscape.

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