Palmer Museum receives innovative grant from Art Bridges

September 12, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — This fall, the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State received its first grant from Art Bridges to augment the new exhibition "Object Lessons: American Still-Life Painting in the Nineteenth Century," which opened on Sept. 4 and highlights the strong tradition of still-life painting in the United States. The grant revolves around the pivotal loan of Charles Caryl Coleman’s important and didactic work, "Still Life with Peach Blossoms (1877)," as well as innovative new programming that enhances the exhibition and uses the painting as a point of convergence for discussions on the connections between art and science.

“We are grateful to Art Bridges for the loan of the large and impressive painting by Charles Coleman, which forms the centerpiece of the exhibition,” said Erin Coe, Director of the Palmer Museum of Art. “Moreover, the grant supports a range of public programming designed to catalyze discussions around American art and culture, horticulture, and botany in the 19th century and the present day.”

Visitors to the exhibition will view 22 works that explore the meaning of still-life subjects — flowers, fruit and simple household items — that have transfixed and beguiled viewers from the 19th century to today. "Still Life with Peach Blossoms" is a significant example of the genre and showcases many cultural crosscurrents that reflect ideas of beauty in the stylized eastern and western objects and variegated patterns surrounding its centralized blossoms. As such, the painting is a springboard for collaborative programming and interdisciplinary topics related to art, history, horticulture, botany and entomology, all strong educational focuses at Penn State.

“We are excited by the Palmer’s plans for activating 'Still Life with Peach Blossoms,'” said Niki Ciccotelli Stewart, program administrator at Art Bridges. “When university museums invite departments from many disciplines to participate in programming around works of art, rich and rewarding conversations can happen. This multidisciplinary approach to engaging with art is especially exciting, and we are proud to support the Palmer in this work.”

Along with the painting there will be several short digital presentations, including interview clips, still images, text, and other materials, that will play on iPads in the gallery adjacent to Coleman’s painting beginning Sept. 25. The presentations, which will prompt visitors to look closely at various aspects of the painting and explore different artistic, historical and scientific ideas, is a first for the Palmer. The museum also will survey visitors about their experience with the exhibition and programs.

“Crucially, Art Bridges’ support has enabled us to experiment, for the first time, with using touchscreen technology to deliver information and engage visitors in the gallery,” said Adam Thomas, curator of American art. “The generous boost from the foundation has also helped us reach across the university to call on — and incorporate — the expertise of specialists in fields like horticulture, agriculture and botany for this project.”

The grant funding supports a public lecture by Anna Marley, curator of historical American art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 in the Palmer Lipcon Auditorium on the University Park campus. Marley’s presentation will interweave still-life painting, horticulture and the garden movement in late-19th-century America. Art Bridges also funds a partnership with different university groups from the science and agriculture disciplines to present active and engaging public programs during the special Community Day programming during this year’s Parents & Families Weekend.

Art Bridges is a nonprofit started in 2017 by philanthropist and art patron Alice Walton to share outstanding works of American art with those that have limited access to the country’s most meaningful works. It partners with art institutions of all sizes on projects that deeply engage their surrounding communities. The exhibitions supported by Art Bridges range from single-object loans to fully developed exhibitions, and include funding for in-depth educational and interpretive materials, such as those at the Palmer. More information is available at

"Object Lessons" is on view at the Palmer Museum through Dec. 16.

About the Palmer

The Palmer Museum of Art on the Penn State University Park campus is a free-admission arts resource for the University and surrounding communities in central Pennsylvania. With a collection of 9,000 objects representing and spanning a variety of cultures and centuries of art, the Palmer is the largest art museum between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Areas of strength include the museum’s collection of American art from the late 18th century to the present; Old Master paintings; prints and photography; ceramics and studio glass; and a growing collection of modern and contemporary art. The museum presents 10 exhibitions each year and, with 11 galleries, a print-study room, a 150-seat auditorium, and an outdoor sculpture garden, the Palmer Museum of Art is the leading cultural resource for the region.

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays, and 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays. The museum is closed Mondays and some holidays.

The Palmer receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

For more information on the Palmer Museum of Art or for the calendar of upcoming events, visit

  • Charles Caryl Coleman, "Still Life with Peach Blossoms," 1877

    Charles Caryl Coleman, "Still Life with Peach Blossoms," 1877, oil on canvas, 71½ x 25¼ inches. On loan from Art Bridges.

    IMAGE: Charles Caryl Coleman
  • Richard La Barre Goodwin, "Still Life with Strawberries," c. 1885

    Richard La Barre Goodwin, "Still Life with Strawberries, c. 1885," oil on canvas. Gift of Alvin and Jean Snowiss, 2011.104.

    IMAGE: Richard La Barre Goodwin
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Last Updated September 12, 2018