ALBANY – The Albany Museum of Art is embarking on strategic planning initiatives this spring, an important step in preparation for the relocation of the museum to downtown Albany.

While that is going on, the museum, located at 311 Meadowlark Drive adjacent to the Albany State University West Campus off Gillionville Road, will continue a busy year of world-class art exhibitions, art camps for children, art programming for children and adults, educational programming, community events, and special events, including the third annual AMA ChalkFest art, craft beer and music festival this October in downtown Albany.

“We are beginning an important conversation of our core values,” AMA Executive Director Andrew James Wulf, said. “We will be envisioning, developing and enacting a strategic plan that can encompass this while integrating with the community and communities farther afield, online and otherwise.”

Also exciting are plans to bring home the Albany Museum of Art’s permanent collection, which has been stored off-campus since the regionally destructive storm of Jan. 2, 2017. Renovations to the museum’s second floor and its storage vaults will make that possible.

“A museum’s permanent collection is its heartbeat,” Wulf said. “The homecoming of our collections shall signal a breath of new life for the Albany Museum of Art and its promising future within the rich cultural landscape of southwest Georgia.”

While the move to the museum’s new location at 128 and 146 W. Broad Ave. in downtown Albany is still a few years away, work toward that relocation will continue behind the scenes this year. The relocation to the former Belk Department Store, given to the museum last summer by the Robert N. Brooks Sr. family, will more than double the AMA’s current space to 53,000 square feet, creating needed room for exhibitions, programming, events and secure storage.

“This is a real opportunity to imagine and create the next version of the Albany Museum of Art that will benefit future generations in Albany and southwest Georgia,” Wulf said.

The only accredited art museum within 90 miles of Albany, the AMA serves all of southwest Georgia and gives many of its guests their only opportunity to see art in its original form. No one is denied this opportunity because of financial restraints because the AMA offers free admission to everyone. It is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays and noon-5 p.m. on Saturdays.

The AMA also serves as a center where community members and leaders gather and learn about social issues through art. It provides families, schoolchildren and adults a place to participate in hands-on art activities, and facilitates opportunities for teens and young professionals to serve in leadership roles while promoting the work of the museum.

More than 75% of the Albany community is African American, and it is the museum’s goal to present exhibitions, artists and programs that are relevant to the community and region it serves. With one of the largest collections of Sub-Saharan African Art in the Southeast, the AMA continuously works to improve and interpret its African art collection to make it more meaningful and a resource for learning about other cultures.

Current exhibitions at the AMA are “Looking at America and Painting How I Want, What I Want and How I See It” by Dean Mitchell, of Tampa, Fla., and “Do Not Hand Me Over to the Impure Whiteness of Noon: A Hemings Elegy,” the first solo exhibition of work by Yanique Norman of Atlanta. Both continue through March 28.

On Feb. 26, “Cut & Paste: Works of Paper,” a traveling exhibition of works by 11 Georgia artists, opens and continues through June 27.

On April 2, new exhibitions “Midlands,” multimedia works by Courtney McClellan of Atlanta, and new work by Brian Willmont of Brooklyn, N.Y., open and also will continue through June 27.

On April 23, Albany State University Associate Professor of Art Michael Mallard will not only open his exhibition “Reset: New Vision in the AMA’s Hodges Regional Gallery,” he will turn the space into his studio, inviting museum guests to see him work and converse with him about his art.

Through its public programs, the AMA opens itself to creative collaborations with southwest Georgia’s diverse community. As is the case with other vital museums, the AMA is morphing further into a cultural center, making it even more relevant to a wide range of guests from across the socio-economic spectrum.

The AMA exists to cultivate curiosity, appreciation, understanding and passion for art in everyday life. The museum strives to reach its diverse audience through excellent exhibitions, preservation and education programming. It is the AMA’s vision to be the premier arts and cultural hub for the Albany region, building the community while celebrating its diversity, culture and uniqueness.

“Reaching out to the entire community remains a primary concern for us,” Wulf said. “The AMA abides by a mission of celebrating our collective and eclectic artistic expression … in all its forms.”

The AMA also serves as a proving ground for celebrating the richness and diversity of Southeastern artists and their phenomenal works. Wulf said the museum also has a “self-imposed mandate” to elevate the role of the museum to community gathering space, one that is always a place of welcome for all and for meaningful artistic expression.

“The AMA believes that art should be made accessible to all,” he said. “It is crucial that all members of our community feel welcome, safe and inspired at the AMA, regardless of financial status, physical or mental ability, or age.”

Two new programs designed to meet community needs are set to be launched in the coming months.

“Art from the Start” is a partnership with various groups in Albany, including Head Start and The Boys and Girls Clubs. It has been specifically designed for 3-, 4- and 5-year-old guests because it has been recognized that children who visit a museum during pre-school and kindergarten have higher achievement scores than children who do not have that experience. The benefit is also seen in the subgroup of children who are most at risk for deficits and delays in achievement.

“Awaken at the AMA” is designed for older visitors suffering from dementia. It provides an atmosphere that is relaxing and welcoming for visitors living with memory loss to engage with works of art and with each other.

In addition, a new friends of the museum group is in the process of forming this year.

Programming that was successfully rolled out in the past year includes:

— “The Art of Sound” is a partnership with Albany’s 229 Yoga and Inherent Sound in which participants can unplug, relax and revive their spirit in this virtual “bath” of healing sounds from quartz crystal bowls, gong and drums. A second sound experience is planned for November.

— The AMA’s first “American Girl Tea Party” in January is being followed by a spring gathering of children and their favorite dolls from 1-3 p.m. on May 16. An autumn tea party is in the planning stages.

— The AMA Teen Art Board, a high school group that engages local high school students in programming for teens, created by teens. The teens have planned a series of monthly Friday-night Teen Art Kickbacks for high schoolers at the AMA, as well as a Teen Art Prom on May 2.

— Yoga in the Gallery, a collaboration with the Albany Yoga Project, mixes yoga with art. A session for children and a master session for adults are planned for March 22, and other sessions will be announced.

— The AMA Art Lovers Book Club completes its first series of bimonthly meetings on St. Patrick’s Day evening. At the meeting, club members will decide some of the books that will be discussed for the second series, which starts May 19. There’s no cost to participate. The book club meets on third Tuesdays in May, July, September, November, January and March.

— “Art Chat” is at 11 a.m. on Fridays. AMA Director of Education and Programming Annie Vanoteghem leads guests on discussions of art currently showing at the museum. There’s no cost to attend.

Popular programming and events that will continue in the coming year includes:

— Student field trips from Albany and regional schools continue to be popular. In partnership with the Dougherty County School System, every second-grade student in the district has the opportunity to attend a field trip at the AMA and do an art project during the school year. Schools from as far away as Atkinson County bring their students on field trips.

— Toddler Takeover, for children 15 months old to 3 years old, is on the first Tuesday of March, April and May. After a summer break, the program will resume its monthly schedule on Sept. 1.

— Homeschool Days, for homeschooled K-5th grade students, are on the second Thursday of March, April and May. The program also will take a summer break and resume its monthly schedule on Sept. 10.

— Family Day, conducted in partnership with the Albany Recreation and Parks Department, returns 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on March 21. The event includes art projects, games and activities for the entire family. The date for the fall Family Day will be announced later.

— Staycation Spring Break Art Camp, for children K-5th grade, is March 30-April 3. Information and rates are available at albanymuseum.com/spring-break-staycation-camp.html.

— Adult art workshops include quarterly figure drawing sessions in which high school and older participants can sketch a live, clothed model. The next one is scheduled for 5:30-7:30 p.m. April 30. Information is available at albanymuseum.com/figure-drawing-session.html.

— Exhibiting artists will talk about their work and conduct workshops throughout the year at the AMA. Artists with “Cut & Paste: Works of Paper” will discuss their works with guests at Cut That Out!, a panel discussion, at 6 p.m. on April 3. From 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on April 4, Matt Haffner, one of the exhibiting artists, will conduct a paper art workshop at the AMA.

— The AMA Contemporaries, young professionals who have a blast supporting the museum, will have their next event, “Roller Boogie,” at 7 p.m. on April 23. It will be a throwback 1970s skate party at Stardust Skate Center No. 2 on Ledo Road. A new season of Contemporaries events will begin in late July or early August. Information on how you can become a Contemporary is at albanymuseum.com/contemporaries.html.

— Summer Art Camps will get underway right after Memorial Day and continue through late July. A schedule of the camps, weekly themes and rates may be found online at albanymuseum.com/summer-art-camp.html.

— Plans are underway to recognize local teachers shortly before the new school year starts with a Teacher Appreciation Night.

— The museum hopes to partner again with the Georgia Department of Education to provide STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) education training for southwest Georgia educators.

“A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words,” the AMA’s annual art essay contest for high school and college students, will be conducted in the fall. The artwork that will inspire the writers and the dates for the competition and awards will be announced later.

— The third annual AMA ChalkFest will return to downtown Albany on Oct. 3. Last year’s art and craft beer street festival featured 11 professional chalk artists, dozens of craft beers from around the state, live music, food trucks, art and various vendors, and amateur and student chalk artists. It drew more than 4,000 people to the 100 block of Pine Avenue. The AMA will be announce this year’s theme, hours and other details soon.

Look for updates at AMAChalkFest.com.

— The Libby Womack Holiday Art Workshop for children and Parents Holiday Recovery Art Camp will return during Christmas and New Year’s holiday weeks. The dates and schedule will be announced later.

— Courageous Conversations About Race, which brings students and the community together to a safe space at the museum to discuss the issue of racism, was conducted in February and will return with new sessions to be scheduled.

— Art Ball 2020, the AMA’s largest annual fundraiser, was conducted on Feb. 15. The date and theme of the museum’s 2021 winter fundraising gala, which supports the AMA’s exhibitions, programming and educational efforts, will be announced at a later date.

Other programming for children and adults will be announced during the year, such as holiday-related events. Examples of past events added during the year include Art Hallows Eve Art & Craft Day, Escape the Art Gallery, a pre-Thanksgiving Cookie Decorating Workshop, and a photography workshop for digital single-lens reflex cameras.

“As you can see, we keep an incredibly busy schedule for an organization of just six people,” Wulf said. “The Albany Museum of Art is not a static artifact, it is a living, growing work of art in itself that is vital to enhancing the quality of life in Albany and southwest Georgia. We hope you will spend time with us this year and experience the impact art can have on your life.”

For information on the AMA, visit its website albanymuseum.com or call (229) 439-8400. Information also can be found on the museum’s Facebook page, AlbanyMuseumOfArt, on Twitter at @AlbanyArtMuseum and at AlbanyMuseum on Instagram.

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