Grateful American® Foundation

September 2015: The Art of History Comes Alive at Richmond’s Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

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In January 1936, during the Great Depression, Virginia’s political and business leaders bravely demonstrated their faith in the future and their belief in the value of art by opening the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.

The original English Renaissance-style building was designed by Peebles and Ferguson Architects of Norfolk. And in the years since, there have been five expansions, including the most recent (completed in 2010), designed by Rick Mather.

Photo: David Stover © Virginia Museum of Fine ArtsAugust 2013Now in his eighth year as director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Alex Nyerges is responsible for the management of the museum’s recent expansion and renovation designed by Rick Mather; the enhancement of statewide services and programs to fulfill the institution’s mandate as Virginia’s museum; the completion of a revenue-based business plan for the museum’s future; and the approval and advancement of exciting special exhibitions. Nyerges came to VMFA from the Dayton Art Institute, where he was director and CEO from 1992 to 2006. Before his assignment in Ohio, Nyerges was the executive director of the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, a position he also held at the De Land Museum of Art in Florida. A native of Rochester, New York, he graduated from George Washington University in Washington, DC in 1981 with a master’s degree in museum studies. His 1979 undergraduate degree is from the same school with a double major in American civilization and in anthropology/archaeology. As well as writing and lecturing widely on photography, Nyerges has organized such exhibitions as “Edward Weston: A Photographer's Love of Life” (2004), a major retrospective that traveled internationally, and “In Praise of Nature: Ansel Adams and Photographers of the American West” (1999), which traveled nationwide. Among the many other exhibitions he has organized are “Glory of the Silk Road: Art from Ancient China” and “Eternal China: Treasures from Ancient Xi'an,” two major traveling exhibitions of art and artifacts from regional museums throughout China. Nyerges has been a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors since 1989 and serves on the Mentoring Task Force Committee. He is a former member of the Board of Trustees and past Program Chair for the organization. As a member of the American Association of Museums, he serves as an Accreditation Field Reviewer. At the Virginia Center for Creative Arts in Amherst VA, Nyerges serves as Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. Also, Nyerges is an Executive Committee member of the French Regional American Museum Exchange (FRAME), a formal collaboration of museums 12 cities in France, 12 museums in the United States, and one Associate Member in Canada. In Richmond, Nyerges is a member of the Forum Club, an Advisory Board Member of the Asian American Society of Central Virginia, a member of the Mayor’s Richmond Real Estate Task Roundtable and the Mayor’s Tourism Commission, serves on the Armory Steering Committee at the Black History Cultural Museum, Chamber of Commerce Capital Region Collaborative, as well as an Affiliate Graduate Faculty Member at Virginia Commonwealth University. In September 2012, Nyerges was awarded “The Randolph-Macon College Award for Achievement in the Arts” established by the College’s Arts Council to recognize individuals who have significant contributions to Virginia’s cultural landscape. He is married to Jane Kathryn Gray with one son, Robert.This beautiful renovation houses the museum’s permanent collection, of 33,000 works of art from almost every major world culture — such as Paul Revere’s silver teapots and stands, circa 1790 (pictured above). Created for the benefit of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the museum’s art enriches visitors and it’s free admission enhances access.

In our interview with the museum director, Alex Nyerges, (pictured right) we gained insight into the strong ties between art history and American history. Scroll down for our Q&A— David Bruce Smith, founder, Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, Grateful American™ Foundation

Click here to listen to the interview with Nyerges on “The Grateful American™ Radio Show.”

And be sure to stay tuned for more of our monthly episodes of the Grateful American™ TV show at

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