January 17, 2018

Michael and Sellam: Stress Test

During exam week, frazzled test-takers turn to the University Center’s bi-annual Stress-Free Zone, hosted by the Office of Student Activities and Engagement. The three-day event, which runs Monday, Dec. 11, through Wednesday, Dec. 13, from noon to 3 p.m., is filled with ways to unwind.

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Regional Conference Puts UMW Geography on the Map

UMW’s Department of Geography received high marks at the annual Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers (SEDAAG) conference. The event, held last month in Starkville, Mississippi, showcases research from across the region. Professor of Geography Stephen Hanna won the Research Honors Award for his work in critical and cultural geography. Junior Darby Libka […]

Richmond Mayor Recruits Top Teachers at UMW

Growing up, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s family had only one car and no way of picking him up after school. But when he told his third-grade teacher he wouldn’t be able to join the social studies club, she arranged a ride for him. “Moments like that along the way, when teachers did things they didn’t […]

Joanna Catron: Home for the Holidays

Just up the road from UMW stands a house on a hill. Known as Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, the 18th-century Georgian-style structure belonged to the renowned American Impressionist painter. Beyond its quaint cream-colored siding and emerald green shutters, Curator and Interim Director Joanna Catron knows every inch of the house by heart. She should. She’s worked at Belmont – one of two public museums administered by the University of Mary Washington – for 34 years.

Joanna Catron, curator and interim director of Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont. Photo by Alex Sakes.

Joanna Catron, curator and interim director of Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont. Photo by Alex Sakes.

From Melchers’ celebrated naturalist paintings to the cups from which he and wife Corinne drank tea at their dining room table, Catron, an expert in American art, handles the time capsule with care. And at no other point of the year is Belmont more beautiful than Christmas, when Catron and her staff drape mantles with greenery, hang wreaths on the doors and gussy up trees.

They decorate as the couple would have back in the early 1900s, inspired by Corinne – her holiday letters, her love of gardening, even sentiments from relatives, like her brother, who dubbed the place “Bird-mont” on account of the Melchers’ turkeys, chickens and guineas. The theme is showcased in Belmont’s Holiday Open House, which runs through Jan. 5, with free admission for UMW faculty and staff.

Q: When did you begin working at Belmont?

A: In May 1983, right out of graduate school. I had interned at Mary Washington as an undergraduate student and I ran into [UMW Professor of Art and Art History] Joe Dreiss at a symposium of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., who led me to the position.

Q: As curator – and now interim director – what are your responsibilities?

A: People think of a curator as a glamorous job but, really, it’s not. I think of it as a keeper of the past. I care for the collections and do all the cleaning and polishing in the period rooms, which requires special handling. I also conduct research on the paintings and write interpretive information with our staff to share with the public. I’m juggling both roles, so budget and fundraising are also important. It takes a tremendous amount of funding to keep a place like this operating.

Q: How has the museum evolved since you first walked through its doors?

A: It’s changed dramatically over the years. Thanks to a talented staff of professionals, the stewardship of the bricks-and-mortar side of things is well in hand. And we’ve made other great improvements, particularly with regard to programming, and other amenities, so that we feel we have greater relevancy in our community.

Q: What’s your role in preparing for the Holiday Open House?

It’s a challenge decorating the place. It’s so large it seems we can never do quite enough to cast the desired magical spell. Besides, we don’t have any documentation of the place at Christmas, and no surviving ornaments. We have some idea from Corinne Melchers’ letters and journal entries that she decorated with greenery cut on the property, but that’s it. We try to keep it natural and appropriate to the 1920s, but the rest is a bit of a guessing game.

Belmont Hosts ‘Home for the Holidays’

Belmont, the historic home of artist Gari Melchers and his wife, Corinne, will celebrate the season, with decorations on view Nov. 24 through Jan. 25, 2018. In the 1920s, the Melchers took great delight in festively decorating their elegant country house during the holidays. Although Gari Melchers divided his time between his commercial headquarters in New […]

‘Relentless Principal’ Urges Educators to Break Rules

Pop quiz: What kind of educator blasts music, dances on chairs and encourages students to skip class. Answer: Hamish Brewer, a.k.a. “The Relentless Principal” “I’m about breaking rules in a good sense,” said Brewer, whose unorthodox leadership approach earned him the commanding title, along with national recognition as an “educational disruptor” who transforms struggling schools. […]

UMW Students Design Curriculum for Accessible Learning

A whiteboard full of math equations – snap! A tutoring notice on a professor’s door – snap! A room number sign in Braille – snap! With each new discovery, the students’ cameras clicked and moments later a new photo went flying into the Twittersphere. Back in Trinkle Hall, Assistant Professor of Education Victoria Russell – […]

Contemplative Garden Brings ‘Zen’ to Campus

A bonsai workshop last week set the right frame of mind for a progress report on UMW’s new Zen Garden. More than 100 people turned out to learn about the ancient art of tree trimming and hear about the space under construction outside the Leidecker Center for Asian Studies on the Fredericksburg campus. The Japanese-inspired […]

‘Relentless Principal’ to Share Leadership Style at UMW

Hamish Brewer, the Northern Virginia school principal who is nationally recognized for his unorthodox – yet highly effective – leadership approach, will talk with aspiring teachers at the University of Mary Washington on Monday, Nov. 27. The session, scheduled for 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Chandler Ballroom of the University Center, is open to […]

Chef Will: A Matter of Taste

As steam swirls around him and savory smells fill the air, Sodexo Executive Chef William Allison is in his element. His utensils expertly scrape across the flat-top grill, flipping and tossing colorful vegetables and seasoned meats for the swarm of students about to enter the top floor of UMW’s University Center. [Read more…]