August 25, 2019

Beate Jensen: Rooting for Retirement

Beate Jensen, cultural resources manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, who retires this month after 20 years on the job. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Beate Jensen, cultural resources manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, who retires this month after 20 years on the job. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Beate Jensen ’99 has gardened in just about every climate. Born and raised in Norway, she married a Marine stationed in Scotland and scattered seeds far and wide as they moved from Hawaii to Spain and everywhere in between. But it wasn’t until she came to Fredericksburg in 1996 that she began planting roots.

“I went to the library one day and copied down addresses for every college in Virginia. I requested course catalogs and read each one with care,” Jensen said. “Mary Washington’s historic preservation program caught my eye, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Jensen’s commitment to research landed her the job of cultural resources manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio (GMHS) at Belmont, a position she’s retiring from this month after 20 years. She’s done everything, from controlling pests in the garden to pestering contractors to follow her guidelines. She and her staff keep the Stafford County estate looking just as it did when American Impressionist painter Gari Melchers and wife Corinne lived there in the early 1900s – but for 21st-century visitors to enjoy.

Along the way, Jensen earned a master’s degree in library science, spurring her to record the building and landscape features into Belmont’s collections management system. Aided by the Garden Club of Virginia and other grants and gifts, her work to restore the Melchers’ home and grounds has earned accolades, including Stafford County Historical Commission’s annual Historic Preservation Award.

“Fulfilling Corinne Melchers’ wish for Belmont to serve as a memorial to her husband and a park for local residents has been a labor of love,” Jensen said. “And I cannot stress enough that this has been a team effort – my staff is the most dedicated group of professionals you can find.”

 

Beate Jensen, with her standard poodle, Tommi, at Belmont. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Beate Jensen, with her standard poodle, Tommi, at Belmont. Photo by Suzanne Rossi.

Q: What’s your favorite GMHS project?
A: The conclusion of each garden restoration project, no matter how large or small, is always satisfying. But I’m particularly proud of saving the Fannie Roots House [a historic cottage that was home to the civil rights activist by the same name]. I was recognized by Stafford County in 2011 for this project, but I’ve always felt the award should have gone to David Ludeker, [Belmont building and grounds assistant], as his skills and hard work prevented this building from being torn down. It’s a treasure – an outstanding example of post-Civil War vernacular architecture that rarely survives today.

Q: Do you have any favorite plants that the Melchers also enjoyed?
A: It’s been fun researching and bringing back old root stock roses that they grew in their garden.

Q: What’s your advice for novice gardeners?
A: Don’t create too many flower beds. Keep things simple by planting a variety of evergreen and flowering shrubs. Use mulch and clean up the garden in the fall to save yourself time and energy in the spring.

Q: What are your retirement plans?
A: My husband, Ken, who I met here in Virginia, and I are moving to Vermont, near my daughter’s farm. We’ll be just a few minutes from the mountains where I’ll get to hike with my dogs and go fishing.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: If it doesn’t feel good, you aren’t doing it right.

Join Us to Celebrate Beate Jensen’s Retirement Aug. 7

Please join us as we celebrate the retirement of Beate Jensen, the cultural resources manager for Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont on August 7 from 5-7 p.m. She retires after 20 years with the University of Mary Washington.

Beate recently received the Annual Historic Preservation Award by the Stafford County Historical Commission for her exemplary efforts to restore, safeguard and interpret the grounds at Gari Melchers Home and Studio. Joanna Catron, assistant director and curator of GMHS, read the following tribute to her colleague at an awards presentation before the Board of Supervisors:

If today the storied structures and grounds that comprise the 18th-century property known as Belmont are perceived as unusually authentic, well-maintained and a delight to the senses, it is due in large part to the expert care and dedication given to it for the last 20 years by Cultural Resource Manager Beate Jensen and the staff who serve under her direction. From the first, it has been Ms. Jensen’s ambition to provide a faithful representation of the 27-acre site coinciding with the period of Gari and Corinne Melchers’ residence there for the edification and enjoyment of visitors and future generations. Under her stewardship, and in partnership with the Garden Club of Virginia and other organizations, public and private, Beate has safeguarded the historic integrity of the property, developed and implemented a prioritized plan for practical and appropriate restoration where needed, and provided engaging educational and interpretive experiences. 

Beate Jensen, cultural resource manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio.

Beate Jensen, cultural resource manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio.

Beate extensively researched the history of the property and its site design for restoration and improvements to the historic smokehouse, horse stable and cow barn; to gates, fences, stone walls, piers, stairs and walkways; to garden ornaments and other man-made features; and to historic planting beds, roses and trees. She also supervises a maintenance program of tree pruning, feeding and disease prevention, and created a wildlife habitat.  She oversaw design and installation of outdoor lighting, new roofs for dependencies and upgrades to lightning protection of buildings and historic trees.

With the assistance of student interns and university colleagues, Beate began a long-term effort to catalog and map all natural and man-made grounds collections at Belmont. She authored the first comprehensive history of the 1790 house and a guide to dinosaur prints on the property, and has been an advocate for African American history in Stafford County through preservation and interpretation of the Fannie Roots House.  She is a frequent speaker on historic gardens and preservation matters and regularly represents Gari Melchers Home and Studio at professional conferences.

 

Belmont Hosts Talk on Venetian Culture

Gari Melchers Home and Studio hosts A Glorious and Beautiful Show, a richly-illustrated talk on the remarkable visual culture of Renaissance Venice, Italy, presented by UMW Professor of Art History Julia A. DeLancey on August 25 in the Pavilion at Belmont, 2 PM. Admission is free of charge.

DeLancey will explore the art of such legendary giants as Bellini and Titian and the hand-blown glass and rich textiles for which the city is renowned. Because color was at the heart of all these crafts, DeLancey will also touch upon Venice’s involvement in the trade of coloring materials and the challenges currently faced by the lagoon city in preserving this precious cultural heritage.

DeLancey, who holds a Ph.D. in the History of Art from the University of St. Andrews, has recently published “Celebrated Citizenship: Titian’s portrait of the Color Seller Alvise Gradignan della Scala and Social Status in Early Modern Venice” in Studi Veneziani, 2017.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio is a 28-acre estate and former residence of the artist Gari Melchers and his wife Corinne. The property, which is operated by the University of Mary Washington, is both a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Located at 224 Washington St. in Falmouth, Virginia, a quarter mile west of the intersection of U.S. 1 and U.S. 17, it is open daily with an admission charge.

Jensen Receives Historic Preservation Award

Beate Jensen, cultural resource manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio.

Beate Jensen, cultural resource manager at Gari Melchers Home and Studio.

Beate Jensen, cultural resource manager for Gari Melchers Home and Studio, received the Annual Historic Preservation Award by the Stafford County Historical Commission on May 21, 2019, for her exemplary efforts to restore, safeguard and interpret the grounds at Gari Melchers Home and Studio. Joanna Catron, assistant director and curator of GMHS, read the following tribute to her colleague at an awards presentation before the Board of Supervisors:

If today the storied structures and grounds that comprise the 18th-century property known as Belmont are perceived as unusually authentic, well-maintained and a delight to the senses, it is due in large part to the expert care and dedication given to it for the last 20 years by Cultural Resource Manager Beate Jensen and the staff who serve under her direction. From the first, it has been Ms. Jensen’s ambition to provide a faithful representation of the 27-acre site coinciding with the period of Gari and Corinne Melchers’ residence there for the edification and enjoyment of visitors and future generations. Under her stewardship, and in partnership with the Garden Club of Virginia and other organizations, public and private, Beate has safeguarded the historic integrity of the property, developed and implemented a prioritized plan for practical and appropriate restoration where needed, and provided engaging educational and interpretive experiences. 

Beate extensively researched the history of the property and its site design for restoration and improvements to the historic smokehouse, horse stable and cow barn; to gates, fences, stone walls, piers, stairs and walkways; to garden ornaments and other man-made features; and to historic planting beds, roses and trees. She also supervises a maintenance program of tree pruning, feeding and disease prevention, and created a wildlife habitat.  She oversaw design and installation of outdoor lighting, new roofs for dependencies and upgrades to lightning protection of buildings and historic trees.

With the assistance of student interns and university colleagues, Beate began a long-term effort to catalog and map all natural and man-made grounds collections at Belmont. She authored the first comprehensive history of the 1790 house and a guide to dinosaur prints on the property, and has been an advocate for African American history in Stafford County through preservation and interpretation of the Fannie Roots House.  She is a frequent speaker on historic gardens and preservation matters and regularly represents Gari Melchers Home and Studio at professional conferences.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio Hosts Beeping Egg Hunt

Gari Melchers Home & Studio will host its eighth annual Beeping Egg Hunt on Sunday, April 14 from 2 – 4 p.m.

The egg hunt provides an opportunity for visually impaired and blind children, along with their families, to participate in an accessible audible egg hunt. Sighted siblings can also participate by wearing a blindfold.  This free event will run from 2-4 p.m.

Gari Melchers Home & Studio holds its Beeping Egg Hunt on April 14.

Gari Melchers Home & Studio hosts its Beeping Egg Hunt on Sunday, April 14.

“Every spring I look forward to organizing and planning the Beeping Egg Hunt and related activities,” says Education and Communications Manager Michelle Crow-Dolby.  “I enjoy seeing familiar faces and welcoming new families.  I am especially thankful for volunteer event assistance from James Monroe High School students and the Lions Club and for Wegmans’ food donation.”

The specially designed plastic eggs, donated by Stafford County-based International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators, emit a beeping sound that allows children to retrieve the eggs using their hearing. The event also includes a miniature animal petting zoo, sensory crafts, gallery activities, and Wegmans-sponsored healthy snacks.

During the 1920s and 30s, Corinne Melchers, with her husband’s encouragement, hosted Easter parties for area children at their Belmont home featuring egg rolls, puppet shows, and plenty of favors.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio is a 28-acre estate and former residence of the artist Gari Melchers and his wife, Corinne. The property, which is operated by the University of Mary Washington, is both a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Located at 224 Washington St. in Falmouth, Va., a quarter mile west of the intersection of U.S. 1 and U.S. 17, it is open daily with an admission charge.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Michelle Crow-Dolby at mdolby@umw.edu or 540-654-1851.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio to Offer Memory Loss Art Program

Gari Melchers Home and Studio and the Alhzeimer’s Association are partnering to present Picturing New Connections:  An art program for people with memory loss and their caregivers on Thursday, March 7 at 10:30 a.m.

“I recognized a need in our region for a museum-based memory loss program and have been researching and developing a blueprint, on and off, for a few years now,” says Education and Communications Manager Michelle Crow-Dolby.  This Picturing New Connections pilot study will combine sensory-rich guided discussions in Gari Melchers’ studio with an art making experience afterwards.”

Inspired and guided by the original Meet Me at MoMA  model, museums across the country are working to create arts engagement programs for people with Alzheimer’s Disease, along with their family members and care givers, to explore and discuss art.  Studies have shown that engaging with art in a social setting has a therapeutic effect on individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia.

“Social engagement programs such as this one promote social interaction and companionship by offering a fun and comfortable way for people living in the early to middle stage of Alzheimer’s or other dementia to get out, get active and get connected with one another through a variety of social events and community-based activities tailored to individual needs and interests of the participants,” according to Lori Myers of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Admission is $5 per person. To register, please contact Lori Myers, Director, Fredericksburg Office, Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Richmond Chapter at lmyers@alz.org or 540-228-1502.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio is a 28-acre estate and former residence of the artist Gari Melchers and his wife Corinne. The property, which is operated by the University of Mary Washington, is both a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Located at 224 Washington St. in Falmouth, Virginia, a quarter mile west of the intersection of U.S. 1 and U.S. 17, it is open daily with an admission charge.

Award–Winning Environmental Documentary Presented at Belmont

For the second year, Gari Melchers Home and Studio will present a free community screening of an environmental film. This year’s featured presentation is the award-winning documentary Inhabit, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 9 at 2 p.m. in the Pavilion.

The 92-minute film explores the many environmental and agricultural issues facing us today and examines solutions that are being applied using the ecological design process called “permaculture.”

Permaculture uses the principles found in ecosystems to help shift our impact from destructive to regenerative. Focusing mostly on the Northeastern and Midwestern regions of the US, Inhabit provides an intimate look at permaculture peoples and practices across rural, suburban and urban landscapes.

“Inhabit takes us on a tour of best practice permaculture: regenerative farms, suburban gardens, organic orchards, food forests, appropriate technology, inner city regeneration in the poorest of communities, commercial mushroom production, flood mitigation. . . It is a feast of practical information and a flowering of hitherto untold possibilities, showing us that we have the skills and knowledge to restore the earth and that it’s not only possible, it is already happening.” -Permaculture Magazine

Free admission. Contact: Joanna Catron at jcatron@umw.edu or 540-654-1841.

Gari Melchers Home and Studio is a 28-acre estate and former residence of the artist Gari Melchers and his wife Corinne. The property, which is operated by the University of Mary Washington, is both a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Located at 224 Washington St. in Falmouth, Virginia, a quarter mile west of the intersection of U.S. 1 and U.S. 17, it is open daily with an admission charge.

The Museum Shop is the official home of the Stafford County Visitor Center, where visitors can find information about Stafford County attractions, restaurants, hotels and other amenities.

For directions and hours of operation, call or visit the museum website at www.GariMelchers.org.

New Security Measures at Gari Melchers Home and Studio

Effective Sept. 1, the Gari Melchers Home and Studio in Falmouth, Virginia, will be closed to the general public between the hours of
5 p.m. and 10 a.m.

This restriction encompasses parking, photography, hiking, picnicking and any other activities on museum property during the hours specified. Gates at the museum’s entrance will be locked at 5 p.m., and grounds will be under video surveillance. Museum-sponsored programs and approved rental events that occur outside of regular hours will continue, supervised by museum staff.

“Restricting access to the museum’s buildings and grounds outside of regular operating hours is a necessary measure to ensure security of property and human safety,” said Scott H. Harris, executive director of University of Mary Washington Museums. “We look forward as always to welcoming visitors during our regular hours to discover the life and work of a noteworthy American painter and arts advocate.”

The Gari Melchers Home and Studio is a 28-acre estate and former residence of the artist Gari Melchers and his wife Corinne. The property, which is operated by the University of Mary Washington, is both a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. For more information, including hours of operation, admission rates, special events, and more, visit http://www.GariMelchers.org.

Corcoran-Held Artwork Donated to Melchers Studio

Four pieces of Gari Melchers’ art will make their way from Washington to the home and studio of the 20th-century artist in Stafford County. Last week, the University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors approved a transfer of three sketches and one painting to Gari Melchers Home and Studio in Falmouth. The artwork was previously […]

Scott Harris: Keeping History Alive

Scott Harris graduated from Mary Washington in 1982.

Scott Harris is executive director of the University Museums.

Scott Harris ’83 got firsthand history lessons as a boy growing up in Staunton, Va. His grandmother, who was born in 1898, was a gifted storyteller who could transport Harris to life in Virginia at the turn of the 20th century. Historical sites were all around him. When Harris’ parents took him to the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park at age 9, he never imagined he’d grow up to be its director decades later.

Nor did he foresee returning to his alma mater, from which he received a B.A. with honors in history and historic preservation in 1983.  In 2011 Harris became director of the James Monroe Museum, the world’s largest repository of artifacts and archives related to the nation’s fifth president.  Earlier this year he was named executive director of University Museums, overseeing the James Monroe Museum, the Papers of James Monroe, and the Gari Melchers Home and Studio. In his new role, Harris remains focused on a mission that that has motivated his 30-year museum career: “Our job is to remind people today of the importance of those who went before them.”

Q: Tell us about your new role.

A: I get to advocate for the museums from a broader perspective. I help secure funding to keep the Papers of James Monroe active and figure out how we can best position the museums for the future.

Q: What’s your favorite part of the job?

A: Every day brings a new challenge. I get the opportunity to make a big impact on all these components of University Museums and hopefully help them thrive.

Q: What do the James Monroe Museum and Gari Melchers Home and Studio have in common?

A: James Monroe and Gari Melchers were well known and respected in their times, each at the top of his game, and yet they are not household names today. The challenge is to reintroduce them to the world.

Q: Why are these two people important?

A: James Monroe played a significant role in our early national history, from the Revolutionary War to the generation before the Civil War.  Gari Melchers brought skill and passion not only to his own art, but also to advocacy of the arts generally.  The contributions of both men are useful in providing artistic and cultural content to balance the contemporary emphasis on STEM education.

Q: How do the museums connect to the UMW community?

A: Mary Washington has administered both museums since the 1960s. While both relationships began as “marriages of convenience,” the museums’ affiliation with UMW, and that of the Papers of James Monroe, provide valuable learning labs for our students in history, historic preservation, museum studies, and other fields. Working with these entities allows students to hone practical skills that will help them in the future careers.

Q: What’s your favorite part of the Gari Melchers Home and Studio, and of the James Monroe Museum?

A: Melchers’ studio contains one of my favorite paintings of his, titled “In Holland.”  Painted in 1887, it shows two young women crossing a field, one bearing two heavy buckets on a yoke.  Their expressions convey a wealth of emotions.  Melchers had a knack for making the ordinary extraordinary in his work.  My favorite spot in the James Monroe Museum is in front of his large portrait painted by Rembrandt Peale around 1825.  It shows Monroe at the end of his presidency and political career, and again, the expression on his face speaks volumes.

Q: Any mantras you tell yourself every day?

A: Don’t screw up