Photo Credit: Patsy McCowan



November 2004

Give me a museum, and I will fill it. - Pablo Picasso


Tribute to the Albright-Knox, Buffalo, New York

Dear Reader:

How did one kid fall in love with art? She was lucky enough to grow up in Buffalo, New York, during the 40's through the mid-60's, at a time when the arts seemed to matter. She attended schools that brought students by the busload to hear the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, to gawk at the treasures in the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, and to experience the astounding collection of twentieth century art at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Did I understand or like everything I saw or heard? Of course not. Mixed in with the feelings of awe or joy were moments of boredom or discomfort. I know now that these were the developing seeds of my own taste in the arts. The more I tasted, the more my taste changed and expanded. I was enrolled in a lifelong independent study, "Connoisseurship 101," a continuous stream of learning about art and the arts. It's a course that will never end for me.

I went to college across the street from the Albright-Knox and felt the confidence of familiarity when I dropped in between classes. Because I had been brought there as a younger student, I knew and didn't know what was waiting for me inside. I remember on some days I barely had bus fare to get to class, but I could still stop at the Albright-Knox. It was free. Yes, free. "Free" meant that I could gobble up Matisse's "La Musique" or be intrigued by Courbet's "The Source of the Loue" or be held spellbound by Gauguin's "The Yellow Christ." Michael Kimmelman wrote, "People go to museums, in the end, to have an experience unlike what they can get elsewhere, because works of art are not like everything else in life." ["New York's Bizarre Museum Moment," New York Times Arts & Leisure, July 11, 2004.]

Some things change for the better. A few years before I moved to New England, a new wing opened, giving more space to exhibit their expanding collection. Of course, when I visit Buffalo today, I visit the Albright-Knox.

Some things do not change for the better: the color in Rouault's clown sunk so much that I could hardly make out the shapes I loved. Last time I visited, it wasn't even hanging in a gallery. And, after a long and admirable record of free admission, the museum began charging an entry fee in 1992. In October of this year, it went up to $10. So, I show my memberships to the Worcester Art Museum or the Wadsworth Athenaeum and get a reduced admission. I gladly pay the price. I am an artist and art lover, and museums are part of my continuing education and passion. Besides, it's half the admission that I will have to pay at the Museum of Modern Art in New York when it reopens its doors this month.

One of the things I do to prepare for writing "Judy's Journal" is to talk with people. John Gaumond suggested that it would be reasonable and good if the age for free admission to all museums in the United States was raised to 21 for everyone, not just students. Not to state the obvious, but I will anyway: making museums accessible to children and young adults is an investment in the future of the arts. I can only remember what it did for me. Sometimes looking at "La Musique" gave me the energy to go to class, and then to work. John added this to his proposal: free admission could begin again at 80 as a way of acknowledging seniors' contributions to society. It certainly would make reaching 80 something for me to look forward to. Let art without admission fees bookend our lives!

December's topic will be "Getting Rid of Elvis," which will be a look at revision in writing and artwork. I invite you to email me with your ideas, questions or comments about the creative process at can visit the Albright-Knox Art Gallery at and the Buffalo and Erie County Historcial Society at

PS Thanks to Patsy McCowan, who gave me the Picasso quotation at the beginning of this journal and several others you'll be seeing in the coming months.