Now that the summer heat has abated (a bit), we are entering event season at the Hermitage. Event season means that the curatorial department spends almost as much time restocking the bar as we do researching the collection. We don’t really mind working events… especially when the weather is pleasant and Colin wears his pink linen shirt.
The people of Norfolk asked us to keep the grounds open later during the balmier months and we listened. Last Friday was our first ever Friday Night Films series. We screened the movie on an enormous inflatable movie screen in the East Garden (thanks WHRO for the technological help!):
Our guests arrived at 6:30; picnics were unpacked and blankets unfurled; 100+ people watched the sun set over the Lafayette River while they waited for the movie to start. Once the sun went down, Grace Kelly blazed onto the screen to the sounds of crickets and waves lapping against the bulkhead. Not a bad way to spend Friday night.
The Hermitage has long been a gathering place for the people of Hampton Roads. Mrs. Sloane hosted every manner of party as part of her larger effort to bring the arts to Norfolk. Card parties, supper parties and dances were a regular occurrence; anything that might garner interest in her museum was attempted at least once, sometimes multiple times. “I have tried everything this year simply to get bodies through the door,” Mrs. Sloane wrote in a letter to her sister, Grace, in 1932. Creating a space for her fellow citizens to meet and mingle amongst great art was truly her life’s work.
We carry on Mrs. Sloane’s intrepid spirit with every event we work. We are a small staff, but each of us care deeply about the enduring mission of this place, and we will do whatever is required to “get bodies through the door.” If just one person out of a hundred comes to a movie and ends up experiencing this place in a profound way… well, then we have done our jobs.
As Henry James once famously wrote:
It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, … and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.
Come watch a movie next Friday. Listen to live music at Sunsets on the River. Take a house tour. Ask questions. Look around. Explore. This place was built for you and we are merely keeping it until you arrive.