2011: A Year in Review

I’m feeling unusually festive this holiday season. Not sure why, but it might have something to do with the staff Christmas party being set up downstairs as we speak. A pot-luck feast!

I turn now to our fearless leader, Melanie Mathewes, who has a holiday message to share with our readers:

2011 was anything but typical. I asked staff to share the top five (or so) things accomplished in each department this past year.  The list is below. Art people are not known for the ability to count, so the first time around the list was a bit long – I never thought in my wildest imagination that I would have to edit such a compilation.

If you have recently visited me in my office you know I have taken it upon myself to reorganize the files amassed over the past seven years.  As I revisit the days of yore, I am reminded of how far we have come. In my sorting I came across a feasibility study from 1992 conducted by the Kellogg Organization. I read over the stated strengths and weaknesses of the Hermitage. The one weakness to strike a chord with me was, “No one knows a damn thing about the Hermitage.” (By the way that is a direct quote.) I do think that in 2011 we fixed that.

We are amazing – I mean really amazing! This is a magical time for the Hermitage and in 2012 we usher in our 75th year as a museum. Forgive me, but as I look back on 2011 I am very impressed. Recently, I was asked to explain the museum’s work plan and describe our organizational chart.  I was asked if we are a tree or a pyramid. I explained that we are a sphere. They politely corrected me to say a Venn Diagram.  In truth, flat circles on a page do not capture the interconnectedness producing the energy and excitement of the Hermitage. Simply stated, we are amazing!

Happy holidays,   Melanie



  • Makeover of the West Gallery to include small bronzes by Harriet Frishmuth, sketches by F. Luis Mora, paintings and drawings by Douglas Volk, mosaic paintings by Edwin Blashfield, and a custom designed and built archival display case.
  • Timeline exhibit drew the largest crowd of any permanent collection exhibit yet.
  • The bedroom ceiling was conserved, at last! The broken HVAC actually helped us resolve the leak that caused the damage in the first place.
  • Completed the first total inventory of Collections storage AND archives.
  • Many new gallery arrangements throughout the museum; just about in every room.
  • Admission to the museum is up 20 percent overall, and our peak months were better than ever.
  • Ushered in a new era of large group tours (Norfolk Sister Cities, NATO, ODU student groups, etc).
  • We’re ready to go self-guided in 2012!

Membership & Development

  • Membership grew to include over 1,000 current members
  • Successful season of Sunset concerts
  • Most profitable All Hallows Eve to date
  • Growing partnerships with local Garden Clubs and VA Arts Festival
  • Launched HVAC capital campaign with a $25,000 lead gift

Gardens & Grounds

  • Awarded, for the second year, the Virginia Horticultural Foundation Grant
  • Obtained permits and grants to restore the wetlands on the west side of the Hermitage property
  • Irrigation for the East Garden installed thanks to a donation from the Redwood Junior Garden Club
  • The Garden Club of Norfolk supported the installation of a Rain Garden through their achievement of The Bessie Bocock Carter Award
  • Fifth year to be recognized as a Sustained Distinguished Performance Model Level River Star by the Elizabeth River Project
  • 400 local school children enjoyed the Wetlands Environmental Tour (WET)
  • Participated in the Home & Flower show – 15,000 visitors
  • Hosted the April and October tours for the Norfolk Sister City Exchange


  • Docent classes have seen larger attendance numbers.
  • Volunteer numbers continue to grow, as well as numbers for internship applications and those accepted.
  • Specialized tours have been written and put into practice, which include Children, Asian and Curatorial based tours.
  • Research on the Asian collection has led to the development of a permanent gallery space to house the artwork.
  • One of our Asian pieces was recognized as being among the top ten endangered artifacts in the state.


  • Worked with BCF to create dynamic new website for the Hermitage
  • Expanded rack card distribution to include all Welcome Centers in VA (including listings in digital kiosks) as well as rest areas along I-95 and I-64
  • Achieved highest web traffic in the organization’s history in the month of October.
  • Publicity: Hermitage to be featured on the cover of VOW Bride magazine (spring 2012) and the cover of the 2012 Historic Garden Week book
  • Notable Designs: Hermitage Visitor Guide brochure/map to be used for self-guided tours, new Weddings brochure, new Visual Arts Studio brochure, Reclamation exhibit gallery guide

Public Programs

  • Produced the most successful Summer Art Camp to date.
  • Introduced Young Artists Summer Camp for 11-13 year olds, running 4 successful weeks
  • Created a detailed plan for improvements to the Visual Arts Studio building in a collaborative effort between the Education & Public Programs Committee and the Buildings & Grounds Committee
  • Produced most successful Fall and Holiday sessions of VAS classes on record in the past 3 years
  • Attracted record numbers to exhibition openings (5 exhibitions)


  • New exterior lighting at the VAS.
  • UV glass installed on all Morning Room Windows.
  • Completely renovated the West Gallery by painting the ceiling and walls, remodeled the now Bronze display area, and added track lighting in the display area and the gallery itself.
  • Silver display case in Music Room was re-done including the addition of a moisture barrier between the back and sides of the case and the exterior walls.
  • Secured Colonial Webb Contractors to install new HVAC system for the Museum.
  • HVAC install – DONE


  • Completed 22 events. Double the amount of 2010.
  • Had booths at 3 bridal shows
  • Became a part of the International Special Event Society
  • Completed 50% of the projected budget for 11-12 fiscal year – yes already!
  • Created an information request form and photo gallery for the new website which has created a lot of leads and bookings.
  • Surpassed revenue goal by 20% for fiscal year 10-11

 Actually that is 51… but like I said, art people can’t count.

Have a wonderful, restorative holiday. We’ll see you next week!


One thought on “2011: A Year in Review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s