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Blame it on Audubon: Part Four

I have always believed that it is not only the exhibition of works of art that makes our lives richer but also the opportunity to hear from the artists, experts and scholars who have dedicated their lives to understanding and appreciating fine art.

During my twenty-five year career as an art school administrator and university art gallery director I had the task and good fortune to bring many brilliant artists, critics and scholars to campus to conduct a variety of workshops and lectures in conjunction with exhibitions.

The list included artists and critics: Jerry Uelsmann, Arthur Freed, Robert Fichter, Dave Hickey, Donald Kuspit, Jack Burnham, Manuel Ocampo, Harmony Hammond , Thomas Mc Ellivey, Chris Burden, James Surls and many others

So when it came to mounting the 1998 "Audubon in Florida" and "Audubon Treasures" exhibitions, I assembled a list of guest speakers and experts to come to Florida as guest speakers and public program presenters.

My first choice was Audubon Museum curator Don Boarman for the simple reason that the exhibition would not have been possible without him and his generosity. Second was Ella Foshay who's book was responsible for my finding the John James Audubon Museum and Don Boarman. Both Don and Ella are truly exceptional Audubon experts and museum curators with years of experience and a vast amount of knowledge about the artist and his work, however, in finding Joel Oppenheimer, I had the additional dimension of someone who was also a highly respected gallery owner and dealer of Audubon's prints and natural history fine art.

For information about Joel Oppenheimer please visit his website at:


As my "Audubon in Florida" show evolved we also brought in presenters from the local Audubon Society "Birds of Prey Rescue Center" for live bird shows that were a wonderful experience for our audience. While the programs were all very well attended the evening lecture and follow up appraisal day by Joel Oppenheimer was an event that I was truly looking forward to for a number of reasons.

First I had been and continue to be a long time fan of the UK's Antique Roadshow program on the BBC. The British version was first broadcast forty-three years ago in 1977. The American version was created twenty years later by WBGH TV a public television station in Boston in January of 1997. Like many viewers of the show I found the solving of the mystery and the identity of antiques and fine art to be fascinating. The monetary value of artworks hadn't held great interest for me, as I my previous concerns had to do with the dollar amount of fine art insurance coverage required to properly protect the art works I had borrowed for my exhibitions.

Second, and perhaps a far less lofty reason for having Joel come about collecting Audubon is that when I was contacted and asked if I could give people information about their items I could say:

"I am not an Audubon expert , but I have one coming from Chicago and he will be giving a public lecture and conducting an Audubon Appraisal Day at the museum". Thus letting me off the proverbial hook.....

Third , Joel's visit also afforded me the opportunity to learn from not only an expert dealer but also someone who by also having his own professional conservation lab thoroughly understood the process of conservation and restoration of the rare Audubon prints and paper artifacts. I was very happy when he asked me to act as his assistant while he conducted his appraisals.

In Part Five, I will try to relate as best I can exactly what occurred on the Audubon Appraisal Day with Joel Oppenheimer.....

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