Congratulations to VAM's 2021 Award Winners

Comments from the Nominators & VAM Annual Meeting held March 17, 2021

Virginia Museum Innovation Award - The Taubman Museum of Art 

The Innovation Award was created to recognize museums that demonstrate a commitment to use their platform as a trusted source of information to build relationships with and create meaningful impact within their community, and begin conversations around important topics affecting the museum field and the world at large. The award can be given in one of three categories: Diversity and Inclusion, Expanding Audience, and Community Engagement.

The winning museum entered in the Community Engagement category.

While the Taubman Museum of Art (TMA) has for years enjoyed a reputation for impactful community leadership, the Museum’s stature has grown even greater during COVID, as the TMA team developed responsive programming to meet community needs with innovative outreach. Within one day of business closures in March, 2020, TMA pivoted from on-site program delivery to virtual delivery, and within a year had a library of 500+ productions. Early in the pandemic, TMA served as community convener to engage key regional leaders by hosting monthly meetings and workshops for 30+ local health/social services and arts/cultural organizations to identify ways to use the unique platform of art to best meet the needs of those facing COVID-related trauma. As a result, TMA developed impactful programming to support community needs. Examples of these programs, as well as community engagement programs that were already under development and have since been strengthened through community input, include:

HEALING CEILINGS – In partnership with Carilion Clinic (largest regional healthcare system), TMA leads community creation of art on industrial ceiling tiles. TMA coordinates participation among individuals and groups (remote or on-site) and delivers finished products to Carilion for installation in medical facilities. When schools re-opened in Fall 2020, TMA recruited local K-12 classes to participate. These community-created tiles serve as a calming diversion for patients lying prone, while reminding them that the community cares. Program success is noted in positive feedback from patients; to date 450+ ceiling tiles have been completed.

BRUSH PALS – Based upon research indicating the benefits of intergenerational and creative activities for senior citizens and children, Brush Pals combines both, bringing seniors and elementary school children together to create art -- and lasting friendships! During COVID, TMA has shifted delivery to bring the groups together via Zoom. Program success is evident in the wait list of elementary schools and senior centers.

ARTREACH – TMA partnered with Feeding America/Southwest Virginia and the Roanoke Rescue Mission to provide at-home art kits for necessitous families. The kits, assembled by TMA volunteers, include a creative art project, and all necessary instructions and supplies. Art kits are distributed in Feeding America meal packages to families. ArtReach also included creation of cards featuring local artwork, which were delivered to doctors, shut-ins, and hospital patients. Program success is indicated in the demand for art kits/cards by partner clientele: to date, 100,000+ art kits and 20,000+ art cards have been distributed.

ROANOKE ARTS POP – Among the annual festivals TMA presents to engage the local community, the three-day Roanoke Arts Pop hosts regional performance and arts/cultural organizations at the Museum to showcase their talents to the public. The event not only provides indoor winter fun for local residents, but a terrific performance venue for organizations that are not large enough to have their own facilities. This year’s event (March, 2022) will be broadcast in part to provide viewing opportunities for individuals who are not comfortable attending in person. Program success is proven through participation by 30+ arts/culture organizations and attendance by 2,200+ members of the public.

Prior to COVID, the Taubman Museum of Art already had community engagement programming that was robust enough to have made the Museum a strong contender for VAM’s Museum Innovation Award. In fact, in 2021 the Museum was selected as one of 15 finalists nationwide for the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ prestigious National Museum Medal, based upon our existing community engagement programming as well as COVID-responsive innovations. An example of such existing programming is TMA’s LEARNING LAB FOR LEADERS, a partnership with local businesses to deliver professional development to senior executives using innovative art-based curricula to help participants develop valuable skills that are transferrable to the business world. While TMA’s existing programming was meeting the needs of many throughout the community, COVID motivated the Museum to take community engagement to the next level. The process that TMA undertook in working with members of the community to identify community needs and develop programming to meet those community needs enabled the Museum to look beyond existing models, and, in doing so, TMA is reaching audiences that heretofore had been difficult to engage – primarily in minority and underrepresented populations. More importantly, TMA is not reverting to its previous community engagement model. The team is using lessons learned throughout COVID to continue to strengthen its impact. TMA continues (and will continue) hosting monthly meetings with community leaders. While such meetings were originally held via Zoom, they are now held on-site. TMA’s organizational structure also reflects this commitment. In late 2021, the Museum created a “Community Engagement Department.” To date a Community Engagement Manager and Community Engagement Coordinator have been hired, as well as a Videographer to ensure production of high-quality online programming to audiences near and far. The hiring process is in the final stages for a Deputy Director of Community Engagement. And the Museum is using its increasing skills in community outreach to think even further outside the box – which equates to further outside the Roanoke Valley community. In late March, for example, TMA will produce “FASHIONING THE FUTURE: AN AFROFUTURISTIC CONVERSATION WITH RUTH E. CARTER,” a free Internet broadcast that will be offered exclusively to all 107 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the U.S. In 2018, Ms. Carter, an HBCU alumna with a filmography of 69 Hollywood productions, became the first Black person to win an Academy Award for Costume Design for her visually stunning and culturally accurate work on the Hollywood blockbuster Black Panther. In this exciting webcast, she will discuss the concept of Afrofuturism, her career journey, and the role that HBCUs have played in her success. Her presentation also includes a tour of the exhibition currently on view at the Taubman Museum of Art, Ruth E. Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design, which features the actual costumes worn in her movies. TMA’s next goal is to develop art-based therapy for special needs citizens; the Museum is partnering with 17 social services organizations that are providing input on client needs to support program development.

Learn more about the Innovation Award Program.


Virginia Museum Educator Award 2021 - Christy Deatherage
As Virginia Museum of Natural History Education Manager, Christy coordinates the museum's entire repertoire of educational programs, including at-the-museum programming, outreach and distance learning programming, and specialty programs, such as the museum's Summer Adventure Camps, the VMNH Homeschool Science and Engineering Academy, museum sleepovers, science-themed birthday parties at VMNH, and the museum's Doodle Bugs program for ages 3-5.
Beyond providing extraordinary educational programs for students, Christy also leads teacher workshops, develops a wide variety of educational resources for both teachers and parents, and volunteers her time and professional expertise to a variety of important causes, such as serving as Secretary for the Virginia Resource-Use Educational Council and Advisor for the Southwest Piedmont Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists.
A member of the museum's leadership team, Christy also provides critical support for a wide variety of inter-departmental initiatives, including the development of special exhibits, the presentation of VMNH science festivals, and even the securing of grant funding to help ensure her programs can reach students throughout the entire Commonwealth.
While Christy has worked for the museum for over 19 years, she consistently brings new ideas to expand the museum’s educational offerings. During the pandemic restrictions, she greatly enhanced the museum’s virtual programming to reach students remotely and provided a wealth of content for the museum's social media activities, including the production of the "Museum Minute" series of videos that brought VMNH exhibits to audiences who could no longer visit the museum.
As school regulations have fluctuated, she has worked with teachers to ensure students continue to have access to the museum's educational resources, whether they are inside school classrooms, online, or at the museum. Christy has also recently added innovative components to the museum’s regular classes, including operating vertical greenhouse units that allow students to study and track plant growth.

Learn more about the Virginia Museum Educator Award Program.


Ann Brownson Award for Outstanding Service to the Virginia Museum Field - Peggy Sheets 

The Ann Brownson Award is given annually to an individual who has given outstanding service to the Virginia museum community. It was established in 1999 to honor the service and accomplishments of Ann Brownson, who provided spirted leadership as a member of VAM’s Board from 1991 to 1999.

It is truly an honor to announce that this year’s recipient is, Mrs. Peggy Sheets.

This year’s 2022 Ann Brownson Award winner has been an energetic and vital champion for the Frontier Culture Museum and other cultural organizations in the region for over thirty years. In 2015 she was appointed by the Governor to the Board of Trustees. Since 2018 she has served as the Chair of the Board. Apart from the oversight of the Agency that the supervisory Board provides, Mrs. Peggy Sheets has also been responsible for organizing and rallying the Board in support of a major capital project. In this capacity, she has been tireless in leading efforts to secure funding, advance the design, coordinate the construction, and develop a marketing strategy. Her leadership in support of the staff, the daily operations of the Museum, the longer-term objectives and programs, and truly transformational projects for the Agency have been invaluable. She understands and supports the needs at every level of our operation, from meeting with legislators in Richmond to taking a few turns on the lawn mower. Mrs. Sheets is an excellent example of a powerful role model for the creative, flexible, and strong work ethic that keeps the museum, and many others in the Commonwealth, thriving every day.

Mrs. Sheets has also worked in a leadership role with preservation, arts, educational, and civic organizations within our community. These entities include, but not limited to, the Augusta County Circuit Court Advisory Committee, the Staunton Sears Hill Bridge Preservation Project, and the American Frontier Culture Foundation. 

Perhaps the most enduring impact of her work will be her legacy of continuing education that elevates everyone's capacity. She is a strong proponent for ongoing training and professional development. Many within the organization have benefited from her encouragement and advocacy for allocating time and resources to the training, networking, and programs available through VAM. This approach has helped the entire team of the Frontier Culture Museum and group of stakeholders sustain and improve operations, and has given them the courage and skills to dare to do more. 

Learn more about the Ann Brownson Award.