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Palmer Stories - Molly Hoffer

Palmer Stories - Molly Hoffer


Gain a new perspective on the Palmer Museum of Art through “Palmer Stories” – interviews and anecdotes that let you explore what goes on behind the gallery walls at the museum!
Our first Palmer Story is about Molly Hoffer, a Palmer Student Ambassador and Penn State freshman studying fine arts. While volunteering, she learned how a studio glass sculpture by artist Colin Reid changes colors when viewed from different angles, and it’s become her favorite fact to teach visitors. “I love showing visitors these glass tricks because they look at me like I’m magic. Having a museum on campus where I get to learn about and talk about art is a really cool experience that not a lot of students get,” said Hoffer.

To see her favorite artwork, learn more about art, and meet passionate people like Molly, stop by and spend some time walking around our galleries for free! Or meet Molly and her fellow PSAs at Palmer events like Art After Hours and Family Day.

New art museum at the Arboretum

New art museum at the Arboretum

FALL 2019

New art museum planned at Arboretum

Message from Director Erin M. Coe

For nearly 50 years, Penn State’s Palmer Museum of Art has been dedicated to celebrating art and educating a broad and diverse public. As plans progress for Penn State’s new University Art Museum, we are mindful of how we can advance the University’s mission of teaching, research, and service in bold new ways and serve students and the public as never before.

This significant building project presents a unique opportunity to create a cultural center for the twenty-first century and to elevate Penn State’s University Art Museum as one of the leading academic facilities of its kind. The new facility will greatly expand access to the museum’s growing collections in an exceptional setting while offering innovative and engaging experiences for our students, the community, and visitors from around the world. The new museum will allow us to display a larger portion of our expansive permanent collection, feature new galleries and exhibition spaces, and incorporate innovative ways for our visitors to experience the arts.

The location at The Arboretum at Penn State will also provide greater visibility for the museum, offer unique visitor experiences, and easier access to parking. Together, the enhanced spaces and increased accessibility will allow the University Art Museum and the Arboretum to better fulfill their educational and service missions.

We would not have the opportunity to build a new art museum at Penn State without the commitment and generosity of the University, our alumni, and friends. The growth of our collections through philanthropy means that we have more to share with our community, and the enthusiastic response of audiences and donors to our programming demands more additional and improved space for a wide range of interdisciplinary education and events. We look forward to your continued support to make the goals for our new museum possible.

To learn more about supporting Penn State’s new University Art Museum, visit the new museum's website at https://artmuseum.psu.edu/ or contact Robin Seymour.




Joyce Robinson

FALL 2018

Joyce Robinson named Assistant Director of the Palmer Museum of Art

University Park, Pa. — The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State is pleased to announce that Joyce Robinson has been named assistant director of the museum, a newly created position for the museum. Robinson will serve as a collaborative leader and passionate advocate for the museum at a time of expansion and institutional growth.

“We are delighted to have Joyce step into the role of assistant director especially during this period of growth in the museum’s collections and programs, and at this time of expansion as we look to the museum’s future,” said Erin M. Coe, Director of the Palmer Museum of Art. “Joyce brings passionate leadership and strong ties with donors, collectors, and community members that will be critical to elevating the museum’s profile and impact.“

Robinson has served as a curator at the Palmer since 1997 and is also an affiliate associate professor in the Department of Art History. During her twenty-year tenure at the Palmer, she has curated sixty exhibitions primarily in the fields of contemporary art, photography, and American art, and served as the in-house curator for nearly thirty traveling exhibitions.

“I’m excited about the direction the museum is taking and delighted to be a part of the leadership team,” comments Robinson. “I’ve spent the better part of my career at the Palmer and have worked hard to foster relationships across campus and in the community. This feels like the right next step for me, both professionally and personally.”

Robinson’s managerial and organizational skills were amply evident in the highly successful Plastic Entanglements: Ecology, Aesthetics, Materials, recently on view at the Palmer and currently traveling to academic museums across the United States. Working with a faculty member from English and Women’s Studies and a visiting scholar at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, she oversaw the complex curatorial project as well as the exhibition’s extensive outreach and educational programming, which involved some thirty entities across Penn State. In partnership with the Penn State Arboretum, Robinson also helped secure a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the creation and display of outdoor sculpture by artist Aurora Robson.

In her new position, Robinson will help oversee the museum’s exhibition program and collections development; continue to foster academic partnerships and engagement across the campus; work to strengthen town and gown relationships; and assist the director with donor cultivation as well as development and marketing initiatives.

Robinson will also continue to curate exhibitions. She is part of the curatorial team, along with Julia Kasdorf and Christopher Reed from Penn State’s Department of English, organizing Field Language: The Painting and Poetry of Warren Rohrer, a project that has received significant strategic initiative implementation funding through the Office of the Provost.

Robinson holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Art History from the University of Virginia, and a B.A. from Davidson College. Her publications have appeared in Winterthur Portfolio, Museum News, New Art Examiner, Studies in the Decorative Arts, International Review of African American Art, American Art Review, and in several anthologies. She has authored and served as managing editor for numerous Palmer publications including A Small Radius of Light: G. Daniel Massad, A Retrospective (2018); A Gift from the Heart: American Art from the Collection of James and Barbara Palmer (2013); and Wos up man? Selections from the Joseph D. and Janet M. Shein Collection of Self-Taught Art (2005).

Robinson’s new role is effective immediately.

FALL 2017

Erin Coe Named New Director

Erin Coe. Image courtesy of Erin Coe.

Erin Coe. Image courtesy of Erin Coe.

Erin Coe, former director of The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, New York, has been named director of the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State following a national search.

Coe had been director of The Hyde Collection since 2015, previously serving as chief curator from 1999 to 2014. As director, she focused on improving the museum’s accessibility, community engagement, and visitor experience, including implementing renovations to the museum’s education wing, featuring an upgraded lobby, gallery spaces, and significant advancements in technology. She also secured one of the largest gifts in the museum’s history, a major collection of postwar modern art and a $1 million leadership gift that formed the basis of a campaign for an additional gallery dedicated to modern and contemporary art. The new Feibes & Schmitt Gallery opened to the public on June 10, 2017.

“We are thrilled to welcome someone with Erin’s proven experience as an administrator, fundraiser and curator to the Palmer,” said Barbara Korner, dean of the College of Arts and Architecture. “Her commitment to community engagement and the visitor experience will allow the museum to expand on the programming already offered, helping us to reach an even wider audience.”

During Coe’s 15-year tenure as chief curator of The Hyde Collection, she was responsible for the care, research, interpretation, and growth of the museum’s permanent collection of European and American art (from 2,800 to 4,000 objects), and its active exhibition program of 10 shows a year. Coe has curated more than 40 exhibitions, authored more than a dozen publications, and juried several regional and national exhibitions.

“I am honored to join the Palmer Museum of Art and the vibrant academic community of Penn State,” said Coe. “I look forward to increasing the visibility of the Palmer by further expanding the museum’s collections, exhibitions, and ties with faculty and students through innovative programing and partnerships. With its experienced staff and exceptional collections, especially in American art, the Palmer Museum is poised to be a leader in the field and I look forward to being at the helm.”

Coe was the curator of the critically acclaimed exhibition "Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George," organized by The Hyde Collection in association with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in 2013. The exhibition traveled to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, and then to the De Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. She is the co-author of the exhibition catalogue, which was honored with an Award of Excellence by the Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC).

Andy Schulz, associate dean for research in the College of Arts and Architecture, chaired the search committee for the Palmer director position. “It was a pleasure to serve as chair of this national search,” Schulz said. “We were able to assemble an outstanding committee that represented faculty, staff, students and community supporters of the Palmer. We had a terrific pool of candidates and are pleased that Erin Coe emerged as the top choice for this strategic leadership position.”

Before joining The Hyde Collection, Coe held positions with the Shaker Museum and Library, the University Art Museum at the University at Albany (SUNY), and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Coe served on the board of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Forum for Executive Women of the Capital Region, and the advisory board of American Women Artists. She holds a master of arts from the University at Albany (SUNY), and has worked on her doctorate in the history of art and architecture at Boston University, where she is currently ABD (all but dissertation), Ph.D.


Important Old Master Engraving Added to the Permanent Collection

In June, the Friends of the Palmer Museum of Art elected to acquire a spectacular print for the museum at their annual purchase party. The members were offered three intriguing Old Master sheets from which to choose. Two were early sixteenth-century woodcuts by Lucas Cranach and Albrecht Dürer. The third, a very fine engraving by Dürer, dated c. 1496, won the day.

The print depicts St. Jerome, author of the Vulgate, as an ascetic in the barrens of northern Syria, to where he had retired in c. 375 to repent for his transgressions. Kneeling in prayer before a small crucifix—the rock in his hand was used for corporeal mortification—Jerome is accompanied by his principal attribute, a lion, whose healing (curiously occurring, according to the legend, after his years in the wilderness) induced a lifelong companionship. This particular representation of the saint is an Italian tradition, with which Dürer would have become familiar during his first trip to Venice in 1495. The surrounding landscape, on the other hand, is derived from sketches the artist made of the quarries near his hometown of Nuremberg.


iBEACONS at the Palmer

Nicole Miyashiro

Nicole Miyashiro

This summer, the museum offers two interpretive opportunities that you may access via your iPhone or iPad. Simply download the Penn State Places app from the Apple app store and enable Bluetooth on your device and the location-award iBeacons will convey information in the form of text, images, and sounds.

Gallery overviews: Hear the social, political, and artistic contexts for each gallery delivered to your device as you walk through each space.

Words of Art presents poetic interpretations of works of art—known as ekphrastic poetry—via iBeacon technology in the galleries. Poet Nicole Miyashiro shares her ekphrastic poems, based on works of art in the collection, with audiences to foster an engaged, multisensory viewing experience.

FALL 2015

New Curator Appointed

Adam M. Thomas. Photo by Cody Goddard, 2015.

Adam M. Thomas. Photo by Cody Goddard, 2015.

Adam M. Thomas has been appointed Curator of American Art at the Palmer Museum of Art. A specialist in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American art, he previously held positions at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

As guest curator at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens from June 2014 through July 2015, he organized a forthcoming exhibition devoted to depictions of hunting and fishing in American painting. He formerly served as the Weisenberger Fellow in American Art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where he curated the exhibition Venetian Views: American Works on Paper.

Thomas holds both master’s and doctoral degrees in art history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, completing a dissertation titled “The Spectral Imagination: American Art between Science and Superstition in the Late Nineteenth Century.” In 2012–13, he was the Douglass Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in American Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. His research has been supported by the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and he has been involved with a wide range of exhibitions on the East Coast, notably at the National Gallery of Art and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Hispanic Society of America in New York. Thomas earned his bachelor’s degree in art history and English at New York University.

We are delighted to have Adam on the staff and look forward to his work on our extensive American art collection. 


FALL 2015

Important Old Master Engraving Added to the Permanent Collection


Honoré Daumier, Eh! bien en regardant ce tableau de près on finit par y dècouvrir des qualités, on voit que la couleur est bonne, 1865, lithograph (detail). Gift of the Walton J. Lord Estate, 86.730.

Honoré DaumierEh! bien en regardant ce tableau de près on finit par y dècouvrir des qualités, on voit que la couleur est bonne, 1865, lithograph (detail). Gift of the Walton J. Lord Estate, 86.730.

The Palmer Museum of Art is pleased to report that its collections can now be searched online. Over the last couple of years, the museum has worked closely with the Visual Resources Centre in the Department of Art History and Publishing and Curation Services in the University Libraries to transfer the information in its collections database to a management software that could more comfortably interface with the internet. The effort resulted in a new site, activated during the fall 2015 semester, which resides in the University Libraries Digital Collections and can be accessed from the museum’s website. Visit us at http://www.libraries.psu.edu/psul/digital/palmer.html.




Esphyr Slobodkina, Monochrome in Gray, c. 1942, oil on Masonite. Purchased with funds provided by the Friends of the Palmer Museum of Art, 2015.30. © The Slobodkina Foundation.

Esphyr SlobodkinaMonochrome in Gray, c. 1942, oil on Masonite. Purchased with funds provided by the Friends of the Palmer Museum of Art, 2015.30. © The Slobodkina Foundation.

The Friends of the Palmer Museum of Art held their annual purchase party in June and selected a painting by Esphyr Slobodkina to add to the museum’s notable collection of American art. The purchase party remains one of the most well attended—and arguably most entertaining—members-only events of the year, and the recent gathering proved no exception. The standing-room-only crowd was greeted with a bit of a twist this year. All of the pieces brought in for consideration were abstract paintings created in the mid-1930s or early 1940s by artists associated with the American Abstract Artists (AAA) group.

Founded in New York City in the fall of 1936, the AAA organization was established to help provide a forum for promoting, discussing, and exhibiting abstract art at a time when American artists and audiences alike were focusing attention on figurative painting and the American Scene. Widely perceived as Eurocentric and, therefore, alien to the American spirit, abstraction nonetheless proved to be a fertile arena for exploration for many modern American artists. Monochrome in Gray, a large oil on Masonite panel from circa 1942, reveals Slobodkina’s experimentation with the collage-like forms and shallow pictorial space of synthetic cubism. Like other works associated with the AAA group, it helps flesh out the trajectory of twentieth-century American abstraction, bridging the gap between earlier modernist artists of the Stieglitz circle and the post-war Abstract Expressionists, who followed in their wake.

Purchase party attendees, along with the museum’s curatorial staff, were also taken by an early canvas by another American abstract painter, Ilya Bolotowsky, who, not incidentally, was married to Slobodkina for a time in the mid-1930s. Painted around 1935, Quiet and Active Shapes reveals Bolotowsky’s efforts to merge the biomorphic surrealism of Joan Miró and the geometric abstraction of Piet Mondrian, two important, and apparently not irreconcilable, stylistic modes that dominated twentieth-century abstraction for many decades. Thanks to the Terra Art Enrichment Fund, the Palmer was able to acquire this remarkable work as well. The acquisition of these important paintings by two of the founding members of the American Abstract Artists group significantly helps address a lacuna in the permanent collection and will enable the museum to present more comprehensively the narrative of American abstraction.