WMA is dedicated to inspiring a lifelong appreciation for the visual arts by providing innovative educational programs, access to its permanent collection, and a diverse schedule of exhibitions. The Museum’s primary collection includes American, fine decorative, and design arts from the early 20th century to the present.
The museum’s permanent collection of more than 600 objects consists primarily of works on paper, including pieces by internationally-known artists like Robert Indiana, Josef Albers, Victor Vasarely, and the largest public collection of Frank Stella prints in the state. Prominence is also given to the work of acclaimed Alabama artists, including Dale Kennington, John Kelly Fitzpatrick, Beverly Erdreich, Gary Chapman, Carolyn Sherer, and Scott Stephens, among others. Select works from the Permanent Collection are exhibited year-round in WMA’s entrance galleries, in addition to being utilized as the basis for temporary exhibitions. These works are held in the public’s trust, and cultivate a sense of ownership and belonging for area residents, who experience and learn from them repeatedly while on long-term display. Select works in WMA’s collections are also utilized as learning resources for K-12 educators, available for download here.
In 2021, WMA launched a new initiative to make its Permanent Collection more accessible for its visitors. Labels for Permanent Collection objects, located in its Entrance Galleries and on long term display, now have added interpreted text in Spanish, and have provided photos of the artists whose works are displayed. These labels allow visitors and residents whose primary language is Spanish to experience the artworks’ interpretive and contextual information in a clear and direct way. These labels will assist Spanish-speaking ESL students on field trips, and will be a benefit to visitors and residents who are learning the language. Photos of the artists on labels provide additional historical context, giving museum visitors a sense of the artists’ background and, often, their personality.
In the future, WMA’s collections will be accessible for research and institutional loans. Current and ongoing collections care projects are working toward building greater digital access to works of art.
Read more about WMA’s work in collections management here, at an archive of Stories from WMA.
Image above: Scott Stephens, Riverbend (detail), 2008, cyanotype. Museum purchase, 2011.03.